- The 747 has been a fixture of air travel since it first ferried passengers between New York and London in 1970.
- However, many airlines are retiring the jumbo jet and replacing it with smaller and more fuel-efficient models.
- The last US-based passenger 747 is being laid to rest Wednesday, but there are still plenty of foreign airlines operating the “Queen of the Skies.”
Since 1970, passengers, crew, and pilots alike have been enjoying the thrill of flying on the Boeing 747.
The original “jumbo jet” changed the way we travel. Its ability to carry 500 passengers as far as 6,000 miles truly opened the age of modern jet travel, bringing with it new possibilities and destinations.
However, the one-time “Queen of the Skies” has been slowly becoming obsolete. The double-decker, four-engine behemoth guzzles a lot of fuel, cutting into airline profitability. While later versions like the 747-8 have significantly improved efficiency over the earlier variations of the plane, it’s tough to beat two-engine workhorses like the Boeing 777-300ER. Beyond that, twin-engine planes have become more capable than ever before to safely handle long-distance flights.
Additionally, passenger preferences have changed since the 747 was introduced. The first wide-body plane with two aisles in the cabin, the 747’s range and capacity were great for ferrying passengers between large hubs – sometimes with stops in between – from which people could get connecting flights to smaller hubs and airports. However, passengers today prefer to fly non-stop from one point to another, and smaller wide-body planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the new Airbus A350 are better for those point-to-point routes. Even the latest variations of the narrow-body 737 are flying across oceans.
Hence the phasing out of the plane among carriers in the US and around the world. United Airlines and Delta both flew their final commercial 747 flights in 2017, and today, Delta’s last 747 is heading to the “aircraft boneyard.”
Fortunately, if you want to fly with the queen before she’s gone for good, there are still a handful of airlines operating the plane. Here’s a look at the passenger airlines still flying the 747.
British Airways still operates 36 of the 747-400, but plans to retire the jumbo jet by 2024. It flies to several US cities, including on the busy London Heathrow-New York-JFK route.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
Although KLM has announced plans to retire its 747-400 fleet, there’s no publically-announced timeline. The airline still flies the plane on a few routes, including Los Angeles-Amsterdam.
Air China flies two variations of the 747: the -400, and the newer -8. Catch it to Beijing from US cities including New York and San Francisco.
The South Korean airline Asiana operates several 747s on its routes, including a few to the US.
The flag carrier of Israel, El Al operates six 747-400s, servicing cities including New York, London, and Paris.
Lufthansa’s 747-400 and 747-8 grace the skies on routes between Frankfurt and cities including Orlando, Seattle, Denver, Boston, Houston, and New York’s Newark airport.
Korean Air flies the 747-400 and 747-8 on some of its US routes, although many are serviced by the A380. Catch the 747 on some flights from Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and occasionally New York.
While the Australian airline is in the process of retiring its 747 fleet to make way for Boeing 787 Dreamliners, you can still hop on the jumbo jet flying between Australia and the US, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, and even making a trip between LA and New York.