We’ve known for a little while that the retirement of Qantas’ Boeing 747 fleet is imminent. Qantas had announced in 2018 that it would retire all Boeing 747s by 2020, although until recently it looked like the planes may remain in the air until early next year.
Well, with the imminent grounding of Qantas’ entire fleet of international passenger aircraft, the final scheduled Qantas 747 flight could be as soon as this week.
At this time, the last Qantas Boeing 747 flight to take place before Qantas grounds all international flights indefinitely will be QF64 from Johannesburg to Sydney, departing on Saturday 28 March 2020. It is scheduled to arrive in Sydney at 3.35pm on Sunday, 29 March 2020.
There are currently just five Boeing 747-400ER aircraft left in the Qantas fleet. Each of these planes is 16-17 years old.
After the end of this month, Qantas currently says that international flights will be grounded until at least the end of May. But this will probably be extended depending on the coronavirus situation and what travel restrictions remain in place at the end of May. It could take six months, or even longer, before regular international service is restored. By this time, Qantas may have already retired its remaining Boeing 747 fleet.
The ageing Boeing 747s are expensive to operate compared to the newer, more fuel-efficient Boeing 787s – which also have more range. And at the moment, Qantas doesn’t need the extra capacity.
When Qantas announced the initial round of international flight cuts on 10 March – before the overseas travel ban – it had already planned to take all 747s out of service (along with most A380s) until mid-September. At this point in time, Qantas is still selling international flights to be operated by Boeing 747s from June – but realistically, these flights are unlikely to take place.
There may be some ad-hoc 747 charter flights over the coming months. But for now, it looks like this could be the end of the line for the “queen of the skies”… at least, in Qantas colours.