Australian flag carrier Qantas is retiring the remaining five Boeing 747 from its fleet this weekend. The news comes amid the global Coronavirus crisis which has hit the airline industry very hard, with passenger demand dropping to unprecedented levels as countries close borders and ban travel to and from their nations in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.
On Thursday, 26th March, a Qantas Boeing 747-400ER performed a flypast over Sydney Harbour before landing. The final flight is set to be QF28 from Santiago de Chile to Sydney on Sunday.
Qantas has been an operator of the Boeing 747 since 1971 when it received the 747-200, and has operated every version of the aircraft except for the 747-8. The airline is also the sole customer of the (passenger) extended range variant 747-400ER, of which it operated six aircraft until its retirement now. The 747-400ER could fly 500 nm / 925 km farther than the standard -400 model, and it allowed Qantas to operate Melbourne to Los Angeles flights with a fully loaded aircraft, where the conventional 747-400 would have had to operate with restricted weights for such a distance. Qantas retired its last standard Boeing 747-400 in October 2019.
The 747 has no direct replacement in its fleet in terms of capacity, but that may change with Project Sunrise, when the airline wants to introduce Airbus A350-1000 into its fleet. Most former 747 routes have been replaced with Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft.
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Matt is a London-based writer and reporter for International Flight Network who has been involved in aviation from a very young age. He has a particular focus on aircraft safety, accidents and technical details.