Sad: Just 6 Passenger Airlines Are Left Flying Boeing 747s

Just six airlines are down to use passenger Boeing 747s this year on a scheduled basis, with even the A350-1000 having more seats than them. Lufthansa is by far the world’s largest user of B747s – now all -8s – and it’ll only become more dominant. In all, some 58 routes across 25 countries are expected to see passenger B747 flights.

Lufthansa B747-8
Lufthansa is now by far the world’s top user of passenger 747s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Just six airlines globally are down to use Boeing 747s in passenger configuration and on a scheduled basis this year, reduced from 22 before the pandemic hit. Gone are the Queens from British Airways, Thai Airways, and Virgin Atlantic. No more are they with El Al, KLM, or Qantas.

It’s now down to Lufthansa, Air China, Korean Air, Air India, Mahan Air, and Asiana to keep operations going, although expect many more changes and aircraft substitutions this year.

For the first time, it’s all about B747-8s, although the B747-400 and -300 are still used. Lufthansa, previously the world’s second-largest B747 passenger user behind British Airways, is now firmly first. And it’ll only get more dominant.

Air China B747-8
Air China’s passenger 747s, both -400s and -8s, remain important, although it is very probable that they’ll be substituted for smaller aircraft internationally this year. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

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How far things have come

Operators of B747s have scheduled over seven million seats across 2021, down by over 19 million since 2019. You can’t blame airlines for retiring the four-engine aircraft. They’re large, burn a huge amount of fuel, and they’re maintenance-heavy.

The era has passed; it’s now all about ultra-efficient twins. They cost more to acquire, but direct operating costs are far lower. And lease rates for them are lower than in previous years because of the pandemic. No wonder many airlines will – or at least should – emerge from the crisis as leaner and meaner competitors, especially when coupled with changes to the workforce, network, and otherwise.

B747 development
Even the A350-1000 has more seats scheduled this year. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Very much about Asia, but…

55 airports are set to see passenger B747s this year, OAG data reveals. Frankfurt is top, followed by Beijing, Seoul Incheon, Guangzhou, and Shanghai Hongqiao. They’re due to appear in 25 countries, with China leading, then Germany, the USA, South Korea, India and Iran.

Not surprisingly, it’s very much about Asia. Northeast Asia is by far the number-one region, with 42% more capacity than Western Europe, which trails in second.

Lufthansa B747-8
Frankfurt is the world’s top airport for passenger B747s this year. Photo: tjdarmstadt via Wikimedia.

Most ‘exotic’ award goes to…?

Perhaps the most exotic remaining B747 route is Mahan Air’s 651-mile service from Tehran’s domestic airport, Mehrabad, to Kish Island. The only Boeing aircraft in the Iranian airline’s fleet is the B747, although they aren’t presently scheduled for much.

Mahan Air B747
Iran’s Mahan Air will operate the B747 from Tehran to Kish Island. Image: Mahan Air’s timetable.

58 passenger B747 routes this year

At the time of writing, some 58 routes are due to see passenger B747s this year, but it is very likely to change. While connecting China’s core cities is key, the amount of Lufthansa routes, all now by the -8, is notable; it’s no surprise that Frankfurt is the top B747 airport.

Top B747 routes
Like Frankfurt to Newark and JFK, multiple other routes were very close to being in the top-15 list. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Korean Air from Seoul Incheon to both Honolulu and Manila would have made the top-15 list, but they’re no longer in it due to aircraft changes.

What are your thoughts on the use of B747-8? Comment below!