Operation Queen: How I Plan to Fly On The 747 Before They Disappear

There’s no doubt the pandemic has changed aviation forever.

In an effort to simplify strategy, streamline and modernize fleets, enhance the customer experience, and ultimately save money, we’ve seen countless carriers begin to eliminate specific types of planes from their fleet.

For example…

…and that’s only news from Delta.


Lufthansa A380

Personally, as an aviation geek, the saddest announcements have come from several global carriers and their retirement of the “jumbos” or the biggest wide-body aircraft (e.g. Boeing 747, Airbus A380, and Boeing 777).

Since the beginning of the year we’ve seen countless carriers eliminate and replace these seemingly inefficient planes with the newer and more efficient (read 787s, A350s) including Qantas retiring their 747 and saying they do not plan to fly their A380s for years.

In fact, we’ve seen several airlines retire their entire “jumbo” fleet overnight (see Air France retires their entire fleet of A380s effective immediately and Lufthansa retiring their entire A380 and A340-600 fleet.) So where does this leave us?


I have loved planes since my childhood but the 747 was the first plane that I saw and went googly eyes for (is that a word!?) 😍

The 747 was introduced in 1970 so it has been around for a long time. The A380 was introduced in the early 2000’s when I became a bit more obsessed (in a healthy way 🤪) with aviation. I quickly gravitated towards the “newer and better” A380, flown the A380 on several different carriers, but unfortunately have never flew the 747, affectionately known as the ‘Queen of the skies.’

Understanding that many airlines are retiring, both, the A380 and 747 quickly, I have made it top priority to fly the iconic Queen.


The ‘Queen of the Skies,’ is one of aviation’s most distinctive aircraft with the raised forward passenger deck and cockpit. But with British Airways, KLM and Virgin Atlantic having all grounded their fleets (at least temporarily) who still operates the passenger carrier 747?

From my research, I’ve determined these are the carriers still flying the Boeing 747:

Air China

Air China has two variations of the aircraft, the 747-400 and the 747-8 and does not appear to show any sign of retiring the plane. The 747-8 is unique because it flies internationally and has first-class located in the nose of the jet.

Air India

Air India has four 747s, operates them on both domestic and international routes, and hasn’t announced any plans to get rid of them just yet.

Korean Air 

Korean Air has ten 747-8s and two -400s and sounds like a good bet given Asia appears to be reopening faster than most regions.


The German national carrier has both 747-400s and 747-8s in its fleet. If you’re interested in First or business class, it’s worth noting that the latter offers a first-class area in the nose and the former business-class only. 

Thai Airways

Thailand’s flag carrier currently has eleven 747s in its fleet, with a focus mainly within Asia (or occasionally to Australia).

All these aircraft offer business and first-class but there has been no announcement if they’ll ever take to the skies again following the pandemic.


Recognizing that Americans are banned from virtually every country on the planet, this is going to be a very challenging operation.

However, once a border reopens for any country and a carrier/route operates a 747, I’m on the first thing smoking!

Have you flown on a 747 (in economy, business, or first class)? What was your experience?

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