After serving Qantas for nearly 50 years, the iconic Boeing 747 will be farewelled with a series of nostalgic flights for paying passengers.
Australians will have one last chance to farewell the aircraft that put Qantas on the map, with a series of nostalgic flights planned next week before the iconic Boeing 747 flies off for good.
Airline buffs and Qantas employees will be able to experience the four-engined, bubble-topped aircraft one last time during three, one-hour joy flights scheduled for Sydney (July 13), Brisbane (July 15) and Canberra (July 17).
VH-OEJ – the last of six 747-400 (ER) aircraft delivered to Qantas in 2003 – will operate on each flight with the code QF747.
Tickets for the historic flights went on sale at midday on July 8.
They sold out within minutes.
Business ($747) and economy class ($400) seats were snapped up by the public within minutes of the offer opening, along with the premium economy seats reserved for Qantas employees.
The scramble to buy tickets was made harder because Qantas gave many of its VIP Platinum One members special access to tickets – a day before they were offered to the general public.
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The so-called ‘Queen of the Skies’ will officially depart Australian shores for the last time around 2pm on Wednesday July 22, with a planned flyover of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.
After an historic low-level ‘wing wave’ over the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Shellharbour Airport, QF7474 will wing its way to the United States for storage at the infamous Mojave Desert boneyard.
It will then be handed over to an unnamed new owner.
Qantas’s relationship with the Boeing 747 dates back to 1967, when it first ordered four 747Bs. The first of these (a 747-200 registered as VH-EBA) entered service in September 1971, and the airline has operated every version since, except for the 747-8.
The wide-bodied 747 was more than just a machine, it was an integral part of the Qantas fleet and helped usher in a new era of long haul travel.
Related: Boeing 747 Farewells Sydney
The 747 also heralded a new age of luxury in the sky, with premium passengers enjoying a bar and lounge on the upper deck, complete with retro curved lounges and eye popping colours.
Qantas’ first class ‘Captain Cook Lounge’ was the largest on any commercial aircraft in 1971.
By 1979, Qantas reportedly introduced the world’s first business class cabin to its 747s (below), offering executive travellers a new level of comfort at 35,000 feet in the air. It wasn’t long before other airlines followed suit.
In 1989, Qantas took delivery of its first 747-400 and made history with the first non-stop flight between London and Sydney.
The 747 was also considered something of a flying art work, regularly decked out in imaginative livery to support Australia’s Olympic teams, as well as the Wallabies rugby union team and the Socceroos.
Two Qantas 747-400s were covered in an indigenous livery known as Wunala Dreaming (below) from 1994-2003 and again from 2003-2011 (when VH-OEJ entered service). They were followed by Nalanji Dreaming (1995-2005), resplendent in blue.
Qantas, marking its 100th year of operation in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, had been planning to farewell the much-loved Boeing 747 in very different circumstances.
It originally planned to phase its jumbo jets out by the end of the year, replacing them with the more efficient 787 Dreamliner. But with global travel all but shut down, the end of the much-loved jumbo has come much sooner than planned.
Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Air France, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and many others, have already farewelled the last of their Boeing 747s.
British Airways has followed Qantas by retiring its Boeing 747s immediately.
But nostalgia buffs fear not: you can always visit the Qantas Founders Museum at Longreach Airport in Central Queensland (the birthplace of Qantas), where a retired Qantas 747-200 has been parked on the red dirt like a beached whale since 2002.
The first 747-400 series jumbo in the Qantas fleet, the City of Canberra, can also be found at the Historical Aircraft Restoration Society at Shellharbour Airport, near Wollongong.
© 2020 BERNARD O’RIORDAN (TRAVEL INSTINCT). ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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