China Airlines Officially Retires Its Passenger Boeing 747-400s

Another airline retired the last of its Boeing 747 passenger fleet on the weekend. Taipei-based China Airlines flew its final 747-400 passenger service on Saturday, March 20. It marks the end of an era at the airline which has operated the jumbo jet since 1975.

China Airlines flew its final Boeing 747-400 passenger service on the weekend. Photo: China Airlines

A five-hour scenic flight to Mount Fuji

With regular international services curtailed, China Airlines flew a scenic flight on Saturday to mark the end of its passenger 747-400 services. The plane, B-18215, set out on a five-hour flight, carrying 375 fare-paying passengers keen to see the Queen of the Skies off in style.

“This was the last aircraft to be produced and delivered to China Airlines by Boeing in April 2005,” says China Airlines in a statement. “For more than half a century, the 747 has been one of the most important aircraft types in history.”

In a tribute to the aircraft type, Saturday’s flight was tagged as CI2747. The flight took off just after midday on Saturday (Taipei time). Flight tracking data shows the 747 making a beeline for Japan. After cruising at around 10,000 meters, midway in the flight, the aircraft descended to around half that as it circled Japan’s Mount Fuji.

B-18215 headed back to Taiwan, flying over the East China Sea. The plane touched down at 17:19 local time, and another page in aviation’s history book was turned.


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The Boeing 747 flies for 46 years at China Airlines

China Airlines’ first 747s began flying back in the mid-1970s. The airline initially bought two 747-100s (B-1860 and B-1868) from Delta Air Lines and set them to work on the Hong Kong-Taipei-Tokyo-Honolulu-Los Angeles route. A few years later, a pair of Boeing 747SPs arrived. The SP had the wings to fly to North America nonstop. Soon after, Boeing 747-200s began arriving at China Airlines.

In 1990, the first of the Boeing 747-400s began landing at China Airlines. The 747-400 would go on to be the most popular 747 type at China Airlines and played a substantial role in the airline’s growth at the time. The Boeing 747-400 would go on to fly some colorful but short-lived routes, including China Airlines’ around the world Taipei-Anchorage-New York-Amsterdam-Dubai-Taipei route.

Many China Airlines 747-400s will live on as freighters. Photo: Kevin Boydston via Flickr

Boeing 747 retirement at China Airlines a long time coming

The travel downturn may have accelerated the demise of the 747-400 at China Airlines, but the plane’s retirement has been on the books for several years. Last year, Simple Flying reported China Airlines had been phasing out the jumbo jet since 2014. The 747-400 was gradually taken off high-profile flagship routes and redeployed onto high-density regional routes. The report called the process a “fading out” of the 747-400.

Like airlines elsewhere, China Airlines has brought in Boeing 777-300ERs and sleek Airbus A350-900s to replace the 747-400. Since the glory days of the 747-400s, airlines have become more attuned to operating efficiencies and keen to reduce costs. That strategic shift helped mark the end of the 747-400, not just at China Airlines but also at airlines worldwide.

Meanwhile, the handful of China Airlines passenger 747-400s still in Taiwan are up for sale. The airline still retains 747-400 freighters. You’ll still see China Airlines 747-400s landing at airports – but unfortunately, you won’t be able to buy a ticket to fly on one of them.