Boeing looks set to stop its 747 production in the next five years but many airlines have already retired their fleets. This includes Qatar Airways who only flew the jumbo jet for a brief period of time. We take a look what happened to its fleet of passenger 747s.
Fleet expansion with the 747
According to Air Fleets, Qatar Airways flew a limited number of the 747 in its fleet. It had just three, but the aircraft made up a significant part of the fleet at the time. They were some of the first aircraft that the airline ever acquired and were instrumental in allowing it to expand.
When Qatar Airways started operations in 1994, it had two Airbus A310s. The Boeing’s 747s were added to the fleet in 1995 when Qatar Airways acquired two from All Nippon Airways (ANA). The aircraft that came to Qatar Airways were 16 years old.
A final aircraft was acquired by Qatar Airways in 1996 from Air Mauritius. This was a younger aircraft delivered to its first owner in 1980. But the aircraft were not long in the Qatar Airways fleet. By 1998 they had all been retired and sent to other air carriers.
The 747 retirement
The first 747 that Qatar Airways acquired was registered A7-ABK and was with the airline for just over two years before it was sent to Tunisair in July 1997 who later scrapped the aircraft.
The second delivery, an aircraft registered A7-ABL, was sent to Saudi Arabian Airlines in March 1998, having completed nearly three years with Qatar Airways.
The third and final 747 that Qatar Airways owned had a more interesting yet slightly politically fraught lifetime. It came to Qatar Airways in February of 1996 but after nine short months, it went onto Qatar Amiri Flight. Qatar Amiri Flight is the VIP airline owned by the Qatari government and used to transport government officials as well as members of the royal family.
Qatar Amiri Flight had the aircraft for four years and later sent it to be part of another government operation; flying for Yemen. But this was where A7-ABM, then registered 7O-YMN, met its final fate.
On 19th March 2015, the aircraft was destroyed whilst standing during the tumultuous attacks that Yemen was suffering. Fortunately, no fatalities were caused.
Why did Qatar Airways use the 747 in the first place?
The 747 aircraft were used as part of Qatar Airways’ expansion plans as it began to compete against Middle Eastern carriers; Emirates and Gulf Air. At the time, Flight Global reported that the aircraft were flying on a twice-weekly service from London Gatwick to Doha and then further to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
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The aircraft allowed Qatar Airways to expand into other international destinations but evidently, the model was not perfect.
The decision to retire the fleet came with the arrival of two Airbus A300s which replaced the 747s.
Was the 747 retirement perhaps something to do with Airbus loyalties? At the time, Qatar Airways had been flying more variants of Airbus aircraft than Boeing.
These days, Qatar Airways has a fairly even Boeing to Airbus split.
Qatar Airways recently spoke of consolidating its fleet to two Airbus models and two Boeing aircraft models which numerically speaking would see it owning more Boeing aircraft. But then the airline also spoke of its hopes of acquiring more Airbus aircraft.
Speaking to Gulf Times in May this year, the Chief Executive of the Qatar Airways group Akbar al Baker said that the airline would be adding around 20 new aircraft to the fleet. He said:
“It will be mostly Airbus, except may be for one or two Boeing”.