How Might The Boeing 747-8 Look If The US ‘Big Three’ Flew It?

The world of commercial aviation in the US is dominated by the ‘big three’ carriers: American Airlines, Delta, and United. The US is also home to manufacturing juggernaut Boeing, whose iconic 747 first flew with Pan Am over 51 years ago, in 1970. The most recent variant of the ‘Queen of the Skies’ is the 747-8, and Boeing has found this aircraft’s orders to be lacking.

US Big Three Boeing 747-8
Will the US big three ever add the Boeing 747-8 to their fleets? Image: Simple Flying

All of the big three have operated certain 747 variants over the course of their long and prestigious histories. However, much like the Boeing 777X, none have yet ordered the 747-8. Last year, Simple Flying explored how these airlines might configure this aircraft, but the topic begs another interesting question: how might it look externally?

American Airlines

According to, Fort Worth-based American Airlines has previously operated 20 747s. The vast majority of these were the original 747-100 variant, of which it flew 17 between 1970 and 1985. Additionally, the carrier briefly leased a 747-200 from World Airways in 1984. Its final two examples were the short-fuselage 747SP version. Both of these were with the airline between 1986 and 1994. As such, American is approaching three decades of a 747-less fleet.

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American Airlines Boeing 747-8
A rendering of how an American Airlines Boeing 747-8 might look. Do you like it? Image: Simple Flying

But how would it look if American was to break this streak by ordering the new 747-8? As depicted by the rendering above, the aircraft’s enormous tail is a perfect means to showcase the most colorful part of American’s present livery. However, the carrier has also been known to sport several different special liveries on its aircraft to showcase its heritage. Either way, an American 747-8 in any livery would make for a pleasant sight for photographers worldwide.

Delta Air Lines

Delta boasts the next-largest figure of the big three in terms of how many 747s it has operated. reports that the Atlanta-based carrier flew 31 examples across two spells, with the number increasing with each variant. One can break this figure down into five 747-100s (1970-1977), 10 747-200s (2008-2009), and 16 747-400s (2008-2018). The 2008 influx came as a result of its merger with Northwest Airlines.

Delta Air Lines Boeing 747-8
Delta belongs to SkyTeam, which already has a 747-8 operator in Korean Air. Image: Simple Flying

Overall, Delta’s livery comes across as very smart and functional on the above rendering of it on a 747-8. Of course, these are the colors that its most recent examples wore before their retirement three years ago. As such, to see a 747-8 kitted out in this paint scheme would likely cause us avgeeks to happily roll back the years to when the 747 had a more prevalent role.

United Airlines

With 88 examples, according to, Chicago-based United operated more examples of the aircraft than American Delta put together. It also flew the most variants, with four versions passing through its fleet over the years. This included 23 747-100s (1970-1999), 11 747SPs (1986-2001), 10 747-200s (1987-2003), and a whopping 44 747-400s (1989-2019).

United Airlines Boeing 747-8
Historically speaking, United has operated far more 747s than its big three counterparts. Image: Simple Flying

The United livery is perhaps the least striking of the three in terms of how it looks on the 747-8. Nonetheless, it is, once again, a smart and functional paint scheme which, most importantly, is highly recognizable. The globe design on the tail stands out nicely, and is a fitting nod to Continental Airlines, with whom United merged in March 2012.

Sadly, it seems very unlikely that we will ever see any of these liveries come to fruition in real life. The 747 has been one of the hardest-hit aircraft by the present downturn, and, currently, only six passenger airlines are flying it. Nonetheless, the renderings that we have showcased have hopefully allowed for some light relief in the form of imagining a world in which, at least among the US big three, the 747 continues to rule the skies.

Which US big three airline’s livery do you think best suits the Boeing 747-8? Have you ever flown on any of the carriers’ previous 747 variants? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!