LONDON – Recent years have been a period of rapid disappearance of Boeing 747s from the network of carriers around the world. The final delivery of the B747 last week also contributed to this. Currently, it will be increasingly difficult to find passenger flights operated by the “Queen of the Skies“.
Their withdrawal was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic in the last three years. In the article, we present the 10 largest users of the B747, as well as airlines that still fly passenger planes.
Aviation icon, Jumbo Jet, Queen of the Skies – no other aircraft model has become such a symbol and has not lived to see as many names as the Boeing B747. Last week, Boeing delivered the last 747, marking the culmination of 55 years of production.
In the last 12 years, Boeing has also produced B747s in the passenger B747-8I version and the B747-8F cargo version, with which it ended the entire 747 program.
As a curiosity, it is worth adding that the 747-8 Intercontinental is currently the longest passenger plane in the world. Boeing took this name from the Airbus A340-600, which is one meter shorter.
Twilight of four-engines
The new B747-8 has never been crucial for Boeing, as it was a modification of a Jumbo Jet that had been in production for over 55 years, and its development costs were relatively low.
When the American company announced this program, it had long been working on the aircraft that was to start a revolution in the market – the B787 Dreamliner.
The end of the A380 is an image failure for Airbus, completely incomparable to the failure of the B747 and B747-8 programs.
Boeing has sold a total of 1,574 Jumbo Jets since production began. This model has long since paid for itself and just lived up to its age. It leaves a legacy as an icon of a completely different era in aviation.
The last Airbus A380 left the production line as a symbol of the missed forecasts of the European concern, and also fell victim to the time in which it had its operational debut.
Where will we meet the passenger versions of the B747?
Passenger Jumbo Jets can be found in only six airlines in the world and only one in Europe. According to the Ch-aviation portal, we have a total of 40 passenger B747 in the world:
- Lufthansa (24 B747s: five B747-400s and 19 B747-8Is)
- Korean Air (8 B747-8I)
- Air China (5 B747-8I)
- Asiana Airlines (1 B747-400)
- Mahan Air (1 B747-400)
- Las Vegas Sands (1 B747SP)
Where do B747s generally fly?
We present a list of the ten largest users of the iconic plane – Jumbo Jet. We have classified airlines with B747 passenger and/or cargo versions for the list, based on the number of aircraft still used for commercial flights by a given airline (possibly still under maintenance).
In January 2023, 430 Boeing B747s were active: four B747SPs, 19 B747-200s, four B747-300s, 250 B747-400s and 154 B747-8s.
In total, the 10 carriers listed below operate 259 Jumbo Jets, of which almost 1/3 (76) are used on European lines. 259 aircraft from the list of airlines below constitute 60 percent. of all B747s in active service around the world.
10 Boeing B747 operators
- Atlas Air – 48 B747 machines
Atlas Air is in the first place. The airline is currently the largest user of the 747 in the world. This charter and cargo carrier has been using the B747 since its inception in 1992.
To date, 105 aircraft of this type have passed through the airline’s fleet. There are currently 57 B747s in the fleet: 40 B747-400F/BCF, four B747-400s and 13 B747-8Fs.
- UPS Airlines – 41 B747s
The second place in the ranking went to another American cargo airline – UPS Airlines. The airline has been using the B747 since 1984.
So far, 68 aircraft of this type have passed through the carrier’s fleet. Currently, the airline’s fleet includes 41 B747s: 13 B747-400Fs and 28 B747-8Fs.
- Cargolux – 33 B747s
In third place Cargolux. With its headquarters and main base at Luxembourg Airport, the airline is one of the largest airlines of its kind in Europe. It has been using the B747 since 1979. As part of its operations, apart from scheduled flights, it also performs charter flights with cargo loads. The line also has its Italian company Cargolux ITALIA. Currently, the carrier’s fleet consists of 33 B747s: 19 B747-400F and 14 B747-8F.
- Lufthansa – 27 B747s
Fourth place went to the German airline. Lufthansa has been operating Boeing 747s since 1970 and is one of the few airlines that now has two passenger versions, including the latest -8 Intercontinental.
Currently, there are 27 Boeing 747s in the airline’s fleet: eight B747-400s and 19 B747-8Is. As one of the program’s oldest customers, in 2015 the airline received the jubilee 1,500th B747. Since 2016, the carrier also has a retrojet, which is the B747-8I (D-ABYT).
- Kalitta Air – 24 B747s
Kalitta Air is an American cargo airline based in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. They perform ad hoc and regular cargo flights in North America, Asia and Europe.
The main base is at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti Township. The current fleet consists of 24 B747-400Fs.
- Korean Air – 21 B747
Korean Air was ranked sixth place. The carrier has been using the B747 since 1978. In total, 81 such machines have passed through the lines. Korean currently has 21 B747s in its fleet: five B747-400F/BCFs, seven B747-8Fs and nine B747-8Is.
- Cathay Pacific Cargo – 20 B747s
The seventh place goes to the airline from Hong Kong. Cathay Pacific is one of the first users of the 747. The first aircraft of this type appeared in the airline in 1978.
So far, 83 aircraft of this type have passed through the airline’s fleet. There are currently 19 B747Fs in the fleet: five B747-400F/BCFs and 14 B747-8Fs.
- China Airlines – 17 B747s
The eighth place in the ranking went to Taiwanese China Airlines. The airline has been using the B747 since 1976. So far, 59 aircraft of this type have flown through the carrier’s fleet. There are currently 17 B747-400Fs in the airline’s fleet.
- Air Atlanta Icelandic/Europe – 16 B747s
In ninth place Air Atlanta Icelandic. As part of its activity, apart from scheduled flights, it also performs charter flights with cargo loads and subleases aircraft to other air freight carriers.
The airline also has its Maltese company Air Atlanta Europe. Currently, the carrier’s fleet consists of 16 B747-400Fs.
- Silk Way West Airlines – 12 B747s
This Azerbaijani airline was ranked 10th. The carrier has been using the B747 since 2012. Currently, the airline’s fleet consists of 12 Boeings: seven B747-400F and five B747-8F.
By the end of 2022, the entire B747 family had flown almost 144 billion kilometers and carried almost 6.6 billion passengers, i.e. 82 percent. of the human population (Boeing data).
Over more than 55 years of production, 1,574 B747s have rolled off the final assembly line in six major versions: 205 B747-100s, 45 B747SPs, 394 B747-200s, 81 B747-300s, 694 B747-400s and 155 B747-8s.
The most popular was the -400 version. 694 of them were delivered, including the extended-range (ER) and cargo (F, ERF) variants built on its basis.