End Of An Era: KLM Retires Its Boeing 747 Fleet Early

It started with a rumor over two weeks ago that KLM would be retiring its 747 fleet early. As time passed, schedule data pointed to the rumor being true, with sources reporting that today’s flight of KL686 would be the final 747-400 passenger service operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. That flight is due to land very, very soon. It’s almost difficult to believe.

End Of An Era: KLM Retires Its Boeing 747 Fleet Early
The 747 has been the core of long-haul commercial aviation over the past 50 years. Photo: Getty Images

Flight details

Dutch aviation site Luchtvaartnieuws.nl first wrote that the final commercial flight of KLM’s Boeing 747-400 would be touching down in Amsterdam today, March 29th at approximately 15:20. The flight, KL686 from Mexico City, took off from Mexico at 21:42 local time last night (March 28th). Data from FlightRadar24.com indicates that the aircraft will actually arrive at 15:26 local time.

End Of An Era: KLM Retires Its Boeing 747 Fleet Early
The flight path of KL686 from Mexico City to Amsterdam. Photo: FlightRadar24.com

The specific 747 flying this journey is a 747-400M – also known as a “Combi” variant. The registration is PH-BFT which was given the nickname “City of Tokyo”. As we’ve written earlier, the 747-400 Combi is a rather unique part of the airline’s fleet being half-passenger aircraft and half cargo plane. The airline describes it as follows:

This type of Boeing transports all kinds of cargo: from small packages to large animals, like elephants or horses. We’ve been flying with this type of aircraft since 1989, so that’s about 30 years! It’s our only aircraft that carries both passengers and cargo. -KLM Website

PH-BFT is nearly 23 years old and has been with KLM every since it was manufactured. According to Airfleets, its first test flight took place in 1997.

Saying goodbye to an iconic aircraft

Until now, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been one of the last few prominent carriers to still use the aging 747-400. Perhaps one of the more unique things about KLM’s jumbo jets was simply its bold blue livery- only rivaled by Korean Air’s lighter blue.

The Luxury Travel Expert has compiled a fairly recent list of airlines that still operate the 747. Prominent operators include British Airways, Air India, Lufthansa, Korean Air, and Air China among others. Of course, the list will soon be slightly inaccurate with KLM no longer operating the jumbo jet.

End Of An Era: KLM Retires Its Boeing 747 Fleet Early
KLM has had more 747s in the past but has been scrapping and storing the old aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

We can expect some operators to be operating the jumbo jet for many more years as they utilize the much newer 747-8i. In fact, Air China, Lufthansa, and Korean Air all have the newer 747 in their fleets – some of which are less than five years old.


Filling the same or similar roles to the Boeing 747s at KLM will be the airline’s fleet of Boeing 777-200s and -300s. In fact, the airline has a total of 29 of the twin-engine widebody aircraft. The 777-300ER actually carries the same number of passengers as the full-passenger version of KLM’s 747-400, which is 408.

Will you miss flying on KLM’s 747s? Let us know why or why not in the comments!

Simple Flying reached out to KLM, requesting comment regarding this significant event. However, at the time of publishing, no response has been received… maybe they’re all of the office watching the aircraft land?