MIAMI – Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL) is set to retire its final two Boeing 747-400 aircraft on Sunday.
The airline had initially planned to put the aircraft into retirement earlier this year. However, they were brought back into service to act as makeshift freighters, flying PPE between Amsterdam and Shanghai.
Across the world, aircraft have faced a speedy retirement due to the current drop in passenger numbers. No aircraft type has felt this impact more than the Boeing 747.
British Airways (BA), Qantas (QF), and now KL have all retired their entire 747 fleets early. Meanwhile, Lufthansa (LH) has sent a handful of 747-400s to early retirement. While most retired aircraft are heading to the scrap heap, some are living on as museum pieces.
KLM Boeing 747 Retirement
KLM will be retiring its last two Boeing 747-400s on Sunday. Recently, BA held a special celebration to send off its last two 747-400s based at Heathrow. The airline had planned to complete a notable one-off simultaneous departure on both parallel runways. However, the good old British weather threw a spanner in the works.
It seems as though KL won’t treat its Boeing 747s to a double arrival. According to nu.nl, PH-BFV will be the first aircraft to return to KL’s Amsterdam Schiphol hub with an arrival time of 16:40. PH-BFW will arrive slightly later at 20:50 local time. The publication cites a KLM spokesperson saying that both aircraft will land in Schiphol with the flight number KL 747.
The End of the Four-engine Airliner
Around the world, airlines are slowly out of love with four-engined aircraft. The loss of love for such aircraft is not a crazy new phenomenon. Indeed, long before the current situation began, many of the airlines above had already outlined plans to retire the aircraft. The passenger Boeing 747-8 was a bit of a flop with orders only coming in from three airlines.
As such, the global fleet of passenger 747-400 aircraft is beginning to age. Instead of buying the newer version, many airlines have opted to purchase the more fuel-efficient twinjet replacements, such as the Airbus A350.
With the need for full fleets diminished for the coming years, most airlines realized that they would not end up using these aircraft again before they were naturally retired. As such, it made sense to get rid of them now.
Scrapping the 747 Fleet
However, it is not only the Queen of the Skies that is being affected by the current crisis. Many Airbus A340s have suffered the same fate. Even the new Airbus A380 has been affected.
The giant of the skies was delivered in 2007. Yet, despite most aircraft being under ten years old, Air France (AF) has already scrapped its entire fleet. Meanwhile, Lufthansa has so far retired half of its 14-strong fleet, although the remainder is unlikely to return to the skies.
Featured image: KLM 747 takeoff from Amsterdam. Photo: ©️ Manuel Brunis