It’s something that has slipped under the radar. While its fleet is mostly grounded and few flights are operating, Qantas has been quietly sending its remaining 747-400s out to pasture. Another has just left Sydney this morning, leaving Qantas with a single remaining 747 jumbo.
Qantas wouldn’t confirm this to Simple Flying, saying that the remaining 747-400s are scheduled to go for storage in the US between now and July.
However, at 10:25 (Sydney time) on Tuesday, VH-OEE departed Sydney as QFA6001 bound for Los Angeles. It is due to touch down at LAX at 06:14 PDT.
Suddenly, there is just one Qantas jumbo left
It’s no secret Qantas was retiring its 747-400s. It has been winding the fleet down over the last couple of years and made an official announcement last year. For a while, each plane went out with a degree of fanfare and it looked like 2020 was going to be one long farewell party.
But things changed. Since Qantas went into hibernation about three months ago, the airline has gone usually quiet on the 747-400s. In late March, there was a flurry of speculation surrounding a 747-400 flight from Santiago to Sydney. Lot’s of people said that would be the last flight. Simple Flying called Qantas. They said that wasn’t the case.
But since then, Qantas has been quietly sending its 747-400s away. The airline went into the grounding with five in the fleet, having retired VH-OEF Sydney (also known as the oneworld plane) in February.
On April 10, VH-OEG Parkes operated its last flight from Los Angeles to Mojave Air and Space Port. VH-OEH Hervey Bay made the same final flight on May 20.
Earlier this month, on June 3, VH-OEI Ceduna set off across the Pacific from Sydney to Los Angeles as QF6001. The next day, it made the short 30-minute flight from Los Angeles to Mojave.
That left just two Boeing 747-400s with Qantas. They were VH-OEE Nullarbor and VH-OEJ Wunula. Nullarbor has left Australia for the last time today. The last one will go across sometime later this month.
An inglorious end for a glorious plane
It’s a sad and inglorious end for an iconic plane. Various 747 models have flown in the ever-evolving Qantas colors since 1971.
Arguably, it’s not how Qantas wanted to send out the grand old dame of the skies. As it has progressively wound down the 747-400 fleet, the airline has tended to turn the respective plane’s last flight into a publicity event.
But the current environment isn’t really conducive to hoopla and points planes and overseas jaunts.
“The jumbo has been the backbone of Qantas International for more than 40 years and we’ve flown almost every type that Boeing built,” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said last year.
“Over the years, each new version of the 747 allowed Qantas to fly further and improve what we offered passengers.”
I haven’t been on a plane in three months. The last time I passed through the international terminal at Sydney, I saw VH-OEI Ceduna at its gate. I know the plane well, having flown on it several times over the years. I didn’t know that would be the last time I would see a Qantas jumbo parked at an airport gate. It’s kind of sad. Neither Sydney nor Melbourne Airports are going to be the same without seeing them around.