Will This Be the Last Passenger 747 Ever Delivered?

Aug 1, 2017

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In 1968, the first Boeing 747 rolled out of the hangar to gasps. The gigantic “jumbo jet” was nothing like any passenger jet that came before it. Now, just shy of 50 years later, another chapter in the 747 era is coming to a close.

A couple of weeks ago, we shared with you the roll out of the last outstanding passenger 747 order. Yesterday, Jennifer Schuld provided us stunning photos of the takeoff this Korean Air 747-8 headed to Seoul (ICN) on its delivery flight — potentially the last ever passenger 747 delivered for commercial aviation:

There remains just one last passenger 747 on Boeing’s order books: a March 2, 2017 order from “Unidentified Customer(s).” Unless Boeing can convince another carrier to order the 747, this unknown buyer will have the distinction of getting the last-ever produced passenger 747.

If you’re still interested in flying the Queen of the Skies, there aren’t many more options left from US carriers. United just operated what some assume will be the last domestic 747 flight. Delta and United both plan to fully phase out their 747s by the end of the year.

However, foreign carriers are still flying plenty of 747s. British Airways just refreshed 18 of its newer 747-400s, planning to milk another decade out of these aging birds. While BA’s Club World business class hard product isn’t anything special, I’d still recommend grabbing a seat upstairs on a BA 747.

Lufthansa 747-8 748 upper deck business class cabin

The upper-deck business class on a Lufthansa 747-8. Image by JT Genter

But, you don’t have to rely on an old 747-400 to get your Jumbo Jet fix. There’s a newer, much better version of the Queen of the Skies. However, just three airlines — Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa — operate this new 747-8. Of the two flights I’ve had on the “748,” I can definitely recommend the Lufthansa business-class upper deck (review coming soon!) over Air China economy.

While it’s a passenger favorite, unfortunately economics is dooming the future of the 747. No matter how much General Electric improves the efficiency of the 747 engines, the simple fact is that a four-engined aircraft can’t compete with the fuel efficiency of twin-engined long-haul planes. With engines as reliable as ever, there’s no need to spread out engine power across more engines in case of failure. While fuel prices are relatively low right now, airlines are ever-wary of what’s to come in the future and are continuing to order fuel-efficient twin-engine aircraft, instead.

So, while the end of this era is understandable, it’s certainly a sad day for us AvGeeks. And hopefully we’ll be able to enjoy a couple more decades of life out of the few dozen 747-8 ordered by Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa.

Featured image courtesy of Boeing.

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