Given the state of things in aviation amid a pandemic that appears to be worsening in Europe and the Americas, you might assume a plane like the 747 would be parked or stored across the board. And yet they’re still flying. That’s true of both the -8i and in some cases of the older -400 as well. After British Airways announced they were retiring their own fleet of 747s, we looked at the passenger 747s still in service. Perhaps it’s time for an update on that list. The results are surprisingly comforting for 747 fans. Here’s a look at where the 747 is still flying and where you can spot them.
Lufthansa still the top operator
Lufthansa has the largest remaining fleet of passenger 747s and the good news is they have continued to fly a number of them throughout the pandemic. The -400s have been grounded for months and Lufthansa have indicated they won’t fly again, sadly, but several of the 747-8I have seen regular service in recent months. They’re being sent mostly from Frankfurt (FRA) to Sao Paulo (GRU), Shanghai (PVG), Chicago (ORD), Mexico City (MEX), Los Angeles (LAX) and Bangkok (BKK). For example D-ABYM is headed to Mexico City today – you can follow the plane as it zips around the world here.
However, Lufthansa are drawing down a number of the 747s for the winter schedule. In some cases they’ll be replaced by A350s that have been brought over from Munich, which makes sense considering they are less expensive to operate and a little bit smaller. A handful of 747s that were flying through the summer haven’t seen any flights in recent weeks. Two (D-ABYK and D-ABYU) last flew on October 31, indicating they may be parked until things pick up again. In all, seven of Lufthansa’s 747-8I are actively flying, while a further 11 are either parked or haven’t seen any action in the past week at least.
Korean Air still quiet
Korean Air’s 747 fleet was more or less entirely dormant last time we checked in with them, and the same holds true now of both their -400 and -8i. With one exception: HL7643 operated one roundtrip from Seoul (ICN) to Tokyo (NRT) in October.
Are Rossiya’s 747s winding down?
We pointed out that many of Rossiya’s 747s had been busy doing mostly domestic runs in Russia back in July. That has continued to be the case, but it seems that less and less of their fleet has been busy over the past month or so. In fact only three of Rossiya’s 747s (all of their jumbos are -400s) have operated a flight so far in November. Most of these have been between Antalya in Turkey (AYT) and Moscow or St Petersburg. A few of their 747s last flew at some point in October – for example EI-XLG which flew an Antalya to Moscow (SVO) service on October 31– but have gone quiet since.
For the rest, look to Asia
Many Asian nations are in a much better position with regards to the pandemic than many countries in the west – and that’s been reflected in air traffic too. Especially in China, where the aviation recovery is looking very promising at this point (alongside broader economic indicators there). That may be one reason we see 747s at a handful of airlines still flying in the region.
For whatever reason, Chengdu (CTU) has been seeing quite a few 747s, and from more than one operator too. Asiana’s sole 747 has continued flying within the region and last operated a Chengdu to Seoul service. Air China’s two 747-400s (B-2445 and B-2447) have stayed busy and have both been in Chengdu recently as well. The big difference at Air China is that while their 747-8I have continued to fly, those flights lately have been almost entirely within China. When we last checked, they were still running a handful here and there to North America.
Finally, we have Air India which has continued to use one -400 (VT-EVA) on domestic flights, and Mahan Air which has done the same with EP-MNB within Iran, though less frequently.
And that’s about it.
747s for sale, but are there any buyers?
There’s still hope some of the parked 747s may be re-enlisted for duty at some point – especially the newer -8s. Others at this point are clearly done for good, at least at their current operators. We recently heard for example that Thai Airways is looking to sell their entire 747 fleet as soon as possible. If you’re in the market for a 747 at bargain basement prices, this may be the time.