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Another end for the Boeing 747

Report: Boeing shuts down production line for storied jet


In recent years, airlines have celebrated their “last” Boeing 747 flights with a litany of nostalgic send-offs for the graceful old “Queen of the Skies.” But now a more definitive ending is only two years away, when Boeing will stop production of the latest version of the jumbo, 747-8.

It is according to a report by Bloomberg, which says that although Boeing has not officially announced the end of 747 production, it could be tipped off the decision from the latest financial reports. The last order for a passenger version of the Boeing 747 was three years ago, from the 2017 US military for two jets to serve as Air Force One. Since then, Boeing has only sold the jet as a freighter and built only six of them a year.

It really is a sad day for aviation enthusiasts to see the end of an era that began in 1970, when the big four-engine bubble peaks debuted. Today, airlines are more interested in buying smaller, lighter and more efficient twin engines like the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350.

At SFO was the latest 747 broadcast by Qantas, which in December sent its 747-400 back to Sydney. It was not only the last 747 flight from SFO, but the last Qantas 747 flight from the United States. (Read more about that flight here.) Qantas switched to the slimmer, smaller Boeing 787 Dreamliner for its SFO-Sydney flights, which are currently suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Qantas recently announced that it would retire with all remaining 747s in its fleet this month.

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Before that, United launched a big event for its last flight with Boeing 747 in November 2017 – a special trip from San Francisco to Honolulu. The airline threw a large party at the airport and on the plane, and when it landed in Honolulu, airport officials draped it with a giant floral lei. (Read about this.)

United spent about a year saying goodbye to 747 throughout 2017, with several “last” flights to its various hubs and an appearance at San Francisco’s Fleet Week celebration this fall.

One of my favorite 747 stories happened just before that, when the old queen came to the rescue the year United pulled her. Do you remember the stormy storms that ripped through the West Coast in early 2017, shutting off most of the air traffic up and down the coast and obscuring travelers? United pulled one of its jumbos from the Japan service and used it on some SFO-LAX runs to break the backlog and get people home. (Read more about that flight here.) Imagine the surprise (and relief) of passengers expecting to go home on a 737 or A320, and discover that they would be flying on a 747 instead!

Delta departed its B747 in December 2017 with one last flight between Detroit and Seoul. Cathay Pacific and Air New Zealand stopped flying their 747s to San Francisco in 2014. And before that, EVA Airs 747s flew away in 2012. Most recently, only Air China regularly flies a Boeing 747-8 between SFO and Beijing. British Airways, Lufthansa and Korean Air also sometimes flew 747 to SFO, but not recently because of the pandemic.

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Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t miss out on a host of important travel news by signing up for his FREE email updates every week!

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