Retired Planes Repurposed by Creative New Owners

At the end of this month, Qantas will retire the only Boeing 747 left in its fleet. Most of the flying kangaroo’s remaining jumbo jets have already been sent to the aircraft boneyard in Victorville, USA, and the aircraft with registration VH-OEJ is set to join them on 30 June.

(For the aviation geeks out there, VH-OEJ was originally painted in the striking Wunala Dreaming livery.)

Qantas' iconic Wunala Dreaming 747 livery
Qantas’ iconic Wunala Dreaming 747 livery

It was also revealed today that Qantas will send its entire Airbus A380 fleet into long-term storage, with reports that Qantas is considering retiring six of the popular aircraft.Qantas already suspended its A380 cabin refurbishments after just half of the airline’s fleet of twelve A380s were upgraded, with economists forecasting a very slow recovery in international travel.

Qantas is by no means the only airline accelerating the retirement of older aircraft in the current climate. Delta recently announced that it will retire its entire Boeing 777 fleet, even though some of those planes are just 10 years old and were recently upgraded with brand new seats. And KLM joins Qantas on a long list of airlines accelerating the retirement of their ageing Boeing 747s.

With global demand for air travel at unprecedented lows, the second-hand plane market is not exactly booming right now. Many airlines are deferring the delivery of new planes, and few are looking to place new jet orders in the current climate. Soon, there will simply be too many planes.

So, what will happen to all those surplus aircraft after they’re retired?

Many end up in aircraft “boneyards” such as the Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorville, where the desert climate is ideal for long-term aircraft storage. Some planes may eventually find new owners and return to service – perhaps as freighters – while others may be stripped for valuable parts.

But a few lucky aircraft get a second lease on life. Although they may never fly again, old planes can be repurposed in cool and creative ways!

Jumbo Stay Hotel

There’s an old Boeing 747-200 parked just outside Arlanda Airport in Stockholm. Its days of transporting passengers through the sky are over, but it still welcomes guests on a daily basis. In 2008, Swedish entrepreneur Oscar Diös converted the repurposed plane into a hotel.

Jumbo Stay Hotel at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm
Jumbo Stay Hotel at Arlanda Airport, Stockholm

I’ve stayed at this hotel a couple of times, and had the best sleep I’ve ever had on a plane. Most of the rooms are simple dormitory accommodation:

For something a bit different, you could even sleep inside an engine pod. But the “cockpit suite” is far more luxurious…

Cockpit suite at Jumbo Stay Hotel
Cockpit suite at Jumbo Stay Hotel

There’s a restaurant in the nose of the 747…

And an upper deck has been converted into a lounge and meeting room:

Bars & restaurants

Some retired planes have been converted into bars and restaurants. A famous example is the Connie Bar at TWA Hotel, located at New York’s JFK Airport.

Closer to home, there’s an old DC3 plane has been repurposed as a McDonald’s restaurant in Taupo, New Zealand!

A unique McDonald's restaurant in Taupo, New Zealand
A unique McDonald’s restaurant in Taupo, New Zealand

Museums

Many more old aircraft end up being restored and put on display in aviation museums all around the world. Here in Australia, you can already find retired Qantas 747s at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach

The iconic Qantas 747 in Longreach
Qantas 747 VH-EBQ at the Qantas Founders Museum in Longreach

…or the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society (HARS) Museum in Wollongong.

Qantas 747 VH-OJA at HARS, Wollongong
Qantas 747 VH-OJA at HARS, Wollongong

One of the prototype Airbus A380 test aircraft – the second ever built – is already on display at the Aeroscopia Museum in Toulouse.

Aeroscopia Museum, Toulouse
Aeroscopia Museum, Toulouse

With many more A380s now being retired – and virtually no second-hand market – we could see more of these mammoth planes popping up at museums around the world in the not-too-distant future.

Perhaps there is hope for some of those retired planes after all.

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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]

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christine coates

if you take wings off, stand side by side, would be accommodation for the homeless. if i were a rich woman, that’d my way to go.