17 July 2020 02:43
Qantas' last Boeing 747-400 is having her swansong this week. After 17 years of flying for Qantas, VH-OEJ Wunala is the last jumbo jet left at the airline. Next week, it is flying off into its last sunset. It will be the end of the line of the Queen of the skies at the Australian airline after 49 years of continuous flying. At least Qantas hasn't let the iconic plane disappear quietly.
This week, Wunala has operated a series of joy flights for paying passengers and employees keen to get their final fix of nostalgia. A series of 747 joy flights this week On Monday, the plane flew a series of loops over the Sydney region. On Wednesday, it took Brisbane-based passengers for a run over the Gold Coast and up to the Sunshine Coast. On Friday morning, the Qantas Lounge in Canberra will be filled to bursting with folks skipping work to take the joy flight out of Canberra. In between, keen planespotters have had the chance to see Wunala pre-positioning.
Today's Canberra joy flight is operating at lunchtime. Mid-morning, the plane is flying down to Canberra from Sydney. It is returning at 17:00 this afternoon. Unfortunately, the positioning flights are not carrying passengers. Retro bags, red wine, and blazers By all accounts, the socially distanced passengers had a good time on the two joy flights flown so far. There was plenty of champagne, and everyone got a goodies bag, including a retro Qantas carry on bag the kids pay now big money for in op-shops. There were also complimentary bottles of red. Perhaps that was a throwback to when the old school flight stewards liberally poured drinks all the way to London. Out of time and out of luck When Qantas announced the retirement of its last 747's in 2019, there was a sad acceptance of the inevitable. We'd all be funneled onto Dreamliners where crew practice responsible service of drinks and there's an absence of tangerine blazers. But with a year's notice, most of us figured we'd have time to squeeze in a couple more flights, to fly the Qantas 747 one more time. But that all went belly up this year when Qantas suspended its international flying. Then, the remaining 747-400s began to fly across the ocean to the desert graveyard quietly. There was a real fear the last 747 would go without some kind of acknowledgment of the role the Boeing 747 has played in connecting Australia to the world. The plane took most of us on our first big overseas trip. But despite all sorts of problems going on at the airline, Qantas has come to the party and is sending their last 747-400 out with some noise. The final flight departs next Wednesday Next Wednesday, Wunala is heading over to California. It isn't taking the most direct route out. Rather, Qantas is planning to send it over Sydney Harbor and down over Wollongong, where the first Qantas 747-400 lives on at the Historical Aviation Restoration Society Museum. It will be a connection between the first and the last. Advertisement: Speaking to someone at the museum on the weekend, it was clear they were pretty pleased about that and will be out in force to watch the flyover. Then, VH-OEJ Wunala, heads out across the Pacific. And that really is the end. © Provided by The Points Guy MSN has partnered with The Points Guy for our coverage of credit card products. MSN and The Points Guy may receive a commission from card issuers. It feels like almost every week we learn of another airline retiring or parking a fleet type. This time though, it's big news for the largest operator of the Queen of the Skies, British Airways. The London-based carrier is retiring all 28 of its Boeing 747s in the coming months, according to an internal companywide email viewed by TPG. BA writes that this proposition is "subject to consultation." Sign up for the free daily TPG newsletter for more airline news! But the news doesn't come as much of a surprise, unfortunately. All of the carrier's 28 jumbo jets are currently parked, according to fleet-tracking site Planespotters. Originally, the plan was to retire all 747s in 2024. Now, that's being accelerated to "over the coming months." © The Points Guy British Airways 747 (Photo by Patrick Fallon/The Points Guy) BA blames the expected years-long recovery in demand as one of the primary reasons for the early, and abrupt, retirement. Additionally, the carrier cites the fact that these four-engine jets aren't as fuel-efficient as their modern counterparts. Plus, with an average age of 20 plus years, these jets have required more-frequent maintenance than some of BA's newer planes. Nonetheless, this is a sad development for aviation enthusiasts. For many, the Boeing 747 is synonymous with British Airways. The carrier took delivery of its first double-decker in 1989, and they could still be spotted at airports across the world in the months leading up to the global pandemic. Many 747 fans cherish the magic of a plane that revolutionized travel. Plus, it's one of the few planes to offer a unique atmosphere on the exclusive upper deck. Though British Airways is the largest current operator of the Boeing 747-400, it's not the first one to bid farewell to the Queen. Throughout the pandemic, KLM, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic said goodbye to their jumbos. Related: These are the last Boeing 747s you can fly in the world But not all hope is lost. There are still quite a few 747 operators left, for those who'd like some more time with the Queen. Many are of the newer 747-8 variety, which features an elongated upper deck, as well as a new wing structure. You'll find 747s operated by Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa, among others. Of course much could change depending on the trajectory of the recovery, but that's the plan as of now. All U.S.-based carriers retired their 747s in the late 2010s. © The Points Guy British Airways 747 (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy) Without the 747 in the fleet, fans of double-decker jets will want to fly BA's Airbus A380s. These "whale jets" are the carrier's largest plane. Many operators of the A380 have also parked or said goodbye to these 500 plus airliners during the pandemic. British Airways, however, hasn't announced any retirement plans for this four-cabin aircraft. Related: Where is British Airways parking its jets during the coronavirus The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry is far-reaching. When it's time to travel again, flyers will find themselves on newer planes, with many of the trusted and beloved larger jets sent to the boneyard. 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