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How to Fly the Queen of the Skies (2024)
We have witnessed a wave of 747 retirements, some of them with a bang and some of them silent. How do you still find one?
Are you one of those people, who were always looking at the glamorous Boeing 747 taxing, wishing that one day you would fly it? Say no more, there is quite a few of us. If you still have that experience left to be checked off your aviation bucket list you should consider planning it for 2024.
The Musical Chairs of 2020
Unfortunately, the 2020 slowdown in passenger airline traffic made carriers pick their favorites. With the supply being larger than the demand in the short term, it was crucial to keep the most efficient aircraft flying and the ones more expensive to operate on the ground.
Even though some Boeing 747 frames were manufactured quite recently, especially the 747-8 variant, featuring four engines goes against the grain with the current cost-cutting trends in the airline industry. With that, airlines like Air India or Thai Airways put their 747s in storage and it doesn’t seem likely for them to ever come back.
For others, the 747 retirement decision was just bringing the already approved fleet renewal plans forward. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Virgin Atlantic both had it scheduled for 2021, so making this kind of adjustment was probably a no-brainer.
A Proper Farewell
Qantas and British Airways waved goodbye to their classic Boeing 747s with the earned respect. Qantas wrapped up nearly five decades of service with a special flight named “Longreach” over Australia in July of 2020.
Meanwhile, British Airways, facing pandemic troubles, sped up the retirement of its remaining 747s. The last flight, named “Negus,” took a sentimental route over the U.K. It marked the end of a great era for both airlines, signaling a move toward newer, more eco-friendly airplanes. These farewells were a mix of sadness and an important shift in the ever-evolving world of aviation.
Where Do 747s Still Fly?
The best chance to fly a 747 is undeniably at Lufthansa, at Frankfurt airport specifically. That’s where most of the still airworthy 747s are based. Lufthansa is flying the type across multiple destinations in all parts of the globe, including North and South Americas, Africa, and Asia.
Thanks to the wide network and still a significant number of 747s in the fleet the selection is quite broad. The prices will not be cheap though, as the routes are all long-haul.
The second best chance is offered by Korean Air, soon to be merged with Asiana Airlines. The airlines both still fly a few of their 747s. The aircraft makes a frequent appearance on the Seoul-Tokyo route of Korean Air. This could be a way to snag a cheap ticket given the route is a short one. The carrier puts the Queen of the Skies to work on a few intercontinental routes as well, like Sydney, New York, and Paris.
It is also possible to fly Air China’s 747-400. The aircraft makes a daily service to Frankfurt as well as a few short-haul ones as well, including selected services to Guangzhou.
Until quite recently, Korean Air was also operating periodically to Frankfurt with a 747. Wouldn’t that be an amazing view: to see three of the last few 747s, from three different airlines, parked at Frankfurt airport?
Editor’s Note: The above piece includes airlines with broader 747 operations and may not be all-encompassing (i.e. regional or more localized airlines). It also does not include cargo operators.
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