Quadjets, a term to describe four-engined aircraft, have been very much on the decline in fleets across the world. With a raft of highly efficient twinjet aircraft in the market, airlines have shunned fuel-guzzling quadjets in favor of more economical twinjets. We explore which airlines have flown the most quadjets throughout history.
Japan Airlines has operated a total of 108 Boeing 747s, making it the largest operator of the 747 in history. The airline also flew 58 DC-8’s from 1960 until its final DC-8 was retired in 1988.
The 747-400 was JAL’s most numerous variant, with 44 of the type in its fleet at some point. This included two freighter variants and eight 747-400D ‘domestic’ variants. The airline retired its final 747 in 2011 and no longer operates any quadjets.
Emirates is well-known as the world’s largest operator of the mammoth Airbus A380. In fact, Emirates owns around half of all A380s in the world today, with a total of 119 A380s in the fleet. The carrier has also flown another of Airbus’ quadjets – the A340.
Emirates flew the A340 from 2003 until 2016, slowly phasing the aircraft out of its fleet from 2013. In total, Emirates had 10 A340-500s and eight of the smaller A340-300. The airline still has another three A380s on order from Airbus and maintains it will operate the giant aircraft for the next two decades.
British Airways is the second-largest 747 customer in history, operating a total of 101 747s. Unsurprisingly, the 747-400 variant was the most popular type in BA’s fleet at 57. Second in line was the 747-200 at 25, followed by the 747-100 at 19. The airline previously flew Boeing 707s and Vickers VC-10s throughout the 1960s and 70s.
BA slowly phased out its 747s over the past decade, before the COVID pandemic led to a mass exodus of the plane in 2020. As Simple Flying reported, the carrier retired its final 747 in December 2020.
While BA no longer flies the ‘Queen of the Skies’, it still has quadjets in its fleet in the form of the giant A380. The airline presently has 12 A380s which have been sidelined since the pandemic began. Interestingly, BA removed one of its A380s from storage just last week, perhaps signifying its A380 fleet isn’t done for yet.
Singapore Airlines has been another major operator of quadjet aircraft throughout its history. The airline has taken delivery of 86 Boeing 747s over the years. Singapore Airlines’ 747 fleet was dominated by the 747-400, with 42 of the variant. The airline also had a sizeable 747 cargo fleet in the form of the 747-400F, of which it operated 17 in total.
Singapore Airlines has also flown Airbus quadjets, having owned both A380s and A340s. The airline currently operates the second-largest A380 fleet in the world at 19 (with 5 retired). According to ch-aviation, the airline has also owned 21 A340s in its history.
The German carrier has flown 81 Boeing 747s throughout its history, including the 747-8 which it continues to fly to this day. Lufthansa has 19 747-8s in service today along with 8 inactive 747-400s. It also flew a handful of Boeing 720-Bs in the early 1960s.
The airline also has experience with Airbus quadjets. It has operated a total of 62 A340s, 21 of which are still in the fleet in the form of the A340-300 (17) and A340-600 (4). The airline at one point had 14 A380s, making it the third-largest operator of the A380 at the time. However, Lufthansa has now retired all of its A380s.
Are there any other honorable mentions you can think of? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.