Qantas Replaces Boeing 747 With 787 Dreamliner Next Year

It’s like letting go of your favorite ex-girlfriend. Qantas has written its 747-400 out of its schedules. Everyone knew it was coming, but its a sad day when the grand dame of the skies is to be replaced by a bland and charmless Dreamliner. Sure, the 747s were aging, costly to operate, showing signs of wear and tear, and a little bit old school, but so am I, so the relationship was working out well. That’s until Qantas pulled the exit cord.

Qantas has just 3 Boeing 747s left and they are being retired in June. Photo: Getty Images

The jumbo jet is quietly written out of the timetable

Yesterday, Executive Traveller drilled down into the forward Qantas flight schedules and revealed the 747-400 is timetabled to fly no more. Qantas had always said it was retiring their remaining 747-400 by the end of 2020. The airline had been doing this before COVID-19 shattered the industry.

But before the travel downturn and flight suspensions grounded the fleet, Qantas had half a dozen jumbos left. The general expectation was that the remaining 747s would go out with a bang. But times have changed. Qantas has quietly sent several 747-400s off to the airline graveyards in recent months. Executive Traveller says the remaining three 747-400s will head off to the Mojave Desert in June.

The last three Qantas 747-400s standing (or rather parked) are VH-OEE Nullarbor, VH-OEI Ceduna, and VH-OEJ Wunula.

VH-OEE Nullarbor in Sydney. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

While the life expectancy of these planes was already short, they were scheduled to keep flying to Johannesburg and Tokyo for the remainder of 2020. They’d also been flying to Santiago, but that service was due to be swapped out for a Dreamliner next month.

VH-OEI Ceduna in Sydney. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

COVID-19 saw Qantas ground the vast majority of it international flying in March. While the 747-400s stayed in the published schedules, the flights were progressively canceled ahead of time. There was always a hope, albeit growing increasingly remote, that the 747-400s would fly for a while later in 2020.

The very distinctive VH-OEJ Wunula. Photo: Qantas News Room

A favorite plane for a lot of people

Qantas isn’t alone in retiring their remaining 747-400s. Most airlines already have. The impact of COVID-19 is also causing other airlines to bring retirements forward. Qantas has been operating various models of the 747 since 1971. It has flown 65 of them. The plane has a special place in the heart of many Australians because it was their ride somewhere else. My first solo trip to London, paid for after working a year in some greasy takeaway joint, was on a Qantas 747.

Later, my first overseas business class trip was also in a Qantas 747. As contemporary business class goes, that early 1990s business class was a shocker. But I loved it. Granted, I was relatively easy to impress back then. I always recall a male flight attendant working the upper deck of that 747-300, very liberal with the Laurent Perrier, and storing the fizz between pours in a ratty old wire milk bottle holder. I fairly slid off the plane in Singapore. You just don’t get that on a Qantas Dreamliner in 2020.

You’ll never see this many Qantas 747s together again. Photo : Qantas News Room

As we’ve well covered in Simple Flying, the era of the jumbo is drawing to a close. Even for the 747’s successor, the A380, their days are ultimately numbered. Economics, flexibility, and changing tastes have seen airlines like Qantas switch to smaller aircraft like Boeing 787s as the mainstay of their international flying.

But flying in a Dreamliner leaves me cold, whereas flying in a 747 is always a joy. Unfortunately, you cannot stop change. Perhaps I’ll like the future A350-1000s Qantas plans to buy for the now delayed Project Sunrise. I hope so. In the meantime, after 48 and a half years flying for Qantas, it seems we can finally draw a line under the Boeing 747.