How Much Did The Boeing 747 Cost?

The Boeing 747 is rapidly disappearing from the air, in terms of passenger use, following more than over five decades of dominance. As we wave goodbye to the Queen of the Skies, we feel it’s a good time to look back at the history of the aircraft, including its cost.

Pan Am Boeing 747-100 being pushed-back by a tug at night
At one point, Pan American and the Boeing 747 went hand in hand. Photo: Getty Images

Getting the widebody off the ground

The Boeing 747 was truly a pioneer. It was the first-ever commercial widebody jet and opened up doors across the whole travel industry. Pan American leader Juan Trippe wanted an efficient way to place 400 passengers on one aircraft. Initially, he felt the best route would be to stack two single-aisle cabins on top of each other. Boeing’s engineers came up with the widebody solution, with a partial second deck.

However, in 1968, the program cost was already at $1 billion. This figure may not seem like a lot, but today, the cost would be equivalent to approximately $7.61 billion. The initial 747 rolled out of Boeing’s assembly line in Everett at the end of September, and the type conducted its first flight on February 9th, 1969.

Pan Am 747
The aircraft opened up new long-haul opportunities. Photo: Getty Images

The first orders

With Pan Am’s management heavily involved in the launch of the project, it’s not a surprise that the carrier was the first to introduce the plane. In April 1966, Pan Am placed an order for 25 Boeing 747-100s. The total cost of this order was $525 million (~$4 billion today). So, Boeing was already halfway to matching the cost of the program with this invoice alone. Each unit would have worked out to cost approximately $21 million (~$160 million today).

Pan Am 747
Pan Am’s Clipper Victor after landing at London Heathrow. Photo: Getty Images

The 747-400

The -400 was introduced in February 1989 with Northwest Airlines and is one of the most recognized variants of the series. This model brought advancements such as increased range and wingtip extensions, which improved fuel efficiency by 4%.

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According to TopSpeed, the price of the aircraft was up to $58.5million. Moreover, Aircraft Compare notes that the plane was going for around $266.5 million in 2007.

Virgin Atlantic 747-400
The 747-400 is quickly becoming a thing of the past in passenger aviation. Photo: Getty Images.

Second-hand options

The -400 is still in the skies today, with companies such as cargo specialists putting the plane to good use. However, the variant isn’t in production anymore. Therefore, if a carrier wanted to purchase one, they would have to look for a pre-owned unit. The average price for a used -400, factoring in a loan to cover it, is approximately $16 million. Overall, this is a fraction of the price of what a new unit once was.

KLM 747-400M combi
There will be plenty of used 747s to choose from. Photo: Getty Images

Running fees

It might look like a bargain to own your own historic aircraft. However, it’s important to remember the cost of deploying such a juggernaut. Aircraft Cost Calculator shares that, for 450 hours of flying a year, total fixed costs can amount up to $851,244, and total variable costs can reach $7,812,774. So, within a few years, the cost of running the plane would easily exceed the purchase price.

Rossiya Airlines' Boeing 747-400 EI-XLJ lands in Vladivostok
It’s crucial to consider all factors. Photo: Getty Images

The last Queen

The 747-8 is the final ruler in the family. However, the model’s production program is also soon coming to an end. In 2019, a single 747-8 Intercontinental cost $418.4 million. Meanwhile, the freighter variant was for sale for $419.2 million per unit. Comparing the cost of the initial 747-100, the price of the 747-8 is lower after taking inflation into account.

Lufthansa 747-8
Only a handful of airlines operate the 747-8. Photo: Getty Images

The end of the quadjet

The 747 isn’t the only four-engine widebody that is being phased out by airlines. The Airbus A380 is also being retired rapidly across the globe. During the superjumbo’s production, it had a list price of $445.6 million.

Price, inevitably, became a significant factor in the downfall of both quadjets. However, it wasn’t the value of the airframe that started to deter people, but the cost of running such a behemoth. With modern, efficient alternatives on the market, airlines simply began to look at other options.

What are your thoughts about the cost of the Boeing 747? Will you miss flying on the jumbo? Let us know what you think of the aircraft in the comment section.