China Airlines is yet another airline announcing the retirement of the Boeing 747. The Taipei-based carrier had already revealed that it would withdraw the aircraft from service, but on Monday confirmed that the four-engine aircraft farewell flight will take place on February 6th. China Airlines currently has 15 747-400 passenger jets, but only four aircraft were active due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to them, China Airlines has another 18 Boeing 747-400F that will remain in service for some time as they will be replaced in part by the new Boeing 777F whose first aircraft has just been delivered.
The end of the operation of the China Airlines Boeing 747 further reduces the presence of the massive passenger plane in the region, where it has played an important role in the past. In mainland China, for example, the “Jumbo” operates passenger flights only with Air China, which has seven 747-8, the most advanced version of the model, in addition to three 747-400.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific still has a respectable 747-8 fleet with 14 aircraft. Another Asian company that still bets on the “Queen of Skies” is Korean Air, which has 17 747-8 and four 747-400 active, as well as its fellow Asiana Airlines, with 12 jets of the same type still operational.
Other former 747 customers decided to retire the aircraft some time ago, even before the 2020 air crisis. Malaysia Airlines stopped flying with it in 2018 while Eva Air withdrew its last Jumbo freighter in 2019. Singapore Airlines, which was once a major operator, today maintains only seven 747-400F.
The Boeing 747 has always been a widely used aircraft in Asia, due to its large passenger capacity and good range by the standards of decades ago. In Japan, All Nippon Airways operated the model (including domestic flights) until 2014, while Japan Airlines, the largest customer in Jumbo’s history, retired the aircraft in 2011.