In March this year, KLM operated its final 747 passenger flight. In April, three of the airline’s jumbo jets were temporarily brought out of retirement to assist in the carrier’s cargo-only efforts. However, it seems that by fall, the grace period will have run out. As the Dutch government’s need for medical supplies dwindles, the KLM 747 era will indeed come to an end in October this year.
The ongoing pandemic has had a nearly immeasurable effect on the world of commercial aviation. Carriers had been planning the phasing out of the 747 jumbojet in favor of more fuel-efficient twin-jets for a long time. However, the coronavirus outbreak has sped quad-jet retirements up all over the world.
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First retired in March
KLM was initially planning to let go of its Queen of the Skies mid-2021, after 49 years together. However, as demand plummeted and travel restrictions grounded entire fleets, the carrier decided this was as good a moment as any. At the time, it still had seven of the jumbos in its fleet. On March 29th, the final 747 KLM passenger flight landed in Amsterdam from Mexico City.
Need for medical supplies dwindling
Then, as cargo demand increased significantly, the airline brought two of its 747 combi aircraft out of retirement to assist in the effort. But now, as reported by Nu.nl, the final decision has been taken to properly retire the iconic airliner later this year. A spokesperson said that the airline would no longer require the services of its remaining 747s by the end of October.
“The demand from the Dutch government for medical supplies is decreasing to such an extent that KLM will be able to provide transport with regular capacity again in the future,” the airline told the publication.
Plus 250 tons per week
When the cargo airlift operations commenced on April 13th, KLM was flying the 747s two times per week to Beijing, and three times a week to Shanghai. After a collaboration with Philips to engineer more freight capacity, the 747-400 combis had a combined volume of 250 tons of extra cargo per week.
It has been expressed many times, but it can be repeated that, although understandable, the phasing out of the “Queen” is a sad event for aviation enthusiasts. Just two days ago, Qantas waved goodbye to its 747s after 49 years of mutual history, drawing the shape of a kangaroo in the sky.
British Airways, the world’s largest 747 operator going back 50 years with the iconic jet, has also announced its exit from the fleet. While the airline previously intended to hold on to its 747s until 2024, their retirement will now be immediate and final.