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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!