Qantas Has Something Special Planned For The Boeing 747 Retirement

Nothing lasts forever, and 2020 will see Qantas 747 flights come to an end. The ageing but popular aircraft are being retired and largely replaced by Boeing 787s. But Qantas isn’t letting their iconic 747s go out with a whimper. Australian Business Traveller is reporting that Qantas plans to give the 747 a final last hurrah, with a run of points plane flights to mark the end of the model that has carried tens of millions of Aussies around the world.

qantas boeing 747 retirement
A Qantas Boeing 747 heads out of Sydney. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

No doubt Qantas has been inspired by the success of their inaugural points plane flight to Tokyo later this year. As such, the 747 will head off to international destinations, filled exclusively with Qantas Frequent Flyers paying with points. 

The Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme has been in the news lately, thanks to a recent overhaul. With more than 12 million members, the scheme is suffering some growing pains. Amongst other things, members have complained about the scarcity of points seats on international flights. Having a number of 747s jetting around the world filled with passengers burning points should help address this issue too.

And people are getting nostalgic. Everyone recognises that the 747s are inefficient and increasingly expensive to operate, but flying in them was always a thrill. For most Australians, a well-travelled nation, a Qantas 747 took them on their first big overseas trip.

qantas boeing 747 retirement
A Qantas 747-SP heading into Wellington, New Zealand, in 1981. Photo: PhillipC via Flickr

The airline is running a series of domestic flights using 747s this upcoming Australian summer, in order to reposition the aircraft for the annual summer Antarctic charters. Already 747 buffs have snapped up the points seats available on most of these flights, particularly in the premium cabins. Cash seats remain available. 

Where will the 747 flights go?

Speculation on just where these new 747 points plane flights might head to has been unusually muted. Qantas 747 flights currently set off from Sydney for San Francisco, Santiago, Johannesburg, and Tokyo, along with seasonal services to Honolulu. 

These routes are earmarked to be progressively replaced with other aircraft. The Sydney – San Francisco – Sydney (QF73/74) 747 service is ending in December, to be replaced with the 787. 

qantas boeing 747 retirement
Time is running out to catch the Qantas 747s at San Francisco International. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Santiago and Johannesburg will likely be replaced with 787s. Australian Business Traveller believes an A380 could go onto the Tokyo route. What could happen is that the last 747 flight to each current 747 destination becomes a points plane.

Alternatively, Qantas could schedule special flights to popular destinations like Honolulu, Hong Kong or LA. Or maybe lay on triumphant last flights to Heathrow or New York, where Qantas 747s were once a familiar sight.

Milk runs and the Fiesta Route

Simple Flying would love to see an around the world jaunt or a re-enactment of one of the early 747 milk run style flights to Europe, with stops in ports like Mumbai and Bahrain. These stops were once refuelling pit-stops but now long overflown.

Or possibly a rerun of the long gone and forgotten Fiesta Route, even though this wasn’t a 747 route. It largely predated 747s, and Qantas ran 707s on it. The trip from Australia to England had stops in Fiji, Tahiti, Mexico, The Bahamas and Bermuda. It would be a glorious last run for the Qantas 747. 

qantas boeing 747 retirement
The old Qantas Fiesta Route along with some other exotic Qantas destinations. Source: Qantas

Details on dates and schedules for these 747 points flights are sketchy. Whether Qantas announces the flights in one go or progressively rolls out the last 747 points flights, we expect that, like the Tokyo points plane, seats in the premium cabins will be snapped up quickly.

Simple Flying will be keeping an eye out for announcements.

Where would you like the last Qantas 747 points plane to go? Post a comment and let us know!

10 comments
  1. Im having a hard time accepting that the Grand Dame of all commercial aircraft , the Majestic B747-400, her time to retire is near.Soon will be NO B747 flying the skies NO MORE !!
    The B747 has been there throughout my life , from a youngster at 5yrs young when I took my first flight with my parents , on a SAA B747-236 from Johannesburg-London , that was in the early 70s,then through the decades of the 80s , 90s ( the start of the B744) the new millennium, 2000 through to 2019. As I say ,the B747 has been with me throughout my life, from pre- school youngster ,thru primary + secondary schooling, onto graduating from university , then the start of my career, 30yrs later. I last flew home , to Johannesburg, on the upper deck of a BA Queen of the sky (B744) in January of 2017.I haven’t had the oppertunity to fly aboard another B747nsince then.
    It isn’t going to be the same anymore when at the airport you get to see the aircraft movement , on airside ,taxiing , parked at a gate, the movement of the aircraft on the runways. It is soon all going to be just ONE kind of aircraft , the majority, Twin engineed aircrafts (an engine on each wing)
    The way in which the B747 looked , graceful, majestic either parked at a departure stand, or taxiing moving about on the apron, runway.
    The end of a wonderful part of Aviation history , filled with many memories , the closing of that era is happening.It is reassuring + comforting that aeronautical establishments and museums of flight are going to keep the memory alive, by putting them on display and maintaining their upkeep 😊
    PS: For the last Qantas B747 points flights I would like to see it doing the Fiesta Route. Yes , from the early Qantas days of flying.
    Thank you.

  2. There will last at least three of them, as the new Air Force one’s.
    And in cargo operations they certainly remain in the skies for an other decade.

  3. It would be fantastic to farwell the queen doing the “Fiesta Route” roundtrip, the queen deserve it…🤩

    1. I agree, that’s top of my wish list. Would be great to see them paint the last 747 in those old school Qantas colours as well

  4. I remember flying a Qantas 747 from Melbourne to Hobart during the strike/lockout in 1991(?).
    It would be fun to do that again!

  5. Flee the Qantas 747 on my backbavking trip in 1993-94
    London-Singapore-Sydney
    Wonderful
    The sky is going to be so boring with all those majestic planes gone: 747, 727, Tristars, 757s, MDs, Fokkers. BAes,AVROs: all gone. I would love to fly a 747 to Oz again it would be lovely to fly to Kai Tak again

  6. Andrew Curren. A great article about a legendary aircraft, tainted only by your consistent misuse of apostrophes throughout- the term is 747s, not 747’s.

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