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.

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.

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:

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“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.”

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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.”

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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’ 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.

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.

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Casper

How is QF going to manage. On Friday 7Feb QF63 SYD/JNB was delayed for 7 hours cause they waited for QF64 JNB/SYD inbound. QF63 9Feb only arrived 0130 10Feb 9 hours late,🤷‍♂️

Paul

I was thinking the same, they are taking planes out of circulation and as far as i can read no more 787 on order. Also 350 has NOT been ordered only chosen.

Paul Spindler

Quite a young frame, but would anyone be interested in picking this and it’s five sisters up for passenger service, if not I expect it could head to freighter conversion.

Chris64

It’s likely to be converted to freighter, and would be replaced by Boeing 787 or A350-900 ulr

Nate Dogg

Since QF have ordered the A350-1000 how are you suggesting it could be replaced by B787 or A350-900??

Chris64

Qantas has 787-9 already, it can fly longer but also fuel efficient, also for a350-900lr can fly ultra long haul flight.

High Mile Club

A regular A350-900 can do SYD-LAX without problems, so a ULR isn’t needed.

shane

qantas has not ordered any A350’s yet

Anonymous

Interested to hear peoples thoughts on what qantas will do if Sunrise doesn’t proceed? More 787’s or order the a350 1000 anyway to take over from 747’s and later the 380’s?

Mark

I feel very privileged to still be flying in the 747 at least 4 times a year with BA, this is an iconic aircraft that’s been in our sky’s for what seems forever, however I’m also a request flyer to Australia using the Qatar airbus 380, on both legs, London to Doha, Doha to Perth, these planes come with all the mod cons, like WiFi, more luxury, and even a bar upstairs for business and first class passengers, on comparison the 747 is very outdated, so as sad as I am to see them come to the end of there… Read more »

Casper

I was only privileged enough to fly on SAA and Qantas 744

Mattia

And I never flew on a 747 😭, my only hope is to fly on a BA one before they retire them too🤧😭

Benjamin.h

Lufthansa will still fly then for ages!

Martin Decloe

Hi, yes, will be flying with KLM from Toronto Mar.6 to Amsterdam for one week by myself just to fly the ‘BIRD’- then on December 31 the final KL692 in Combi….

Anonymous

Which airlines are still flying the 747-400?

High Mile Club

British, Lufthansa, Air China (?), Korean Air, and possibly ANA and Japan Airlines.

shane

ana and jay don’t have any 747’s

Stephen

And Thai air. We are flying Sydney to Bangkok this month on 747-400. We go three times a year on the old girl and will miss her when inevitably happens

Benjamin.h

Quantas

shane

QANTAS

Levi

Very sad to see these Queens leaving pax ops. The first flight I ever went on was on board a 747 100 of Caribbean Airways. I also flew on a Quantas 747 400 in 1991 from Manchester to Kuala Lumpur and from Perth back to Manchester. I also flew flew on one of their 747sp aircraft from Sydney to Perth as part of the same trip so have been very lucky to have the experience. Still sad though. Hope I get another chance to fly on a Queen before they disappear completely.

Jim

The story is a bit misleading. OJA was the first 400 delivered to QF. I was there that day. It’s now at Albion Park.

Andrew

I was actually on this retirement flight and according to the flight to crew, they told us that the aircraft was sold to the Royal Family (not sure which one) and it is going to SBD for Outfitting! I’ve also heard rumors of it going to GE but not sure.

Dennis

Qantas has a real issue building up on the Sydney-Johannesburg route. As they retire the 747’s they do not have a fleet of 787’s ready to replace them, and if they did use 787’s then the capacity drops from 2,184 seats per week to 1,416 seats per week. As this service already has heavy utilisation it is incomprehensible that the airline thinks this will work – revenue and customer loyalty will be slashed. (Use the A380 ?? – apart from the recent issues of reliability of this fleet and the current birds being fully utilised, there has always been a… Read more »

Casper

There is now competition on the SYD/JNB and it's a popular route and most direct route to Australia and NZ. See many delays pax complain but still fly QF to save time and money. Flying via DXB and those places it's about 8 hours lay over and a$1000 more expensive. (That's when I traveled last yeaŕ) SAA only to Perth.

Mal

So sad to see this icon of aviation leaving our skies. Don’t understand why the -8 hasn’t been as popular.

Stephen

I’m flying on the Qantas 747 syd to Mel on the 15th. They’re still flying them to Santiago til June. Do you know of any other services?

Ben Green

Am I the only person thinking airlines should be hanging on to their 747’s not retiring them. I say this for one simple reason, reliability, these things are as stable and reliable as granite. If you look at the alternatives almost all are having issues of one sort or another whereas the 747 just keeps going and going. If it was me I’d be thinking twice about getting rid

Willem B.

No you’re not, the Boeing 747 has over 50 years of history background of the 1560 built only 3 had accidents due to technical issues, 12 other crashes were all due to human error, it’s one of the and if not the most reliable passenger aircraft ever designed they were made to last and 17 years is a depressive disappointment! QANTAS should be ashamed, the B747-400ER is from 2002 and now already phasing out it’s way too soon these aircraft were designed to last for at least 50 years! NASA’s SOFIA B747SP-221 is still flying it’s an ex-Pan Am World… Read more »

Stephen

You are so right. They are a proven safe plane. I love them.

Paul Ridley

Why doesnt Qantas offer one to the Temora Aviation Museum for everyone to enjoy instead of sending it to the desert in the US. I for one would be proud to see one in Temora and for all the country folk to enjoy. If you can give one to the south coast you can give one to Temora.

Annie Oeding

Beyond sad to see my favourite aircraft retired to a lonely desert- flew the Queen of the Skies aircraft as a Flight Service Director for many many years & it was my absolute pleasure to have been so lucky to share so many fun times w my pax & crew. RIP ⚘⚘

Wayne Silva

The A380 was never a threat to the B747.
Wayne in New Mexico

Wayne Silva

The A380 was never a threat to the B747.
Wayne in New Mexico

Casper

Oh my what's Qantas doing to today, are they waiting again for the JNB/SYD inbound before doing SYD/JNB. There is no movement on QF63🤷‍♂️

Dennis

If your comment is for Wed 12, 2020 … which is when it is posted…. QF do not fly SYD-JNB daily (QF63) , Wednesday doesn’t have this service. QF 64 arrived this afternoon only 5 minutes after its STA. Not sure what your comment is based on ?

Alexandra Monet

This seems a no brainer to me. Qantas can give this 747 to the National Aerial Fire fighting fleet, it can b reconfigured into a fire retardent/ water bomber. Too hard for Qantas to think of this ????. Do you have appropriate contacts at Qantas to put this seemingly obvious option to them ?. The Mojave desert is a graveyard for aircraft, what a ridiculous waste of an aircraft which has more life to give. Any ideas of how to get thru to the Qantas board of directors ?

Amal Mohamed

Vill gärna att vara med en resa innan