Which Airlines Placed The Largest Boeing 747 Orders?

With another significant 747 operator in the form of British Airways retiring the type, the iconic ‘Queen of the Skies’ is becoming more and more scarce as far as passenger operations are concerned. In previous articles, we’ve talked about several 747-related topics, including which airlines are still flying the 747 and where one might still be able to fly a 747. But looking back at the entire 747 program, which airlines had the largest orders of the type? Let’s find out.

747-8 orders
A look at several 747-8s lined up at Boeing’s facilities in Washington back in 2011. The type never became as popular as the 747-400. Photo: Getty Images

The data we are examining

The data we are going to look through comes from Boeing’s website. We will look at all 747 models, going from the -100 series through to the latest 747-8. Freighters will be included in these numbers, but we will make a distinction when we list the aircraft.

Let’s also list the airlines in ascending order, saving the biggest – or ‘best’ – for last. With that out of the way, let’s look at the largest customers of the Boeing 747.

Teruel, Aircraft Graveyard, Photos
British Airways only recently announced that it would retire its 747-400 fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Usually, lists come in threes, or fives, or tens. But on this list, we’re going to have 11 spots – just because the 11th spot has some notable airlines!

11. ANA, KLM, and Pan Am

Three airlines share the 11th place for most 747 orders. The three airlines are Japanese airline ANA, flag carrier for the Netherlands, KLM, and the now-defunct but historically significant Pan Am. Here is the breakdown for each airline:

ANA (Japan):
  • 17x 747-100SR
  • 5x 747-200B
  • 12x 747-400
  • 11x 747-400D
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (Netherlands):
  • 10x 747-200B
  • 7x 747-200M
  • 3x 747-300M
  • 5x 747-400
  • 3x 747-400ERF
  • 17x 747-400M
Pan Am World Airways (United States):
  • 33x 747-100
  • 2x 747-200F
  • 10x 747-SP
KLM retired its 747s Spring 2020, slightly earlier than planned, due to the coronavirus. Photo: Chris Loh/Simple Flying

10. China Airlines

While China Airlines only ordered three more to get itself past 11th place and into the top 10, the Taiwanese carrier did place quite a few orders. It actually placed 11 orders for 10 different types:

  • 3x 747-200B
  • 2x 747-200F
  • 1x 747-200M
  • 17x 747-400
  • 21x 747-400F
  • 4x 747-SP

The airline ordered 48 747s in total.

china airlines departing Anchorag
Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska, is one place you are guaranteed to see 747s still flying. Photo: BriYYZ via Flickr 

9. Northwest Airlines & Air France

In ninth place, we have Northwest Airlines – which merged with Delta in 2008, as well as French flag carrier Air France. Both airlines ordered 53 jumbo jets.

Northwest Airlines (United States):
  • 10x 747-100
  • 19x 747-200B
  • 8x 747-200F
  • 16x 747-400
Air France (France):
  • 16x 747-100
  • 2x 747-200B
  • 10x 747-200F
  • 11x 747-200M
  • 7x 747-400
  • 2x 747-400ERF
  • 5x 747-400M
qantas-a380-noumea-divesrion
The most recent Air France 747s were replaced by the (now retired) Airbus A380. Photo: Bryan Laughland via Wikimedia Commons.

8. Qantas

In eighth-place having ordered 57 jumbo jets is the famous Australian airline Qantas:

  • 19x 747-200B
  • 3x 747-200M
  • 6x 747-300
  • 21x 747-400
  • 6x 747-400ER
  • 2x 747-SP
Qantas plans farewell flights for 747
Qantas has been slowly retiring its 747-400s in recent months, holding special farewell flights for each outgoing jet. Photo: Getty Images

7. Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific ordered a total of 59 747s:

  • 8x 747-200B
  • 2x 747-200F
  • 6x 747-300
  • 17x 747-400
  • 6x 747-400ERF
  • 6x 747-400F
  • 14x 747-8F
Cathay Pacific order 747-8
Cathay Pacific still operates the 747, but only in its freighter form, the 747-8F. Its passenger 747s were replaced by the Boeing 777. Photo: Getty Images

6. United Airlines

With 68 jumbos ever ordered, American carrier United Airlines only ever ordered three different variants of the 747. The airline operated other variants as some used 747s came from Pan Am. However, its 747-400 order was substantial, as you can see below!

  • 22x 747-100
  • 2x 747-200B
  • 44x 747-400
Boeing 747-400
United only retired the 747 in 2017. Photo: United Airlines

5. Korean Air

With 79 orders of several jumbo variants, Korean Air takes the fifth spot. It has quite a diverse list of orders:

  • 6x 747-200B
  • 5x 747-200F
  • 2x 747-300
  • 1x 747-300M
  • 27x 747-400
  • 8x 747-400ERF
  • 10x 747-400F
  • 1x 747-400M
  • 10x 747-8
  • 7x 747-8F
  • 2x 747-SP

Along with our next airline, Korean Air is one of the few carriers out there using the 747-8 for passenger operations.

 

Korean Air, Boeing 747, Retirement
Korean Air will be leasing out two of its Boeing 747-8s to be used as the Presidential jet of the South Korean Government. Photo: tjdarmstadt via Wikimedia

4. Lufthansa

German flag carrier Lufthansa has ordered 81 747s throughout its history, including the newest 747-8.

  • 3x 747-100
  • 7x 747-200B
  • 6x 747-200F
  • 14x 747-200M
  • 25x 747-400
  • 7x 747-400M
  • 19x 747-8
Where can you fly the 747 after COVID
These days, Lufthansa long-haul out of Frankfurt or Munich will most likely be one of the best bets to hop on the Queen of the Skies. Photo: Getty Images

3. Singapore Airlines

With its first order back in 1972, Singapore Airlines has taken delivery of 93 747s:

  • 19x 747-200B
  • 1x 747-200F
  • 11x 747-300
  • 3x 747-300M
  • 42x 747-400
  • 17x 747-400F
Singapore Airlines Cargo
Singapore Airlines still operates the 747 as a cargo aircraft. Photo: Deekay744 via Wikimedia

2. British Airways

The famous UK airline British Airways took delivery of 94 747s. The airline most recently announced that it would be retiring its remaining fleet due to the challenges of the coronavirus:

  • 18x 747-100
  • 15x 747-200B
  • 1x 747-200F
  • 3x 747-200M
  • 57x 747-400
747 British Airways Landor
British Airways had the 747 right from the beginning of its history, having inherited some from BOAC. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons 

1. Japan Airlines

Finally, we can see that Japan Airlines takes the top spot as the airline that has ordered the most Boeing 747s. The carrier ordered a total of 108, starting in 1966. Its last order was in 2002 for two -400Fs.

  • 8x 747-100
  • 12x 747-100SR
  • 24x 747-200B
  • 7x 747-200F
  • 9x 747-300
  • 4x 747-300SR
  • 34x 747-400
  • 8x 747-400D
  • 2x 747-400F
boeing-747-50-years-in-service
Japan Airlines was Boeing’s biggest 747 customer, taking 108 of the aircraft over the years. Photo: Boeing

Points of interest

As Boeing has announced the ending of its 747 program, we shouldn’t expect to see any more new orders. Since the launch of the iconic aircraft in the late 1960s, there have been a total of 1571 747s ordered, with 1556 delivered.

A total of 15 remain undelivered. Three are set to go to Russian cargo operator Volga-Dnepr and the remaining 12 to global shipping company UPS.

The 747-400 was by far the most popular 747 variant, with 442 ordered.

Were you at all surprised by any of these airlines and their numbers? Let us know in the comments.

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