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I admit it, I’m a sucker for the newest, biggest, baddest, least-worn out, and shiniest airplanes. My heart skips a beat when I think about the super quiet 787 dreamliner cabin, see the “racoon eyes” of the 350, or book a flight on the 380. I’ve even positioned to specific cities just so I could fly certain these planes. Hey…this is a no judgement zone! 🤪
NEW PLANE = OLD PLANE RETIREMENT
Airlines are always acquiring new airplanes and when newer models are introduced into the fleet, older models are retired.
Similar to individuals that own cars, most airlines operate on a gradual schedule of phasing out old airplanes while simultaneously acquiring new, more fuel-efficient planes.
The end goal for airlines is, ultimately, increasing profit margins. Why spend money on older, gas-guzzling planes when you can invest in a ‘prius of the sky’ and still charge the consumer the same price?
WHAT TYPE OF AIRCRAFT ARE BEING RETIRED?
Older, inefficient aircraft are among those on the wood grinder as airlines pivot next-generation aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A350 XWB and Boeing 777X. These older planes include:
- Boeing 757-200 (American Airlines)
- Boeing 767-300ER (American Airlines)
- Boeing 747-400 (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines)
- Airbus A340-600 (Virgin Atlantic Airways)
- McDonnell Douglas MD-88/MD-90 (Delta Air Lines)
- Airbus A380 (Lufthansa)
- Air Airbus A380 (Korean)
- Airbus A380 (Qantas)
- Boeing 747-400 (Qantas)
Sadly, the 747, also known as the Queen of the Skies, is the aircraft that makes me sad as it is being phased out for more fuel-efficient aircraft.
FORCED EARLY RETIREMENT
While some airlines had planned to slowly phase out older aircraft over the next few years, the decimation of demand caused by COVID-19 has accelerated some of the plane retirements. In other words, some of the most iconic aircraft are being grounded sooner than expected and placed in the junkyard never to carry passengers again.
I had long planned to fly Qantas Flight 74 from San Francisco to Sydney because I was drawn to that specific flight but on 4 December 2019, Qantas abruptly terminated the route.
Not only was that flight the last Qantas 747 from San Francisco, it was the last Qantas 747 flight from the US.
Among the ‘Big US3,’ American Airlines disposed of its last 747 in 1994, and United and Delta flew their final Boeing 747 flights in November of 2017.
The Boeing 747 is one of the most iconic aircraft ever built.
The first time I ever observed the Queen of the skies, it was flown by Northwest Airlines from Detroit Wayne Airport and I instantly fell in love.
I understand retirement of these aircraft was always in the cards, but I thought I’d have at least a few more years to plan a flight (of course, in between flying the shiny A380 for 943th time). However, that chance is becoming slimmer by the day.
Fortunately, there are a few airlines that continue to fly the 747 at the moment (e.g. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Qantas, Air China, Korean, and Lufthansa) but the clock is ticking.
I think I am going to plan a specific trip that includes one of these airlines. The beauty of miles and points is being able to do crazy things like this. I’m hoping that at least one carrier will still be operating the aircraft once the crisis fades into the abyss.
Do you have a favorite type of plane? Have you ever missed the opportunity to fly on a specific type of aircraft?
Great post! I’m with you on this, love these older aircraft. I’m old enough to remember flying on a Fokker F-28 or DC-9 as a kid as those aircraft aged out. And I vividly remember staring down the nose of an Air France 747 when I was 12 years old, giddy as I waited to board… and then the 8 hour flight to Paris seated right in front of the smoking section! Certainly different times…
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Hahaha definitely different times but love it! Even as an avgeek, I’ve never flown on the 747 and that’s sad. I’m looking forward to adding it to my schedule and sitting in the nose (hopefully) soon.
This is so funny. I never even think about the type of plane. Just get me there safe and hopefully reasonably on time. lol Not related to the type but yea, those are my only thoughts. lol
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That’s understandable. The overwhelming majority of people have no idea the type of plane, couldn’t identify the type if their life depended on it, and don’t care. The plane is 90% of my excitement when flying. 😜