End Of An Era: Corsair Retires Its Final Boeing 747

TUI subsidiary Corsair is retiring its three Boeing 747-400s one year earlier than planned. Letting them go will effectively end France’s affair with the jumbo jet, as the Paris-Orly based carrier was the last French airline to operate the 747.

Corsair Boeing 747 retirement
Corsair’s 747s will no longer be making spectacular landings in the Caribbean. Photo: Aldo Bidini via Wikimedia Commons

Retirement moved up by a year

As reported by La Tribune, Corsair intends to have its long-haul fleet back in the air by the 21st of June with flights to Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Reúnion. Granted, of course, that Paris-Orly will be open again by then. Whenever Corsair’s fleet next takes to the skies, however, it will not include the airline’s remaining three Boeing 747s. F-GTUI, F-HSEA, and F-HSUN are all set to be taken out of service one year early. 

The airline decided on the retirement plan for the three 747-400s in September 2019. The first was to go in December 2020 and the other two in April 2021. Now, the crisis is taking its excruciating toll on airlines, banks seem unwilling to provide Corsair with loans, and as told by web42.news, nor is the airline eligible for government assistance. Hence, retirement plans are accelerated.

Corsair 747SP
Corsair even operated the 747SP for two years. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

Operated almost all 747 models

Corsair is one of the companies to have operated almost all different models of the Boeing 747. It flew the 747-100 from 1991 to 1998, the 200 from 1992 to 2000, the 300 from 1992 to 2007. It even operated the world’s smallest 747, the SP model, for two years from 1994 to 1996. Unfortunately, it got its first 400 model in 1999, so there was no complete overlap of all at once.

According to CH-Aviation, Corsair owned all of the three 747-400s now being retired, and they have an average age of close to 28 years.

Another bit of interesting trivia is that the airline once held the record for most seats on a passenger aircraft with 587 on its 747s. That was until they received a new interior, which led to a new lower capacity of 533.

A330neo taking over

As the airline focuses on international traffic to former French colonies and leisure destinations, its entire fleet is made up of widebody planes. In March last year, the airline declared it would be replacing the jumbos with A330-900neos, of which it now has five on order. The first one of these is scheduled to be delivered in August this year.

The airline is purchasing three of the A330s are outright, and leasing two from a leasing firm. This purchase means that the airline is transitioning from a mixed to an all-Airbus fleet.

A330neo maiden flight
A330neos are to replace the retired 747s. Photo: Airbus

In good company

It is not the only airline to send the “Queen of the Skies” into early retirement as a result of the coronavirus crisis. Lufthansa is retiring five out of its 13 747s early, initially intending to hold on to them until about 2025. 

British Airways owner IAG is also reportedly contemplating letting its 747s go before schedule. Remaining Qantas 747s may also not be returning to service, as they were planned for retirement by the end of this year.

KLM initially meant to take its 747s out of service in 2021, but instead sent them for retirement in early March. However, the airline has since brought back two 747 combis to assist in cargo efforts.

End Of An Era: Corsair Retires Its Final Boeing 747
KLM also retired its five 747s early but brought two back for cargo flights. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

New cargo-lease on life?

As the 747 faces retirement as a passenger plane, be that sooner or later, the model is seeing a resurgence in the cargo industry. Not surprisingly, as it has one of the larger cargo capacities of any aircraft flying.

As reported by Business Insider, there are several cargo airlines still operating 747s. These are Korean Air Cargo, Kalitta Air, UPS, Atlas Air, Asiana Cargo, China Airlines Cargo, Cathay Pacific Cargo, Cargolux, Polar Air Cargo, Nippon Cargo, SkyLease, Suparna Airlines, and Eva Air.

With cargo-only flights picking up as passenger flights are not transporting goods in their bellies to and fro, perhaps there is still a chance reconfigured versions of Corsair’s 747s will fly again soon. Although, this time they will be loaded with boxes rather than passengers. And, perhaps, traveling to less exotic destinations.

Will you miss flying the 747 when she is retired? Share your memories of this iconic plane with us in the comments.