China Airlines To Sell Remaining Boeing 747s

Taiwan’s China Airlines has placed its remaining four Boeing 747-400s up for sale. The airline is one of the few carriers that still operates the passenger 747. However, it plans to retire the planes in the first quarter of 2021 to modernize and upgrade its fleet. For the third time, the airline is using asset management company GA Telesis to manage the sale. All four planes are currently in storage.

Taiwan China Airlines boeing 747-400 retirement
Taiwan’s China Airlines is set to retire its final passenger 747-400s by early next year. Photo: Getty Images

The final four

China Airlines has just four 747-400 passenger planes remaining. Over the coming months, all four will be sold off as the airlines looks to retire the type completely in the first few months of 2021. The airline is using the same asset management company to handle the details of the sale that it previously used for other 747 retirements.

The aircraft in question are registration numbers B-18210, B-18211, B-18212, and B-18215. All four arrived at China Airlines between December 2004 and April 2005, giving the planes an average age of around 16 years. According to local media, one of the four was the last 747-400 passenger model to be manufactured. Truly the end of an era.

China Airlines started planning the retirement of its 747s way back in 2014. Even then, the airline recognized that more efficient twin-jets would be a major part of the future of aviation. The airline slowly began replacing the Queen of the Skies with Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A350-900s. The newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft have contributed to the airline’s success.

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China Airlines boeing 777-300ER
China Airlines began replacing its Boeing 747s with more modern twinjet aircraft like the Boeing 777-300ER. Photo: Boeing

The airline operated its 747 passenger planes on long-haul routes to North America and Europe until it began introducing newer models. In recent years, the 747s have been deployed on shorter routes to Okinawa, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in mainland China and Japan. Hardly the most efficient use of the huge jumbo jet. After several years of fading the aircraft out, the end has finally come.

The end of the passenger 747

But China Airlines isn’t the only airline to be retiring its 747s. This year, with the drop in demand, we’ve seen more and more airlines announced the retirement of 747s. The major operator of the 747, British Airways, said farewell to its final 747 just last month after slashing the number of aircraft in the fleet.

British Airways, Boeing 747, Early Retirement
British Airways was once a major operated of the 747 but has since retired all aircraft of this type. Very few passenger models still remain in service around the world. Photo: Getty Images

Other major operators of the 747, including Lufthansa, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, and Delta, have all curbed 747 operations. The four-engine giants just aren’t economically viable anymore. Although Korean Air, China Airlines, and Lufthansa still had 747s in their fleets, they were grounded for months because of the global downturn.

China Airlines’ decision to not bring back its 747 is not a surprise. What was more of a surprise was Lufthansa announcing it would bring back its grounded 747s. Despite very few passenger 747s remaining, there are plenty of cargo variations still in operation. This includes the 18 still operated by China Airlines.

So your chances of flying on a 747 as a passenger are getting slimmer and slimmer. However, are can still spot some freighters around the globe. It is unlikely that the cargo 747s will retire any time soon due to the massive upswing in cargo operations over recent months.

China Airlines has not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.