Aviation: The Guide to the 20 Airlines that fly the B747 Aircraft; Africa has none
With its distinct shape and four engines, the Boeing 747 – or “Queen of the Skies” – is, perhaps, the most recognized aircraft in the world. Having first flown commercially in 1970, it has been transporting passengers and cargo for almost 50 years.
However, with more efficient twin-engine planes taking over the skies, flights operated by the Boeing 747 are getting farther and fewer between. Especially so on passenger routes.
Over the last couple of years, previously major operators of the type such as Air France, Cathay Pacific, Eva Air, as well as the last two US operators of the type – United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, retired the Queen of the Skies and substituted it with newer, more fuel efficient planes.
With less than twenty Boeing 747 operators remaining on scheduled passenger routes, I decided to put together this article together back in 2018. This is an updated version that details the airlines and routes the 747 can still be flown on in 2019.
Air China Boeing 747-400 & 747-8i
Air China is one of three operators using both the most common 747-400 (3 aircraft as of the end of 2018), as well as the latest 747-8i (6 aircraft + 1 in VIP configuration operated for the Chinese government). Because of that, we can expect to see the iconic aircraft in Air China’s livery roam the skies for many years to come.
The Air China 747-400s can nowadays only be caught on domestic flights. As of the time of writing this article, they seem to be mainly used on the Beijing – Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Beijing – Shanghai routes. Equipment changes to 747-8is and 777-300ERs are not uncommon, though.
As for the 747-8i, you can fly it internationally between Beijing and San Francisco, and Beijing and New York among other routes. It also makes appearances on high-density domestic flights including on the Beijing – Shanghai route mentioned above.
Air India Boeing 747-400
Air India operates a fleet of four 747-400s. Besides being still used on regular passenger flights, the Air India 747 can also be seen operating as “AI1” every now and then, transporting the country’s top-level officials.
On scheduled flights, the aircraft can be flown a couple of times a week on the domestic Mumbai – Hyderabad route for about 40 USD one-way. Separately, it can also be caught three times a week between Hyderabad and Jeddah, and four times a week between Cochin and Jeddah.
Other than that, the aircraft only seems to be used as a back-up plane and for charter flights.
Asiana Airlines Boeing 747-400
Besides a fleet of 747 freighters, Asiana Airlines also keeps two passenger 747-400s active.
Currently, Asiana Airlines regularly schedules the aircraft on four regional routes: from Seoul Incheon to Manila in the Philippines, Taipei Taoyuan in Taiwan, and Ho Chi Minh and Da Nang in Vietnam.
Atlas Air Boeing 747-400
Atlas Air, besides operating more than 10 cargo 747-400s, also operates four in passenger configuration. And, while two of those are used mainly for US military charters, two – N263SG and N322SG – are used on scheduled flights between Houston, Texas and Luanda, Angola as well.
While the route – nicknamed “Houston Express” – might seem quite random at first, it has been connecting the oil industry in the two countries for decades. The service which Atlas Air operates on behalf of Sonair three-times a week was initially only been available for workers in the oil industry.
It was reported, though, that the flight opened up to general public from May 2017. However, I cannot access Sonair’s website nor find the flights in the usual booking engines – and as such, I have no clue as to how much a flight on the route would cost or how to book it.
British Airways Boeing 747-400
With 34 Boeing 747-400s still in service, British Airways is the largest remaining passenger 747 operator in the world. And, while the airline plans to retire half of its 747 fleet by 2021, it plans to keep the type in operation until February 2024. Recently, it also painted three of the Queens in retro liveries.
Given that the 747 is the second most common wide-body aircraft in British Airways’ fleet after the 777-200ER, it is fairly easy to catch.
Among other routes, it currently connects London Heathrow with New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Boston, Toronto, Dubai, Beijing, and Cape Town.
China Airlines Boeing 747-400
With over 20 Jumbos in its fleet, China Airlines is a major operator of the type. However, only four of those are in passenger configuration. The good news is that the four passenger 747-400s were delivered fairly recently – in 2005 and 2006 – and include the last passenger 747-400 ever built.
And, in spite of the fact that China Airlines has been receiving new, more efficient, planes recently, the airline has no immediate plans to retire the Jumbos. As such, we can expect the aircraft to be around for quite some time.
While in the past, the 747 was the airline’s workhorse frequenting routes to the US and Europe, nowadays, it is only used on intra-Asian routes.
The routes that the China Airlines 747-400 can be flown on regularly include flights from Taipei to Naha, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, and Hong Kong.
Corsair Boeing 747-400
The French charter airline that is part of TUI group, Corsair operates a fleet of three 747-400s out of its base at Paris Orly airport.
The Corsair 747s can be caught on flights between Paris Orly and the fairly exotic destinations of:
•Port Louis (Mauritius)
•Fort-de-France (Martinique, until the first week of May 2018).
El Al Boeing 747-400
El Al from Israel operates one 747-400 freighter, as well as four of the type in passenger configuration. Unfortunately, with new 787s having joined the airline’s fleet, the older aircraft in its fleet including the 747s are expected to be retired shortly.
In fact, El Al expects to retire its four passenger Queens by the end of 2019. Until that time, you can enjoy them regularly on flights between Tel Aviv and New York, Bangkok, Paris, and London. Unlike in the past, there are more and more days in the schedule on those routes served with the newer types, though.
Iraqi Airways Boeing 747-400
The national carrier of Iraq, Iraqi Airways, reportedly operates a pair of 747-400s: YI-ASA and YI-AQQ. However, I could only track the former of those, with “AQQ” having no history on FlightRadar24 and almost no photos on the Internet. (It might be used solely for Hajj charters between not so spotter-friendly destinations.)
As for scheduled flights, there seem to be none that are regularly operated by the 747-400. YI-ASA can be seen substituting for other aircraft on occasion, though I wouldn’t count on catching it that way.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines Boeing 747-400
Even KLM, the airline that writes about “4 good reasons to love the Boeing 747” on its blog, is in the process of slowly phasing out its 747s, planning to retire all of them by 2021. At the moment, KLM has a fleet of more than 10 Boeing 747-400s (including “combis”) left, though.
In 2019, the blue 747 can regularly be flown between Amsterdam and:
•The Americas: Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York JFK, Paramaribo, San Francisco, Toronto, Willemstad (Curacao)
•Asia: Hong Kong, Seoul
Korean Air Boeing 747-400 & 747-8i
Korean Air still operates two passenger 747-400s, on top of freighters. But, it also operates ten of the latest 747-8i. As such, just like the Air China Jumbos, the light blue passenger 747s are here to stay – at least in some form – for a long time.
Until recently, Korean Air used to operate the 747-400 on, among others, its route between Seoul Gimpo and Jeju – the world’s busiest air route. Alas, the the Korean Jumbos cannot be caught domestically anymore.
Instead, in 2018 (until March 24), the Korean Air “dash four hundred” can be flown between Seoul Incheon and Bangkok Suvarnabhumi. There seem to be no other regularly scheduled routes with the type, but let us know in the comments if you know any others.
Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 & 747-8i
Together with Air China and Korean Air, Lufthansa is one of the only three airlines to operate the passenger version of the 747-8i (19 aircraft). And, similarly to the other two airlines, it also keeps a fleet of the older 747-400s (13 aircraft).
With Lufthansa, the two subtypes of the 747 can be caught, among other routes, on flights between Frankfurt and the following:
•Boeing 747-400: Mumbai, Orlando, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro , Seoul , Shanghai, Tehran, Toronto, Vancouver
•Boeing 747-8i: Bangalore, Boston, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Mexico City, New York JFK, Sao Paulo, Tokyo, Washington D.C.
Mahan Air Boeing 747-300
While the rest of the list consists of Boeing 747-400s and 747-8is, Mahan Air is the last airline in the world to operate the 747 Classic (more precisely 747-300) on scheduled passenger flights. Or it was…
I had a chance to fly the aircraft between Mashad and Tehran back in November 2016, and until recently, it could regularly be seen operating flights between the two cities.
However, according to FlightRadar24, the aircraft flew for the last time on November 20, 2017, with the flights it used to operate being operated by the A300 and A310 now.
I hope the aircraft is just under maintenance rather than retired.
Qantas Boeing 747-400
Qantas operates a fleet of eight Boeing 747-400s. What makes the airline interesting, though, is that it is the world’s sole operator of the “ER” variant of the 747-400. More precisely, Qantas operates six of the 747-400ERs and two of the regular 747-400s.
Qantas operates the 747 out of Sydney. Currently, it connects the largest Australian city withHonolulu, Johannesburg, San Francisco, Santiago de Chile, Tokyo Haneda, and Vancouver. The San Francisco 747 service is expected to end in December leaving Qantas with no 747 service in the US mainland beyond that point.
Rossiya Airlines Boeing 747-400
Rossiya Airlines, a fully-owned subsidiary of Aeroflot, acquired Transaero’s fleet of Boeing 747-400s upon its demise. And, currently, it operates nine airframes of the type.
The aircraft are based at Moscow Vnukovo airport, and seem to mainly be used on flights to holiday destinations (Bangkok, Phuket, Antalya, Punta Cana, Goa, etc.) and as substitute aircraft on a variety of routes when the capacity is needed.
However, Rossiya also schedules the 747 on some of its trans-Siberian domestic flights including Moscow Vnukovo – Khabarovsk and Moscow Vnukovo – Vladivostok.
Thai Airways Boeing 747-400
Thai Airways still operates a fleet of ten Boeing 747-400s. While it mainly uses the aircraft on international flights, the aircraft can also be caught on domestic routes – especially between Bangkok and Phuket – regularly.
As for the international flights, the following are some of the destinations that can be reached on the Thai Airways 747-400 from Bangkok: Bali, Mumbai, Munich, Seoul, Sydney, and Tokyo Haneda.
Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400
While Virgin Atlantic – just like other airlines on this list – has been reducing the number of 747-400s in its fleet, it still operates eight airframes of the type.
Not long ago, the Virgin Atlantic 747s used to be a common sight at London Heathrow, but nowadays they only regularly operate out of London Gatwick and Manchester.
In 2019, Virgin Atlantic routes operated by the Boeing 747-400 include the following:
•London Gatwick to Bridgetown, Cancun, Montego Bay, and Orlando
•Manchester to Atlanta, New York, and Orlando
•Glasgow to Orlando
Wamos Air Boeing 747-400
Spanish operator Wamos Air, the successor of Pullmantur Air, maintains a fleet of five Boeing 747-400s. The aircraft mostly operate charter flights – both on behalf of tour operators as well as other airlines.
However, the Wamos Jumbos can also be flown regularly on the following two routes:
•Madrid – Cancun
•Madrid – Punta Cana
Summary of the Remaining Boeing 747 Routes
With the total number of Boeing 747 operators on scheduled passenger routes going down, and with many airlines that used to be major operators of the type – such as Delta Air Lines and Air France – putting the type out of service, it is getting more and more difficult to catch.
However, even then, there are still plenty of routes – some of which are pictured on the map below – that the Queen of the Skies can be flown on.