Qantas’ last Boeing 747-400 is having her swansong this week. After 17 years of flying for Qantas, VH-OEJ Wunala is the last jumbo jet left at the airline. Next week, it is flying off into its last sunset. It will be the end of the line of the Queen of the skies at the Australian airline after 49 years of continuous flying.
At least Qantas hasn’t let the iconic plane disappear quietly. This week, Wunala has operated a series of joy flights for paying passengers and employees keen to get their final fix of nostalgia.
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A series of 747 joy flights this week
On Monday, the plane flew a series of loops over the Sydney region. On Wednesday, it took Brisbane-based passengers for a run over the Gold Coast and up to the Sunshine Coast. On Friday morning, the Qantas Lounge in Canberra will be filled to bursting with folks skipping work to take the joy flight out of Canberra.
In between, keen planespotters have had the chance to see Wunala pre-positioning. Today’s Canberra joy flight is operating at lunchtime. Mid-morning, the plane is flying down to Canberra from Sydney. It is returning at 17:00 this afternoon. Unfortunately, the positioning flights are not carrying passengers.
Retro bags, red wine, and blazers
By all accounts, the socially distanced passengers had a good time on the two joy flights flown so far. There was plenty of champagne, and everyone got a goodies bag, including a retro Qantas carry on bag the kids pay now big money for in op-shops. There were also complimentary bottles of red. Perhaps that was a throwback to when the old school flight stewards liberally poured drinks all the way to London.
Out of time and out of luck
When Qantas announced the retirement of its last 747’s in 2019, there was a sad acceptance of the inevitable. We’d all be funneled onto Dreamliners where crew practice responsible service of drinks and there’s an absence of tangerine blazers. But with a year’s notice, most of us figured we’d have time to squeeze in a couple more flights, to fly the Qantas 747 one more time.
But that all went belly up this year when Qantas suspended its international flying. Then, the remaining 747-400s began to fly across the ocean to the desert graveyard quietly. There was a real fear the last 747 would go without some kind of acknowledgment of the role the Boeing 747 has played in connecting Australia to the world. The plane took most of us on our first big overseas trip.
But despite all sorts of problems going on at the airline, Qantas has come to the party and is sending their last 747-400 out with some noise.
The final flight departs next Wednesday
Next Wednesday, Wunala is heading over to California. It isn’t taking the most direct route out. Rather, Qantas is planning to send it over Sydney Harbor and down over Wollongong, where the first Qantas 747-400 lives on at the Historical Aviation Restoration Society Museum. It will be a connection between the first and the last.
Speaking to someone at the museum on the weekend, it was clear they were pretty pleased about that and will be out in force to watch the flyover.
Then, VH-OEJ Wunala, heads out across the Pacific. And that really is the end.