The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted aviation to a huge extent as a multitude of airlines have managed to quickly adapt to the crippled demand for air travel, grounded jets and minuscule flight load factors. When shortlisting which aircraft to ground, the older, less fuel-efficient aircraft are always on top of the the list. The Boeing 747 – Queen of the Skies, was quick to become a victim of the ongoing crisis due to its lacklustre fuel efficiency, higher passenger capacity and high maintenance compared to the newer and efficient twin engine jets.
According to reports, this weekend will mark the final passenger flights of the Boeing 747-400 for both, KLM and Qantas. Both airlines have had to reduce passenger capacity largely in an attempt to adapt to the dynamic situation the pandemic has created.
The 747 is far more than just a carrier for most airlines. It is one of the few aircraft that carries with it a sense of nostalgia and grandeur. When Qantas’ first 747-238B was delivered in 1971, it plugged Australia, the most distant of all continents, into the world map at last. As for KLM, the world’s oldest airline has been flying the Queen for almost half a century after its first flight with the carrier in 1971, having operated numerous versions like the 747-200, 747-200M, 747-200SUD and 747-300M since then. The 747, for decades to come, represented the sole means of long distance, reliable travel for the two airlines. It contributed substantially for shaping the business model the way it took shape for the carriers in late 90s and early 2000s.
KLM’s initial plan was to retire the 747s in early 2021, while Qantas planned to phase out the aircraft in late 2020; however, with the unfortunate ill-effects of COVID-19 hitting the industry hard, decisions like these did not come as a surprise. The last Qantas 747, coded QF28 was operated by an aircraft registered VH-OEE, departing from Santiago, Chile and landed in Sydney on March 28, 2020. While Qantas and KLM shall soon end their romance with the graceful aircraft on this weekend, the 747 passenger aircraft shall indeed become a rare sight in the skies; British Airways, Lufthansa, Korean, among few others, still operate the aircraft (747-400 and 747-8), but in handful numbers!
With the industry heading towards efficient twin engine aircraft, there would soon be a time when our skies shall be devoid of the stunning giant. This is a momentous occasion for aviation – a paradigm shift, when the throne is being passed by one Queen to the subsequent followers! As we bid adieu to the Queen of the skies from KLM and Qantas, we would love to listen what you have to say about the 747! Have you ever travelled on one? How was the experience?