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AvGeek-in-training: How to tell Boeing 747s apart

Dec. 24, 2020
4 min read
AvGeek-in-training: How to tell Boeing 747s apart
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It's the Queen of the Skies. And, you'd better fly one soon if you haven't already. No U.S. airlines operate this majestic aircraft, and several of the carriers that were still flying the double-decker giants have either grounded them or are planning to phase them out. That includes those operated by British Airways among others.

KLM 747 landing at SXM. (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)


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The last passenger version of the 747-400 was delivered to Air China in 2005. The production line is now closed, but there were as many as 350 such aircraft still flying at least until COVID-19 hit and sent demand plummeting.

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British Airways was the largest operator but grounded them all this year. We first reported the news back in July that BA would be is retiring all 28 of its Boeing 747s.

British Airways Boeing 747-400 as seen on final approach with landing gear down landing at New York JFK John F. Kennedy January 2020 (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)


Related: Where is British Airways parking its jets during the coronavirus

British Airways says it's because the air travel recovery will take years. BA also notes that these four-engine jets just aren’t as fuel-efficient as their modern counterparts.

Pre-pandemic there were also around 120 747-8 in the wild, notably in the hands of Lufthansa and Korean.

A Korean Air 747-400 at Seoul Incheon airport in December 2017 (Photo by Alberto Riva/TPG)

You’ll still find 747s operated by Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa, among others, but the continued weakness in international travel means they might have shorter lifetimes than first thought. All U.S.-based carriers had retired their 747s by the end of the 2010s.

Related: Boeing ending production of the 747

Like the A330, the Boeing 747-400 features canted winglets. You're not likely to confuse the two aircraft, however as the 747 has a GIANT second story that the A330 doesn't have.

The Boeing 747-8, meanwhile, features raked wingtips like you'd find on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. In addition, the Boeing 747-8 features chevrons that are notched into the nacelles of the engine, just like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

That's the easiest way to distinguish between these two models of Queens of the Sky (see chart below).

Related: These are the last Boeing 747s you can fly in the world

A Qantas 747-400 aircraft lands and becomes the final international aircraft to land during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 29, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by James D. Morgan/Getty Images)
Boeing 747-400
  • The Queen of the Skies
  • "What is that gorgeous plane?"
  • Canted winglets, like on the A330
Boeing 747-800
  • The Queen of the Skies
  • "What is that gorgeous plane?"
  • Raked wingtips, like on the Dreamliner
  • Chevrons on the engine nacelles


Related: How you can still use points and miles to fly the 747

An Asiana Airlines 747-400 at LAX (Photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy)

If you want more AvGeek coverage check out our other posts on identifying aircraft in the "wild": How to tell commercial aircraft apart and how to tell Boeing 757s, 767s and 777s apart.

Additional reporting by Zach Griff and Clint Henderson.

Featured image by PA Images via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases