Australian airline Qantas is planning to phase out its Boeing 747-400 fleet by the end of 2020. The original Boeing 747-200B fleet was introduced in 1971, so this will mark 49 years of service.

Aviation is very important to Australia as the continent is so isolated from everywhere else. The Jumbo Jets as they were originally called will get a fond farewell from all Aussie’s.

Qantas Versions

Qantas waited until 1971 to introduce the aircraft as they wanted the more capable Boeing 747-200B, rather than the original Boeing 747-100. Ignoring that, Qantas operated all versions of the aircraft and in fact was the world’s only all Boeing 747 airline between 1979 and 1985. They even operated the unusual Boeing 747SP.

SP stands for Special Performance and originally it was used for flights to Wellington in New Zealand before being deployed on the mission it was designed for, long range flight. Flying from Sydney to Los Angeles in competition with Pan Am, Qantas usually made the flight non-stop thanks to their Rolls-Royce engines. Pan Am on the other hand often required a technical stop for fuel due to using Pratt and Whitney engines.

Other marks Qantas operated were the Boeing 747-200 Combi featuring cargo on the main desk, the Boeing 747-300 and the Boeing 747-400. The latter opened up one stop service between Sydney and London for the first time. Finally, Qantas is the only airline to order the Boeing 747-400ER. The last one arrived in 2003 making it 17 years old when it is retired in 2020.

Why The Phase Out?

Modern twin engine aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner are the reason for the phase out. Two engines are more efficient than four, plus materials and technology have advanced quite a lot in the interim.

Qantas exercised six more options for the Boeing 787-9 which will be used to replace the last of the Jumbo’s. The new aircraft are better for passengers, the environment and importantly the airline’s bottom line.

Why I Will Miss The Boeing 747 at Qantas

When I left Australia for Ireland for a one year working holiday (which, twelve years later is still going!) it was a Qantas Boeing 747-400 that took me on my first leg from Sydney to Hong Kong. It was my first time in business class and I was seated on the upper deck which is an experience that almost can’t be beat as it is small, intimate and very private jet like.

Turning left when boarding means you are in first class and sitting in the nose. That is unique to the Boeing 747 as rules have changed since then meaning you must have doors at the front and rear of each cabin. You are actually in front of the pilots on a Jumbo which is a very unique experience nowadays.

Overall Thoughts

Time marches on and most airlines plan to phase out the Boeing 747 fleet in passenger service. British Airways plan to keep theirs in service until 2024 so I hope to fly on one before they’re gone.

Do you miss the Boeing 747? What about it was best for you? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image and all images apart from below via Qantas.
Qantas Boeing 747 Upper Deck image by Tesla on