Qantas Retires Its First Boeing 747-400ER

At the young age of 17, Qantas’ first Boeing 747-400ER has officially been retired. The jumbo jet flew its final commercial passenger service on 9 February from Sydney to Los Angeles. The Australian carrier has been phasing out its 747s and this year we will see the type completely phased out of the Qantas fleet.

Qantas Retires Its First Boeing 747-400ER
VH-OEF is just over 17 years old. Photo: Roderick Eime via Flickr

The final journey

Assigned the flight number QF99, the aircraft took off from Sydney at 19:50 on the 9th of February for its 13-hour journey over the Pacific Ocean. Crossing the international dateline, it arrived in Los Angeles the same day, at 13:5, according to FlightRadar24.

Qantas Retires Its First Boeing 747-400ER
The final journey of VH-OEF on 9 February. Photo: FlightRadar24

This retirement has been planned for some time now. In fact, Qantas markets these retirement flights as frequent-flyer member specials. Below is a blurb selling the final flight of this jet:

“After 17 years of flying, our Boeing 747 – ‘Sydney’ (VH-OEF) will set off on its final journey from Sydney to Los Angeles. Use your Qantas Points to book a Classic Flight Reward seat from 41,900 points + A$232 taxes, fees and carrier charges one way. With great availability in Economy, Premium Economy and Business, secure your seat on this historic flight today.”

What’s special about VH-OEF

At 17 years of age, the 747-400 was Qantas’ first -400ER variant to be delivered to the airline and the second of its kind to be built. It will now be the first of its kind to be retired. In fact, Qantas was the only airline to order a passenger version of this aircraft. Here’s a nostalgic snippet from a Boeing 2002 press release:

“The 747-400ER program was formally launched in November 2000 with an order from Qantas Airways, which is scheduled to receive its first airplane in October. The first 747-400ER rolled out of the Everett factory hangar in June 2002.”

VH-OEF will likely move onwards to the Mojave Desert in California to join the rest of its Qantas 747 retirees. Previous jets making this journey have arrived at LAX and been towed to Qantas’ Los Angeles maintenance facility. It’s here that the Qantas name and logo are covered up to prepare for the short hop to the desert.

Qantas Retires Its First Boeing 747-400ER
Qantas’ retired 747s go to the Mojave Desert for their final resting place. Photo: Getty Images

2020: The final year of the Qantas 747

As the 747 is phased out of the Qantas fleet, the airline is leaning more on its 12 Airbus A380s as well as its 11 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners for long-haul operations. Further into the future is the Airbus A350-1000. Qantas announced in December that it will use the A350-1000 if it proceeds with Project Sunrise.

Time is limited for travelers wanting to travel on a Qantas 747. Now, the airline has just five Boeing 747-400s left in its fleet. All are due to be retired by the end of this year. Sydney to Santiago as well as Sydney to Johannesburg are just some of the remaining routes that operate the 747.

Qantas Retires Its First Boeing 747-400ER
Before its retirement flight, VH-OEF flew between Sydney and Santiago. Photo: Andrew Thomas via Wikimedia Commons

Are you sad to see another Queen of the Skies go into retirement? Do you have any plans to take a 747 flight this year before it’s too late? Let us know in the comments.

We reached out to Qantas for a statement on the retirement of VH-OEF. However, no response was received at the time of publishing this article.