Another Beautiful 747 Retirement Video

There’s no denying that the 747 changed commercial aviation, and that it will always be the “queen of the skies.” And there’s no denying that the 747 has a special place in lots of peoples’ hearts, given how long it has been flying.

The Airbus A380 is bigger, and I prefer it from a passenger comfort standpoint. But I don’t get quite the same feeling when boarding an A380 as I do when boarding a 747.

For that matter, I don’t think the A380 actually revolutionizes many aspects of commercial aviation. With smaller long range aircraft that are more fuel efficient (like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350), it’s tough to justify the whale jet. Ultimately passengers value frequencies and direct flights, and that’s an area where the A380 can’t compete.

Anyway, given what a gas guzzler the 747 is, we’re seeing a lot of airlines retire them, especially in favor of the much more fuel efficient 777-300ER.

Singapore Airlines retired their last 747 back in April 2012, and the video that a passenger made just about made me tear up (especially starting at the four minute mark):

Philippine Airlines had their last 747 flight in August, and I just came across this beautiful tribute video they made:

Am I the only one that gets sort of emotional when I see these types of videos? And am I the only one with an emotional connection to the 747?

Comments

  1. Hello have you heard about Emirates and you don’t think the A380 doesn’t revolutionize the industry. Your view is very US centric, does it make sense to send a second plane 20 or 30 minutes after the first one?

  2. The first plane I ever flew on was a JAL 747 so I have a softspot & emotional connection for the queen of the skies as well.
    I had wanted to fly PAL’s last 747 flight but alas they kept delaying it and I was in Spain at end of August that I couldn’t change my plans to go to SFO instead. Ah well.
    Cathay Pacific flew its last 747 to the USA a month or two ago ex-SFO I believe. I recall reading a trip review from hackmytrip about it (I don’t think he and his sister flew the last flight but they flew one of the last flights.)
    It’s funny but nowadays I’m looking forward more to flying the 747 versus the A380/787.

  3. After the final “goodbye” flights of the MD-11 of KLM, I expect them to also make some sort of video like these ones.

  4. Lucky – what do they do with the 747’s after they retire them? I know lesser known airlines usually purchase used planes but I don’t see that happening with the 747’s. Do they just scrap them for parts?

    Thanks!

  5. Nic,

    The 380 may be good for Emirates, but that does not mean it revolutionized the industry. 380 has not changed the way airlines move people in a significant way. Not only did the 747 change passenger capacity and distance it also added greater capacity to cargo fleets. The 380 has zero lift capacity. Sorry to be too US centric.

    Sam

  6. @ Nic — Not US-centric at all. Aside from Emirates, there’s not an airline that’s “thrilled” with the A380.

    And for A380 isn’t actually accomplishing anything the 777-300ER couldn’t. They’re just happy to spend a bit on bling, since they have money to burn.

  7. I have flown every passenger variant of the 747, except the 747-100SR and 747-8i. My journeys on the 747 began back in the 1970s with the PanAm Clipper 747-100, and 747-100SP. Spent over 200k butt-in-seat miles on TWA 747-200s. Flew a Singapore 747-300 from SFO-HNL-HKG. A KLM 747-400Combi ORD-AMS. And the 747-400 on Cathay, United, British, and more! I’m still looking to get on a 747-8i in the future.

    It will be a sad day when the final 747 takes flight, I’ll spend whatever it takes to be on that flight.

    Michael

  8. Agree completely, Lucky. There is nothing that will replace the 747 and the feeling when you see one. I will never forget my first flight on one 25 years ago, in the business class upper deck of a Cathay Pacific flight fro Hong Kong to Bangkok. I saw my first A380 at DFW recently, but as impressive as it’s size was the 747 next to it was still the queen of the skies.

  9. why are retired planes just sitting in the desert? Isn’t this a big loss for airlines? Can’t they make money out of them somehow? Are these planes gutted and then left there? Or are they funtunal still? Can I get inside of one while they’re in the desertl? Lots of questions

  10. I have a special spot in my heart for the 747-SP. I have my son because of that plane, and it wasn’t because of a “mile high club” moment!

  11. 747 is the most beautiful and sexist plane in the sky!! I have all of my diecast collections in 747!!!

  12. I too grew up with the 747. I still remember those early ones with 3 windows on the upper deck. It makes me sad they are being retired, but I am glad a few airlines still fly the 747-8, as I had the pleasure and privilege to fly on a Lufthansa 747-8 six months ago.

  13. When I was a kid my one dream for commercial flying was not to fly first class but to simply go upstairs on a 747. The first time that happened was a flight from AMS to KHI on board KLM. It was like a dream come true. And before the flight I sat at the window at the gate simply staring at the plane. It will be a very sad day when they no longer operate commercial flights.

  14. The 747 definitely strikes a chord with me. While too young to remember, I flew the inaugural flight. My first memory of a flight was aboard one at the age of 6. I couldn’t sleep due to excitement, so the stewardess (pre flight attendant days) gave me a tour of the plane. I remember being shocked that there was a upstairs. With a piano lounge! I even got to meet the pilots. That has to be the best memory ever, and I’ve loved the plane ever since.

  15. From reading your blog through the years, you’ve flown on so many 747s but just thinking about it, are there any 747s still in your wish list to burn miles on?

  16. Of course, the 747 (800) is still a current plane and it is still being manufactured. Problem is not many people buying them. I really like the 748 – real quiet. The 747 was once the normal international aircraft, Pan Am’s upgraded their entire fleet to all 747s. And it was once the norm (along with the DC10) for transcons, with piano bars, etc. While the current long range aircraft have better seats for premium cabins, the old 747’s really had class back in their day. Food was better back then as well.

  17. Another comment – I believe the 747 is the fastest commercial aircraft. It is faster than A380. LAX-SYD is about 15 minutes faster on the 744 versus the A380.

  18. I definitely cried when I saw that Philippine Airlines 747 farewell video a few months ago! I’ve flown the airline and aircraft numerous times throughout my life, with the last time being in January of this year. Little did I realize that the FAA would upgrade PAL back to Category 1, and thus PAL decided to use 777s to Los Angeles starting in May. I didn’t even take a picture of what I didn’t know would be my last flight on a PAL 747.

    When I first flew a 777 (an Air New Zealand from LAX-LHR) in 2012, I was very blown away and I started to somewhat resent flying 747s on succeeding flights because I saw 747s as getting outdated (and true enough, the British Airways 747 I flew on return needed some improvements). I just totally didn’t expect that I’d be that sad at seeing a historically innovative aircraft go so quickly.

    Thank you, Philippine Airlines 747s, for bringing my family and me safely from Los Angeles to the Philippines and back, allowing me to reunite with my family and see beautiful sights, making wonderful memories along the way!!

  19. I flew my first international flight, as a child, on a Singapore 744. Back in the days there were a lot of 747s flying, and I remember the gates next to opposite of our gate were all 747. And I still remember how this plane have amazed me with its size and elegance. I remember sitting above the wing, so wide and flexible, and I kept my eyes on it all the way. I guess this is where the emotional links began, and 747 is the most special plane out there that I would go out of my way to fly it. I’ve flown 742 and 744, and are hoping to book on one of the 747-8s very soon.

  20. Not to date myself…but to date myself, does anyone else remember when the PAL 747-200s had the berths upstairs for first class? I flew this in the early 90s. It was a weird setup – downstairs in the nose on the port/left side they had five or six rows of “first class” seats in pairs, and on the starboard/right side they had four rows of “sleeper” seats for first class customers.

    Then upstairs, they had berths for first class pax to sleep, along with a changing room (which was a section cordoned off by a curtain). Each berth had a reading light, headset, and a seatbelt, because the plane was FAA-approved to let pax sleep during takeoff and landing (this was during the time that the PAL flights used to stopover in HNL to refuel on the LAX-MNL route). There were three floor-level berths on each side by the windows, and in the middle there were upper and lower berths, totaling eight. It seemed weird to me that they had 18-20 “seats” in the nose, and then only 14 beds upstairs, though when I was on that flight there were only ~5 of us in first, and I was the only one who slept upstairs, so the limited number of beds wasn’t an issue.

    Tl;dr – LOVE the 747s. LOVE THEM.

  21. @TravelinWilly, lol yes I remember those! I remember the magazine ads of PAL on how they had beds in the sky! When you google PAL 747 bed you’ll see images of it online.

  22. That PAL video was simply gorgeous. Got quite teary at the water cannon salute though.

    The 747 is an aircraft of memories for me. While I am younger than Ben by quite a bit, I’ve had my fair share of 747 flights. For me, it has bee an aircraft of firsts, and holds a special place in my heart. It represents the first time I travelled internationally, as well as the first time in an international premium cabin. The 747 will always have a place in my, as well as many others’ hearts.

  23. The 747 is a beautiful plane. I was so excited to finally fly on one a number of years back. I decided to go from JFK to MIA for a long weekend. My travel agent booked me on Tower Air!!! (Anyone remember them?) I was so excited until I sat down. I prayed all the way to Miami. That plane creaked and squeaked all the way to Miami.

  24. #nic, don’t forget that Singapore Airlines was the launch customer for the 380, so if it’s “revolutionary” (which it’s not), they should get the credit for that?

    #lucky, It’s like they SQ pilot in the 747 video said, we all grew up in the 747. For many of us, we started “flying” in the 747. The 747 was the airplane (back in the day) that brought air travel to the masses via economies of scale. That’s what makes it revolutionary. Also that profile and it’s majesty at takeoff, especially seen from the Costco parking lot at SFO.

  25. @ JC — Well ultimately they’re so expensive to operate that it makes more sense to retire them than to keep flying them. In theory they can be used for parts, but with so many airlines retiring them, there are more parts than needed.

  26. I have fond memories of the 747’s and am sad and dissapointed to see them go. The heavies were just being introduced back when I was flying a lot and I spent a lot of time on them. They used to use them a lot domestically. I recall there was a 747 from LAX to SEA – I think it was United. There were also 747’s on the DC – Boston route. They seemed to be everywhere; I flew one from Chicago to Seattle. United flew a lot of the DC10’s. I made many trips on a DC10 between Seattle and Chicago. And Delta (I think) had an L1011 on the Seattle – Atlanta route. That was a comfortable plane. Now days, anyplace you fly domestically it’s almost always on a cramped little 737. I sure miss the old days of air travel.

  27. I didn’t fly a lot but have the privilege to ride on a 744 HKG-KUL on CX in Y last December on B-HUA which had been retired this year. The 747 has an aura that is unmatched by any other plane.

  28. I just flew on an Emirates A380 first (fantastic), but I also flew on Thai 747 in first-it was thrilling. It was smooth and felt like an old Cadillac. I love the open cabin feel and the ability to see out of all the windows at the front of the plane. Classic.

  29. 747 planes are definitely a sight to behold but are definitely not in high demand. On my recent tour of the Boeing plant in Everett, we were told that 747-800i production is not running at capacity unlike 777 and 787 ones. The planes we saw were for Air China (Lucky posted about that recently) and Korean Air.

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