The Boeing 747 will forever remain the Queen of the skies; it just won’t grace them as long as one might hope. Sporting four engines and that ever so glorious upper deck bubble, it’s almost impossible to miss the distinctly majestic airplane. Has there been a more pivotal or iconic aircraft in history? No. Sadly, like all great monarchs, the fight against time and youth eventually leads to one last great wave before taking a final bow. With lighter, stronger, smaller and more efficient becoming the new norm, the queen of the skies is being asked to step down, rather quickly…

a group of airplanes parked on the ground

No, you won’t arrive at your major airport tomorrow and see zero 747’s, they aren’t pixie dust. Every day however, you will see fewer and fewer commercial 747’s taking to the skies. It’s the end of an era, and the end of one of the most unique vantage points for a commercial flight. Seat 64A might not mean much to many of you, but to many enthusiasts, it will forever signify the best seat on the 747 and perhaps in all the sky, perched in the rear of the upper deck bubble, it’s the most exclusive business class cabin in the sky. Ask anyone who’s been up there, they’ll tell you it’s awe inspiring. With many leading airlines including Virgin Atlantic, ANA, United, Qantas and Delta, amongst already planning to retire their 747 fleets in 2016-2017, opportunities to experience this legendary aircraft are dwindling. In fact, many experts are predicting commercial extinction by 2020, perhaps minus British Airways who insist they will keep them flying through 2023.  We’ll see. The old lady is just too noisy, too fuel inefficient and too costly to maintain. 

a plane flying over a beach

The fuel isn’t the end of it either. Many airports tax loud, thunderous birds such as the 747 for their air and noise pollution, something the queen of the skies will never be able to escape. For a landing slot at Heathrow, a 747 will cost roughly £3600, whereas a Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350XWB will only run around £1000. That’s a major discrepancy, which in an age of airline profiteering cannot be ignored. 

a large airplane taking off

The last stand for the 747 is the 747-800. The newest version of the iconic aircraft boasts updated interiors, state of the art engines and increased efficiency, while maintaining it’s unique appearance. Sadly, orders were not as hoped and the plans for any future updates appear to be scrapped. If you’re hoping to fly the newer aircraft, Lufthansa, Korean Air, Air China and a small entity known as the United States Government were recent adaptors, surely hoping to gain quite a few more years out of the sky queen. Even if you can’t book a seat on it, Air Force One will be sporting that glorious Upper Deck bubble for many years to come. I plan to take as many bubble rides as I can before it’s too late…

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Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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