This week the Indian Government confirmed that Air India will not dispose of its last remaining B747-400s, although none are currently scheduled to operate in the rest of 2021. This is in stark contrast to large numbers of carriers withdrawing fuel-inefficient quadjets in the wake of COVID. Air India has four B747-400s parked – VT-ESO, VT-ESP, VT-EVA, VT-EVB – with an average age of 26.1 years. We look at the type’s operation.
Air India’s B747-400s
Air India has never been a huge B747-400 operator, with 10 operated over the years, ch-aviation.com indicates. Nine of these were standard -400s (IATA code: 744), while the remainder was a B747-400M, a combi (code: 74E).
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The airline’s last four 744s all have 423 seats: 385 in economy; 26 in business; and 12 in first. They were delivered directly to Air India between 1993 and 1996, and the carrier owns all. Their ages suggest that they have meager ownership costs, which must be a key reason for being retained. Indeed, according to ch-aviation.com’s aircraft value indicator, which uses Collateral Verifications LLC estimates, the 744s would, if leased, attract a monthly rate of just $75,000-90,000.
Mumbai was all-important for the B747-400
If all years from 2005-2020 are added up, Air India’s B747-400s flew 32.4 million seats, based on analyzing schedules information from OAG. Some 10 Indian airports saw the quadjet on scheduled services in these 15 years, with Mumbai by far the most important airport. Indeed, it had nearly four times as many seats as number-two, Delhi.
12 countries saw the type
Air India used the B747-400 to 12 countries between 2005 and 2020. These 12 include some with extremely limited services, such as Afghanistan (2017), Hong Kong (2010), Kuwait (2006-2007), and the UAE (variously between 2010-2012). In 2010, Air India even had two flights from Abu Dhabi to Mumbai via Dubai.
Saudi Arabia was the number-one nation
Despite these very limited operations, the 744 revolved around five countries, as follows. Saudi had almost twice as many seats as the US, with Jeddah and Riyadh having a near-equal amount. Mumbai-Hyderabad-Jeddah had the most capacity, followed by Kochi-Kozhikode-Jeddah and Trivandrum-Kozhikode-Riyadh. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been virtually the only country to see the 744.
- Saudi Arabia
- United States
- United Kingdom
Air India’s B747-400s to Europe
The Indian flag carrier last used the type to Europe in 2009. The UK (London Heathrow) and Germany (Frankfurt) were both served in that final year, and France (Paris CDG) the year before. Indeed, Mumbai-Heathrow had more capacity than any other 744-operated route between 2005-2020, OAG reveals.
To the USA via Europe
Europe, and especially Heathrow, was served in its own right, but significantly also for one-stop service to the US, with Chicago, Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Newark all served in this way. As such, the US also saw Air India’s B747-400s regularly until 2009. Mumbai-Paris CDG-Newark was the most-served, followed by Delhi-Heathrow-JFK.
But this wasn’t the end of the line for the 744 across the North Atlantic, as Air India used the type on a very minimal basis in 2017 and 2019. Bangalore-Delhi-San Francisco operated in March and April 2017, followed by two services in December 2019.
What are your memories of Air India’s quadjets? Let us know in the comments.