Dutch aviation site Luchtvaartnieuws.nl is reporting that the final commercial flight of KLM’s Boeing 747-400 will touch down in Amsterdam on Sunday, March 29th at approximately 15:20. The flight will be KL686 from Mexico City which departs Mexico at 21:05 the night before (March 28th). Until now, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has been one of the last few prominent carriers to still use the aging 747-400.
The “Queen of the Skies” has been an iconic part of commercial aviation for the last 50 years. Airlines around the world have used the four-engine jumbo jet as the cornerstone of their long-haul fleets. In fact, KLM had many more 747s in earlier years but has already been retiring them recently. Airfleets lists 14 747-400s that have already been retired (stored and/or scrapped)
Of course, in the last decade, the aircraft type has fallen out of favor with commercial airlines as they gravitate towards large twin-engine aircraft that are more fuel-efficient and more economical to maintain.
The end of an era
According to Airfleets, KLM has just 10 Boeing 747s in its fleet. Three of these are part of the airline’s cargo operations – which could possibly remain in service. The remaining seven, however, are a combination of ‘regular’/’fully passenger’ 747-400 variants and the 747-400M or “combi” variant.
The 747-400 Combi is a rather unique part of the airline’s fleet:
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
Filling the same or similar roles to the Boeing 747s at KLM over the last decade has been the Boeing 777. In fact, the airline has 29 of the twin-engine widebody aircraft in both the -200 and larger -300 variants. The 777-300ER actually carries the same number of passengers as the full-passenger version of KLM’s 747-400, which is 408.
KLM’s latest long-haul aircraft is the Boeing 787-10. With a capacity of 344 passengers, this aircraft comes short of the same capacity as the full-passenger 747. However, it does accommodate more guests than the 268-seats on the 747-400 Combi.
Who still flies the 747?
While the combi variant of the 747 was a unique aspect of KLM’s fleet, there will still be other passenger airlines operating the jumbo jet, albeit at a reduced rate during this period of reduced travel.
The Luxury Travel Expert has compiled a fairly recent list of airlines that still operate the 747. Prominent operators include British Airways, Lufthansa, Korean Air, and Air China among others. Of course, KLM will not be on this list for long.
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.
While the 747 has been a memorable part of many travel experiences, passengers also comment on the aircraft’s aging interior and outdated IFEs at KLM. Will you miss KLM’s 747s? Let us know in the comments!