When Are The World’s Boeing 747s Being Retired?

Recently, we covered the end of Qantas’ Boeing 747 program, what happened to American Airlines Boeing 747s, and why Lufthansa would not be retiring their Boeing 747s anytime soon. But what about the other Boeing 747s in service at the moment? How long will we see the aircraft grace our skies?

Qantas Domestic Boeing 747
Qantas 747. Source: Qantas

Who is currently flying the aircraft?

Currently, the following airlines are still operating the Boeing 747 on regular commercial routes:

  • Lufthansa operates both the Boeing 747-400 and newer 747-8I
  • Qantas operates one Boeing 747-400 and six Boeing 747-400ERs
  • British Airways operates a large fleet of 33 Boeing 747-400s.
  • KLM operates a fleet of 10 Boeing 747s.
  • El Al has a fleet of three Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
  • Virgin Atlantic has a big fleet of eight Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
  • Thai Airways has a fleet of seven 747-400 aircraft.
  • Korean Air has a fleet of two Boeing 747-400s.
  • Air China has three Boeing 747-400s and seven Boeing 747-8Is.

American carriers who used to operate the Boeing 747 included American Airlines, Delta and United. They have all since retired the type. For Delta, the A350 has taken over the 747 role, and for United, it has been replaced by the Boeing 777-300ER.

Boeing 747
Air France closed the chapter on The Boeing 747 many years ago. Photo: Wikimedia

Who is planning on retiring the Boeing 747?

So far, quite a few airlines have made it clear that they plan to replace the Jumbo Jet as soon as possible. Many of these aircraft are being replaced due to fuel efficiency (it’s cheaper to operate an aircraft with two engines than one with four engines).

Of the above list:

  • Qantas plans on retiring their 747s by 2021 and replace them with Boeing 787-9s Dreamliners.
  • British Airways plans to retire their entire 33 strong fleet of Boeing 747s by 2024. They will be replaced by Boeing 777Xs, which the airline has an order for 18.
  • KLM is following Qantas’ footsteps and plans to retire the 747s by 2021, replacing them with a fleet of Dreamliners.
  • El Al will retire all its Boeing 747 aircraft this year and will replace them with Boeing 787 Dreamliners
  • Virgin Atlantic plans to replace their fleet of older 747s with new A350-1000. The new aircraft type is expected to go into service later this month.
  • Thai Airways wants to retire five of its 747 by 2022. They have not confirmed what aircraft will be replacing the 747, but likely their new 787 fleet.
An older Boeing 747-200 takes flight in Lufthansa livery. Photo: Lufthansa

Who is not retiring the Boeing 747 anytime soon?

As we mentioned in a previous article, Lufthansa has no plans to retire the Boeing 747 anytime soon. Whilst they are phasing out their earlier Boeing 747-400 aircraft with Boeing 777X aircraft (which, unfortunately, have been delayed until at least 2020) they have no plans to retire their newer Boeing 747-8I aircraft. Korean Air and Air China also have not made plans to retire their 747s at this current time.

As the Queen of the Skies is retired, it may not find itself heading straight for a boneyard. Rather, it is possible these giant jumbos could be sold to another airline. With any luck, we’ll see the aircraft flying in our skies for decades to come.

What do you think? Should the Boeing 747 be retired?