Low Cost Carrier Avatar Airlines Wants To Order 30 Boeing 747-8s

A new American carrier is challenging the low-cost model by operating a solely jumbo-jet fleet. Avatar Airlines hopes to revive waning interest in Boeing’s 747 by bringing it to the ultra-low-cost market. Such a decision prompts us to ask: are jumbo jets the future for low-cost airlines?

Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental
Would the 747-8 work for the low-cost model? Photo: Getty Images

A 747-8 revival?

And we thought that Boeing’s 747 production was ending. Not quite! Last year, we reported that Triumph Aerostructures was planning to terminate operations with the subsequent end of the 747 production line looking likely.

However, recent developments suggest that the 747 is far from redundant. On 13 February 2020, EIN Presswire announced that Boeing had received a Letter of Intent from a start-up airline for the acquisition of 30 new 747-8 aircraft. Avatar Airlines, which operates under the low-cost model, has expressed interest in acquiring brand-new 747 aircraft.

747 Avatar Airlines
Avatar Airlines wants the 747-8 to replace older 747-400 models. Photo: Avatar Airlines

This certainly comes as a shock after most airlines have decided to retire their aging fleet in favor of other replacements. Qantas is the most recent example of this. However, Avatar Airlines is completely committed to the 747. It says that its interest in the model will help to keep it alive. But that’s not the only reason. It believes that the 747 is a revolution for the low-cost model. This is how.


747 for low-cost travel could work

Although a seemingly unnatural choice, flying 747s on low-cost carriers could work. The 747, or “Queen of the Skies”, is a wide-bodied long-haul aircraft that typically operates for standard commercial airlines. During its inception, the 747 was somewhat of a glamorous way to fly. The earlier variants such as the -100 and -200 featured a spiral staircase and ample seat room.

747-8I internal
The 747-8 seats 42 business lass passengers by 539 economy passengers. Photo: Chung Webster via Wikimedia Commons

However, luxury is not what makes this aircraft popular for low-cost travel. In this case, it’s the aircraft’s capacity ratio. If low-cost airlines continue to operate a more simple service, without the frills and extra legroom, then they’re able to engineer an aircraft with an abundance of seats. For example, Avatar Airlines will use 747-8 aircraft with 539 lower-deck economy seats. The upper deck will boast 42 seats in business class. Therefore, efficiencies can be gained through the amount of seating and costs will go down.


If airlines are able to offer so many seats and fill their aircraft to capacity then they are able to charge reasonable, affordable fares for their passengers. As a result, this would pit airlines against their competition very well.

Of course, for this to be most effective the flight must be full. Within the 747’s history, many airlines have experienced this very dilemma.

What’s wrong with the 747 for low-cost?

Herein lies one of the issues with the 747 for low-cost airlines. Yes, low-cost airlines are popular and yes, low-cost airlines regularly fill their aircraft. But they don’t operate close to the number of seats that the 747 would be able to offer.

For example, the world’s largest low-cost airline at the moment is Southwest Airlines. Its largest aircraft in terms of seating capacity is the Boeing 737-800 and 737 MAX 8. Both of these aircraft seat a maximum of 175 passengers. That’s just 30% of the seats that Avatar Airlines’ 747-8 would offer. Is it possible for a low-cost airline to consistently fill a 747-8 aircraft to capacity?

Southwest Airlines MAX 8
The capacity of Southwest’s MAX 8 is a lot less. Photo: Southwest Airlines

In addition, the 747-8 could work out to be less fuel-efficient than other aircraft options. In comparison to Southwest Airlines’ largest aircraft, the 737 MAX 8 and 737-800, the 747-8 burns a lot more fuel per seat. According to Wikipedia, the 747-8’s fuel burn can be between 2.65L/100km (89mpg) and 3.35L/100km (70mpg). By contrast, the 737-800 burns fuel at a rate of between 2.44L/100km (96mpg) and 2.68L/100km (88mpg) depending on the flight distance. The 737 MAX 8 burns fuel at a rate of 2.04L/100km (115mpg) and 2.28L/100km (103.2mpg). The costs for fuel for the 747-8 might not work so well with the low-cost model.

What’s more, there’s the environmental cost to factor in. Whilst environmental concerns are not solely linked to flying low-cost, there has been recent debate about whether ultra-low-cost airlines truly represent the cost of flying in their airfares. Cheap airfares, with such a bad impact on the environment, are not representative of how the aviation industry is evolving.


In the most basic terms, the seat profit of flying 747s could work for low-cost airlines. If they also consider flying to airports with appropriate code types for the size of the aircraft, there should also be no problems. They might be limited on destinations but enough of the world’s airports can accommodate the 747-8 specification.

However, the success of the low-cost 747 model really does depend on customer demand. That said, Avatar Airlines seems particularly confident in its strategy. Perhaps it’s seen something which everyone else has missed.

Would the 747 low-cost strategy work? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.


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Sunil Ballie

Must have deep pocket. Good luck.


Good luck


Better to use the A330-900….


Better to use the A330-900…. like Cebu Air and Air Asia.


Can they really manage to fill all seats?

With all economy, more staff.

Less efficient aircraft as its not fuel efficient as 787.

If they can use 747, they can try 380,its all economy capacity being 850.

Good luck to them.


I had to check to see if I’d missed an April Fools prank from 2019. Truth is, there are probably a handful of routes that could support a dense configuration ULCC model with these kinds of passenger numbers, but those few routes (LAX-JFK, ORD-MCO, FRA-PMI, PEK-PVG, etc) aren’t the basis… Read more »


The best bet would be to make a route network coast to coast like old swa forget hub n spoke for this model…pick up n drop off …ie. hnl phx okc mia jfk lhr … Africa and central asia are also growing and expanding markets


Perhaps more fuel efficient engines are now available for the 747?



Paul T

Look what happened to Freddy Laker.
I’d like to see them succeed.
But I doubt the numbers will stack up.
Maybe in the short term.
But a couple of years down the line…….
Could be 30 nearly new 747-800s sitting out in the desert.

Paul Tinker

Look what happened to Freddy Laker.
I’d like to see them succeed.
But I doubt the numbers will stack up.
Maybe in the short term.
But a couple of years down the line…….
Could be 30 nearly new 747-800s sitting out in the desert.

Mark Thompson

This would work if they fly very high volume routes at low rates. NY, Chicago, LA, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Beijing, Mexico City, Madrid, Shanghai. If they offered economy seats really low like $99 and filled the plane it would make money. They just need a good… Read more »


Using a quad? Don’t see it working…


Why buy new? Why not lease?


What about young Singapore/Emirates a380s? They could get them at low price and will be sufficient for the density required.


I would personally prefer to fly in a new 747-8 than in any other aircraft in the skies, not minding the cost.


Better off with a 2 engine wide body, maybe Boeing would cut a deal on some 773ERs to keep the line going until the 779 is ready. Or the A330neo as someone else mentioned. Airbus just announced a production rate cut on those, they are probably keen to fill production… Read more »


I would love to that happen and for this strategy to be successful, which would keep the 747-8 in production. If they focus on high demand routes, and airports with limited gate space, I can see it working.


I would love to that happen and for this strategy to be successful, which would keep the 747-8 in production. If they focus on high demand routes, and airports with limited gate space, I can see it working.

Dan K

It may work however olny on big or mid size airports. Most money makers are regional flights that operate on small airports all over the glob.

edward lewis

seems a silly proposition.


The Boeing 747 is and always will be the Queen of the skys. If I had a choice of aircraft to pick. I’d select the Boeing 747. Its roomy Comfortable and safe!


I had to check the calendar to see if this was an April’s Fools joke; yet its only Feb 16.

These guys must be smoking rope in California or Colorado.

What a grand way to p _ _s away money!!!!😙😙😙

Doubtful Agent

From an aviation forum: They (like the exact same people) tried this same exact thing twenty years ago under the name “Family Airlines”. It was completely crushed by the DOT for many, many reasons and never saw the light of day. They are now trying the exact same thing (747’s… Read more »

James Ball

Might just work. South West was the model for failing Ryanair. Laker might have worked today. The 7478 has legacy facilities for airframe and engines.

Casey C

Nothing to see here. Avatar AKA Family Airlines has been trying to launch got over 20 years. The founder is alleged to have a questionable past. Every few years the grandiose idea bubbles up only to disappear in a few weeks.


Is Barry Michaels still involved with this?

Gerry S

Chuck spoke for me. Madness!

Seng Yu Rui

Better to use 787s and A320s like what Scoot is doing.


Nice idea. But I’m doubtful about it. There is a reason why high-capacity planes like the 747 and the A380 are unpopular.

Ar ok.

Time to hit up Grammarly.

Rick Buckalew

If that 747-8 sale goes through, there will be some relatively low time 747-8’s available for freighter conversion just about the time Amazon Prime needs the capacity. Avatar will be out of business before the fifth airplane is painted.


This joke idea of an airline has been trying to fly for YEARS. You should know better than to take this mess seriously.

Jim McCay

It would seem 777X would be a better solution in the long haul low cost solutionsmre efficient if fuel costs rise at compatible purchase price per aircraft, lower maintenance cost too


Let’s not call Southwest a low cost airline. Its tickets, even considering free luggage, are on par or in many cases way higher than other major airlines.

Ed Hart

Freddy Laker is BACK!


I wish them well. And with Boeing order’s drying up, and the 737 Max 8’s still grounded (which was a big chunk of Southwest Airline’s fleet) Boeing could use all the orders it can get! We’ll have to see if the investors/stockholders made a wise investment in Avatar Airlines, and… Read more »

Nelson.Uribe Amaya

I love it
I like the big Jumbo’s specially the 747
I can hardly wait
I hope I can fly them if they indeed come back

Old guy

It certainly has appeal. Its such a popular plane and a proven record.


777X-9 seats 429 passengers and is more fuel efficient.

Kebebew Bulto

Economics of scale might apply provided they fill up their seats, thus LCC.

Michael Brouillette

Haven’t seen anything on the cost of up keep and are they going to in house or out source ?


Yes!!! And Yes!!! That’s the best aviation news I’ve heard in a while. Especially for the United States. The US airlines have essentially bailed on the Queen of the skies, and this is definitely workable cost wise especially with a lcc model and nostalgically keeps the 747 around! Tower Air… Read more »


Less congestion in the sky and at the airport
One big plane v lots of small planes
Work it out.


as airlines always say! pax and crew safety come first. this and reliability of the 747 will never be beaten


Just to sum up what a few in here have already mentioned; Avatar Airlines is the follow on for Family Airlines and one Barry Michaels. THIS Barry Michaels: “On June 24, 1996, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a suit against Barry Michaels and his wife, Holly S. Michaels, for… Read more »


What would happen if the engines were redesigned? and there was a way to change the materials to bring the mass down? How does the 747 Wing compare to 777 and 787,? Any flexibility to carry more freight when customer numbers are lower?

Bob Aasen

Yes because people are crammed into the 737 800 and the max I’m only 5 9 and I have an issue partly because I’m disabled with my back and my legs they don’t been very much so even an hour-and-a-half flight from Sacramento to San Diego is very uncomfortable so… Read more »

Gerry S

I keep checking to see if this article is still here. So great is my disbelief. This HAS to be a joke. Stop it!


Just wondering, if you suddenly wanted a new string of airliners as quickly as possible, which model of aircraft would be available to you the earliest?

What is currently the quickest way to fill the gap left by the grounding of the 737 MAX?