Qantas Boeing 747 phase out continues as the airline prepares for its 100th Anniversary

APAC News Qantas 747-400 retires from fleet


Australia’s national airline will soon have just six jumbo jets, as 787 Dreamliners become the aircraft of choice for its international routes

14 October 2019 | Staff Writers/Main Image: Sergey Kustov

Qantas retired one more of its ageing Boeing 747s, just two days before taking delivery of another 787 Dreamliner from the Boeing factory in Seattle, Washington. The average age of its 747 fleet is 17.5 years, compared to 1.5 years for its ten Dreamliners.

First taking to the skies in September 1971, in all Qantas purchased 57 of the aircraft from Boeing, while a further eight aircraft were either bought second-hand or leased. Between March 1978 and the delivery of its first 767 in July 1985, Qantas’s entire fleet was made up of 747 aircraft – at that stage Qantas had not purchased Australian Airlines (formerly TAA) which is now the airline’s domestic arm.

The remaining six 747s will be phased out across 2020, the 100th anniversary year for Qantas, which began life as a mail delivery service in Queensland in 1920.

The 747 which took its last flight on the weekend (747-400 VH-OJA) owns a piece of aviation history as it made the first non-stop flight between London and Sydney in 1989. By the end of next year only Korean Air and Thai Airways will operate a 747 service to Australia.  

Boeing’s third quarter deliveries are a solid indication of where the industry is heading with the manufacturer moving a single 747 off its production line, while 35 Dreamliners rolled out of the factory.

Dreamliners start a new century for the flying kangaroo

Whilst the Dreamliners have less passenger capacity, the highly efficient aircraft delivers far greater yields per flight than the Boeing 747. The airline’s newest 787 Dreamliner has special Centenary livery featuring each Qantas logo since its 1920 founding in outback Queensland through to today, along with the newly unveiled ‘Qantas100’ imprint that will run across its Centenary celebrations.

Says Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, “The story of Qantas is the story of modern Australia, and the logos on this livery tell that story from the beginning.”

“Our Centenary celebrations are all about honouring our past with an eye on the future, so it’s very fitting that this special livery will be worn by our newest state-of-the-art Dreamliner. We have a lot of exciting things planned to mark the Centenary, so watch this space.”

CEO Alan Joyce the $24 million man

Mr Joyce has been a somewhat controversial CEO, with many questioning his level remuneration. He is the highest paid CEO in Australia, taking home a total package of $24 million in the past year. It prompted the head of the airline’s engineers union to write a very cutting opinion piece on Joyce, claiming previous Qantas boss, Geoff Dixon, delivered greater profits for a substantially lower remuneration package.

In 2012 Joyce was quoted in a magazine article as saying his salary was “conservative”, two years later he presided over the airline’s biggest ever loss of $2.8 billion. Qantas shares have traded strongly in the past six months; however, the current share price is at the same level it was before Joyce was appointed CEO. Though analysts point out Qantas is facing substantial capital outlays as it will have to renew its ageing fleet, which is among the oldest among larger established airlines in the region.