End of an Era for Qantas 747s
It’s the end of an era for Qantas 747s. Photo: Qantas.

The Boeing 747 has been the backbone of the Qantas international fleet since 1971. But it’s now the end of an era, with the announcement that all Qantas 747s will be retired by 2020.

The Boeing 747 was a ground-breaking aircraft for its time, cutting travel times to destinations around the world and opening new non-stop routes that previously weren’t possible. But newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft are now in favour with airlines.

Replacing the ageing Qantas 747s will be a fleet of 14 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Qantas already has 4 of the Dreamliners. There are 4 more on order which arrive later this year, and Qantas yesterday announced a new order for 6 more planes to arrive by 2020. These aircraft burn less fuel and can fly further than the Boeing 747.

Qantas still has 10 Boeing 747s in its fleet. The oldest of these aircraft, which is currently in Marrakech on a round-the-world tour, is nearly 25 years old. It will leave the Qantas fleet as early as July. But the youngest Boeing 747 is currently just 14 years old.

The Boeing 787s will almost certainly replace the 747s on the routes to Johannesburg and Santiago. But more Boeing 787s in the Qantas fleet also open up new route opportunities. It is widely anticipated that Qantas will begin non-stop flights from Perth to Paris and Frankfurt in coming years. Qantas has also flagged the possibility of new routes to the United States, as well as to new destinations like Lima and Cape Town.

Qantas’ Boeing 787s feature superior seats in Business class. But our members will miss the comfortable Economy and Premium Economy seats on the Qantas 747s. As an AFF moderator recently discovered after flying from London to Perth, the Boeing 787 Economy seats are uncomfortably narrow. The Premium Economy seats on the Dreamliner have also been widely criticised for a lack of legroom.

The “Queen of the Skies” may be leaving the Qantas fleet, but it will continue to fly for years to come. Boeing continues to manufacture its newest 747 variety, the modern Boeing 747-8. Sadly, orders have been thin. Only 3 passenger airlines – Korean Air, Air China and Lufthansa – operate Boeing 747-8s.

Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Qantas orders six more 787s, plans to retire all 747s by 2020

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]