The 747-400 was the most popular version of Boeing’s legendary 747 family, selling 694 units. This represents nearly half of Boeing’s entire 747 family output. However, the 747-400 was something of a family in itself, consisting of several sub-variants. One of these was the 747-400M ‘Combi,’ but who exactly operated this versatile jumbo?
What was the Boeing 747-400M?
To begin with, it is worth briefly touching on what exactly the 747-400M Combi was. As its name suggests, the aircraft allowed operators to carry a combination of passengers and cargo on the main deck. Boeing did so by repurposing the rearmost passenger cabin as a dedicated additional cargo hold. It also offered a similar configuration on older 747s.
According to the US planemaker’s website, the first 747-400M rolled out in March 1989, less than three years after its first order. It took to the skies for its maiden test flight in June that year, with the first delivery following in September. This was when it entered service with KLM, who also took delivery of the last 747-400M in April 2002.
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Two of the Boeing 747-400M’s largest operators were located in Europe. As we have established, KLM was both the aircraft’s launch customer and the recipient of its last delivery. As such, it comes as no surprise to see that, according to data from ch-aviation.com, it operated an impressive 17 examples. Some briefly came out of retirement last year.
Moving away from the Netherlands, neighboring Germany also had a significant 747-400M operator in the form of flag carrier Lufthansa. The country’s national airline flew a total of seven Combis across a 25-year period spanning from 1989 to 2014.
Not far away, Paris-based Air France also counted two 747-400Ms among its many versions of Boeing’s iconic jumbo jet. One of these, F-GISD, had a particularly interesting service life. While its counterpart, F-GEXB, spent its entire career at the French flag carrier, this example went on to also fly for Orient Thai Airlines and Eaglexpress Air Charter.
The rest of the world
Of course, operations of this versatile jumbo jet were by no means limited to European carriers. Indeed, ch-aviation also lists a variety of carriers across Asia and the Middle East as having flown the 747-400M. The most numerous Combi fleet at an operator in these regions was that of Air China, which boasted five examples. EVA Air comes in just behind with four.
At the smaller end of the scale, Kuwait Airways (1994-2019) and Philippine Airlines (1996-2014) are both reported to have flown a single 747-400M within the last decade. Meanwhile, the Dubai Air Wing is said to have a pair of active Combis still in its fleet. On the other hand, Longtail Aviation‘s two 747-400Ms are in storage and maintenance.
Did you know that so many carriers flew the Boeing 747-400M? Did you ever fly as a passenger on one of these fascinating ‘Combi’ aircraft? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!