KLM lays out 747 retirement plans

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KLM announced yesterday that it would be retiring all of its 747-400 fleet – one of the worlds more interesting, by the end of Summer 2021.

With 13 aircraft, ranging from 1990 to 2004 deliveries, KLM has the third largest passenger fleet still operating after BA and Lufthansa.

Unusually KLM still operates the 747M Combi, which carries passengers in the front and cargo in the rear, 5 of the 13 active aircraft are this version.

KLM isn’t now getting the A350, as all of those are going to Air France, but it will gain more 787’s including the 787-10, to make up the numbers. The first 787-10 goes into service in early July. 744’s appear to be leaving from then on, on a one for one basis.

The date that seems most likely to see the end of the 747-400 in passenger service with the major airlines looks like 27 October 2024 when the summer season ends. By then BA and Lufthansa will have retired all of theirs along with Virgin Atlantic and KLM. Qantas will already have retired their 744’s well before this. Only Lufthansa will have operating 748i’s in Europe, with Korean Air and Air China outside of Europe.

It’s possible that Atlas or some other airline will have one or more 744’s still flying for passengers but it seems increasingly unlikely any will reach that date.

The one caveat that must be added is that if there are delays or any incidents involving the 777-8/9 programme, that may delay the departure of some Lufthansa and BA 744’s.