MIAMI — More than four and a half decades after its debut with Air France, the Boeing 747 says au revoir with a special tribute flight over France, scheduled to be on January 14.
The airline has announced a special flight for those fans of the famous “Jumbo Jet.” This single flight, number AF747, will take off from Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) for a two-hour flight in which a champagne lunch and a inflight commentary including a tour of France’s history and legendary landmarks will be offered on board. Back in Roissy, it will be complemented by a visit to the maintenance hangar followed by a tribute drink at the foot of the aircraft.
For those who prefer to book the last Air France 747 scheduled flight, it has been scheduled on January 11, between Mexico City and Paris. The aircraft, registered F-GITI is expected to arrive to CDG at 13:30 local Paris time, putting the Air France Jumbo era to an end.
Since the early seventies, the Boeing 747 has been a showcase of modern innovations and has revolutionized air transport. Air travel became more widespread and we entered an era of mass transportation. For cargo, the Boeing 747 offered a cargo space four times larger than the previous generation of Boeing, the 707. It could carry 122 tons of cargo.
The first Air France 747 flight took place on June 3, 1970 on the Paris – New Yor route. In the cabin, Air France started innovating to better serve its customers. The role of chief purser was created to coordinate the service and attention paid to customers in this aircraft which could carry up to 500 passengers. Inflight cuisine was of great importance, with menus designed by great French chefs: Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre and Pierre Troisgros, who forged exclusive partnerships with Air France. Finally, the cabin interior was designed by Pierre Gautier-Delaye, who paid particular attention to the comfort of the seat cushions and seatbacks.
Since then, the Jumbo became the mainstay of the Air France long-haul fleet. In total, the carrier took delivery of 52 aircraft, from the first 747-100 received on May 12, 1970 until the last 747-400 received in 2003. Interestingly, Air France operated all but two 747 types built (the 747SP and the 747-8I).
In the 1990s, with the arrival of the Boeing 777 offering better fuel efficiency and lately with the arrival of the Airbus A380 to Air France, the 747 fleet began its decline. And unlike Lufthansa, Air France opted to not to order the 747-8, the last stretched and modernized version which continues in production, although most of the sales logges for the type have been for its freighter version.
The last 747F already left the Air France Cargo fleet in 2014, while the crews of last five 747-400 in service were redeployed on the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A320. And while no Air France 747-400 will be left for display, the 747-100 on display at the Air France Air Museum at Le Bourget will be the sole witness of the Golden Jumbo era at the French carrier.
However, other European companies will continue operating the Boeing 747 for more years. This is the case of Lufthansa which placed an order for 19 747-8s, while British Airways has opted to revamp 18 Boeing 747-400s (half of its current active fleet) and fitting them with the same cabin products as its Airbus A380s and Boeing 787s.
As long as oil prices do not soar, the Jumbo Jet has, therefore, not yet said its last word.