I used to smile inwardly when my colleagues said that they started to feel old when the aircraft they flew in previous lives had been taken from service – retired.
Now I know what it feels like as the 747-400 is gracefully slipping beneath the commercial waves. We have 52 of them remaining in service and they are planned to be here for a while yet, but like the ‘Classic’ Jumbo before them, they are becoming classics in their own right and getting ready to travel the same road.
That said, I have an opportunity to bid across (as we say) back to the Jumbo for the last few years of my career. I was always proud to fly her and couldn’t resist a backward glance when we left her on the gate. She flies beautifully and for comfort, there is little to touch her according to our passengers who love turning left when they come aboard.
And what of the future, the aircraft are either leased or paid for and looking around the world, there would be few takers for a return to the lessor should the right deal be difficult to do. That makes them potentially cheap to operate from one (fixed costs) perspective. But the darker question of fuel consumption and maintenance costs arises to taunt the fleet planners – inevitably and inexorably.
Still, that’s a question for them thank goodness, we are scheduled to keep them in their Regal Glory for a while yet unless the fuel price soars and sets the chain-saws running. I am sorely tempted to return… such is the loyally and affection for this aircraft that many refuse to leave it for the 777. Well, that’s part of the story anyway.
“The bottom line: Prices for used 747-400s, the world’s most popular widebody plane, have dropped 10 percent in the past year. Blame it on costly fuel.”