Which airlines still fly the Boeing 747?

With numbers of the iconic jumbo reducing, it’s hard to keep track of who still operates them. Key.Aero analyses the figures to find out which carriers will still take you on a 747… 

First introduced into service on January 22, 1970, the Boeing 747 became a formidable force within the commercial aviation industry. To date, Boeing has produced 1,558 examples of the iconic aircraft – its first going to Pan American World Airways in December 1969.

Pan Am 747
The first Boeing 747 to enter commercial service was N733PA (c/n 19640). Wikimedia Commons/Martin Oertle

The jumbo’s grip on the industry has loosened in recent years following the emergence of twin-engine widebodies, which are comparable in capacity and range but generate half the fuel-burn. But for those seeking to fly on the Boeing 747, there are limited options available now compared with even 12 months ago. Already this year, the likes of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and Qantas have all removed the type from their fleets in a bid to streamline and ‘rightsize’ their rosters to fit a changing industry.

BA 747
British Airways was the world's largest passenger Boeing 747 operator before it announced an accelerated phase-out of the type in July. Aviation Image Network/Simon Gregory

Big US carriers such as United Airlines and Delta Air Lines phased the jumbo out even earlier during 2017 and 2018, respectively.  

Remaining Operators 

There are now only 13 passenger airlines around the world that actively operate the Boeing 747. The majority are now located in Russia, the Middle East and Asia following a big drop in airframes in Europe and America over the last two years. 

Airline Country 747-200 747-400 747-8 Total
Air China China 0 3 7 10
Air India India 0 4 0 4
Asiana Airlines South Korea 0 1 0 1
Caspian Airlines Iran 1 0 0 0
China Airlines China 0 4 0 4
Iran Air Iran 1 0 0 1
Iraqi Airways Iraq 0 2 0 2
Korean Air South Korea 0 2 10 12
Lufthansa Germany 0 8 19 27
Mahan Air Iran Air 0 1 0 1
Rossiya Airlines Russia 0 9 0 9
Terra Avia Moldova 0 1 0 1
Thai Airways Thailand 0 8 0 8

The exception to this, of course, is the German flag carrier Lufthansa, which is now the world’s largest operator of the passenger variants of the Boeing 747 following British Airways’ fleet retirements. The Cologne-based firm holds a roster comprising eight -400s and 19 -8s. 

Future Focus 

Boeing’s latest 747 offering is the -8 which first flew in March 2011. The variant is a stretched version of the jumbo with thicker, deeper and wider wings that hold more fuel. Powered by the more efficient General Electric GEnx turbofan of the 787 Dreamliner, the jet can carry 467 passengers in a typical three-class configuration more than 8,900 miles.

Lufthansa 748
Lufthansa accepted delivery of its first Boeing 747-8 on April 25, 2012. Aviation Image Network/Bailey

Boeing clocked up orders for 47 examples of the passenger variant, which was not a particularly strong performance and didn’t meet its expectations for the type.  

Lufthansa, with its 19 airframes, is the largest operator of the new type followed by Korean Air and Air China with ten and seven, respectively. 

With no more orders coming in, in July Boeing confirmed it would end production of the iconic type once it had fulfilled its order backlog in 2022. There are no more passenger variants to deliver and the majority of the global fleet now consists of freighters. 

Key.Aero caught up with a retired British Airways training captain to find out what it was like to fly the Boeing 747. Read the article and watch the video here: https://www.key.aero/article/celebrating-747-ba-captain-flying-jumbo