Will The Boeing 747-8 Get New Orders Now The Airbus A380 Is Cancelled?

Could the Boeing 747-8 be about to have a comeback? With the Airbus A380 no longer in production, will airlines looking for vast capacity look back towards the classic Jumbo Jet? Join us on a little thought experiment.

Lufthansa
A Lufthansa Boeing 747-8I. Photo: Lufthansa

What are the details?

With only eight more Airbus A380s orders left to fulfill from the Airbus factory, we are officially in the closing chapters of the age of super-large passenger aircraft.

Despite fans and passengers loving the A380, it can only really be used on very specific routes.

Airlines looking to maintain huge capacity on routes will need to look towards Airbus’ next biggest aircraft, the A350-1000. Alas, this might not be enough for some and with Boeing 777X variant (which may carry slightly more passengers than the Airbus A350-1000) still months or years away, there is only one other option.

The Boeing 747-8.

In a slightly ironic twist of fate, production of the Boeing 747 has outlasted the aircraft that stole its crown as the biggest passenger aircraft. Boeing still products the model, although most, if not all, of the orders are for freighter variants for various cargo operators.

But could Boeing restart production on a passenger version at the drop of a hat? Let us explore.

Could airlines order the Boeing 747?

First, we should mention what advantages the Boeing 747 has over the A380. But rather than put them head to head, discuss the commercial merits of the Boeing 747 as a replacement aircraft.

For one, the Boeing 747 can land at far more airports than the Airbus A380 can. Many airports had to upgrade their gates in order to support the Airbus A380, with up to three or four jetbridges, wider taxiways, and extending runways. The Boeing 747 has the advantage of existing for 50 years with most modern airports built around the possibility of the type landing one day.

Additionally, the cargo capacity of the Boeing 747 is far superior to the Airbus A380. Despite being able to carry more passengers, the A380 lacks teeth when it comes to the more lucrative cargo operations. And we do mean to include the special Boeing 747-400M combi that can swap out passengers for cargo at a moment’s notice.

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Next year will see the end of Qantas 747-400 services. Photo: Damien Aiello via Wikimedia Commons.

Let us not discount Boeing updating the model and producing a ‘MAX‘ variant of the Boeing 747 (without MCAS obviously). Such improvements could feasibly be very attractive to airlines who are looking for the advantages of the 747 (cargo and passenger capacity) but are turned off by the fuel consumption or weight (four engines vs two engines).

Will it actually happen?

Now realistically, Boeing is running out of time to actually have this option. Triumph, one of Boeing’s suppliers is winding down production of several key components they produce for the Boeing 747 program and it may signal the end of Boeing’s ability to build the aircraft.

Unless Boeing can actually find these ‘customers’, then the clock might just run out and the Boeing 747 will go off to join the A380.

What do you think of this idea? Crazy or maybe might just work? Let us know in the comments.

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