Boeing 747 celebrates 40th anniversary; Heathrow the place to see them

Image: Obama arriving in Ottawa
Ottawa – the latest airport transformed by a 747 service as President Obama arrived for his first foreign visit yesterday. (The airport was closed for large sections of the day).

The Boeing 747 made its first test flight 40 years ago this February before entering commercial service in January 1970. Since then over 1,400 747s of different configurations have been produced. Although production is still continuing all of the recently delivered aircraft (just 14 in 2008) are freighter versions of the aircraft.

The most successful variant of the 747, the -400, made its first commercial flight 20 years ago, though deliveries of the passenger version ended in 2005. Around 650 of the type are now operated by the world’s airlines. According to current schedule data from OAG there are 30 airlines operating scheduled passenger services with 747-400s generating around 4,000 weekly departures.

Chart: Top 12 airlines using 747-400s (Weekly departures)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 16 February 2009
Image: the New York Philharmonic arrives in the North Korean capital Pyongyang
The 747 doing what it does best – bringing different worlds together – the New York Philharmonic arrives in the North Korean capital Pyongyang.

British Airways is by far the biggest user of the aircraft type. It currently operates some 578 weekly flights including almost 40 daily departures from London’s Heathrow airport. Among the top 10 airlines using 747-400s seven are in Asia. Apart from British Airways only Lufthansa and United are non-Asian airlines in the top 10.

Not surprisingly London Heathrow tops the table of airports with the highest number of weekly scheduled passenger movements by 747-400s. Asian airports once again dominate many of the leading positions though Frankfurt (5th) and Los Angeles (7th) also make the top 10. Japanese airports figure prominently including relatively unknown airports such as Okinawa and Sapporo which owe their rankings to domestic services to Tokyo Haneda operated by both ANA and JAL using 747s.

Chart: Top 15 airports for 747-400s (Weekly departures)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 16 February 2009
Image: Smaller airlines still operating the type for passenger service are Air Pacific, Aerolineas Argentinas, El Al, Mahan Air, Mandarin Airlines and Transaero.
Smaller airlines still operating the type for passenger service are Air Pacific, Aerolineas Argentinas, El Al, Mahan Air, Mandarin Airlines and Transaero.

The Haneda – Sapporo (100 weekly departures) and Haneda – Okinawa (85 weekly departures) routes are also those with the highest weekly frequency of 747-400 flights. The London Heathrow to Hong Kong service comes a distant third with 56 weekly 747-400 departures operated by British Airways (21), Cathay Pacific (21), Air New Zealand (seven) and Qantas (seven).

Spotters should head for Heathrow and Narita

For anyone interested in seeing as many different liveried 747-400s as possible then London Heathrow and Tokyo Narita are the best places to visit. Apart from British Airways 10 other airlines operate the 747-400 to and from London Heathrow. However, at Tokyo Narita a total of 14 airlines use the 747-400. Apart from three local airlines British Airways, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Garuda, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Northwest, Philippine Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United all operate the type at the airport.

Image: There’s a lot of 747s at Narita.
There’s a lot of 747s at Narita.

Qantas operates longest non-stop sector

There are three routes of over 12,000 kilometres currently operated non-stop by the 747-400. Qantas operates five weekly flights between Melbourne and Los Angeles which is a distance of 12,752 kilometres. This just beats the 12,517 kilometres flown daily by United’s 747-400 between Chicago O’Hare and Hong Kong. Qantas and United both operate the 12,055 kilometre route from Sydney to Los Angeles.

At the other extreme Virgin Atlantic operates a weekly service between Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada, a distance of just 141 kilometres. This just beats the daily 146 kilometre hop that British Airways operates between Bahrain and Doha.


Comments

  1. Rob Broere says:

    I am surprised in your article about the B747-400 to see KLM and Amsterdam missing in the main users list. KLM has 26 B747-400 in service 22 pax and 4 freighters, which probably have about 150-200 departures a week, which is more than Virgin Atlantic which has a much smaller B747 fleet.

    anna.aero replies: As you say KLM has 22 747-400s in use for passenger flights. However, according to JP-Fleets only five of these are all passenger aircraft (C42Y384) while 17 carry additional cargo pallets and therefore carry fewer passengers (C42Y236). This seems to have caused a problem when sending schedule data to OAG as KLM does not specify its 747s as pure passenger -400s. This is why KLM and Amsterdam did not appear in our analysis.

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