Legacy carrier, British Airways Boeing 747 topped airlines operating the aircraft type with 75 million seats or 16% of the 470 million seats, with flights to the United States, South Africa, Canada, India, and Nigeria.
The primary reason is clear: the end of the type by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, and Corsair, with coronavirus speeding up retirements.
Qantas and KLM ended B747-400 operations on the same day.
The position of Lufthansa’s B747-400s is less clear, but they are more or less retired.
And it is also obviously part of the fully understandable continuing move to twins. Pre-coronavirus, seats by quads were down by 41 million since 2010 as new(er) twins were up by 605 million.
Boeing 747-400s had 470 million seats between 2010 and 2020, of which 88% was deployed internationally.
Unsurprisingly, the proportion of international 747-400 seats rose yearly, from 85% back in 2010 to 94% last year. Domestic seats fell to just one million, with All Nippon, Korean Air, Thai Airways, and Air China key.
Boeing 747-400s: top-10 airlines between 2010 and 2020
If Boeing 747-400 seats between 2010 and 2020 are combined, British Airways was by far the number-one operator of the type. Lufthansa was second and China Airlines third.
British Airways had 75 million seats by the type in this decade, or 16% of the 470 million. Its share was double that of Lufthansa, OAG schedules data shows.
British Airways used its B77-400s to 22 countries. The US had 56% of its 75 million seats, followed by South Africa with just 6%. Next were Canada, India, and Nigeria.
55 airports received British Airways’ B747-400s on a scheduled basis. New York JFK was overwhelmingly top (12.1 million seats), followed by Miami (4.7 million), Cape Town (3.4 million), San Francisco (3.4 million), and Boston (3.3 million).
Remember Russia? British Airways used B747-400s to Moscow Domodedovo between 2012 and 2015 mainly for its premium cabin. In 2013, it had 215,000 B747-400 seats there.
Lufthansa, meanwhile, used its B747-400s to 20 countries, with the US top. On a city basis, New York led, but it was very closely followed by Mumbai and Denver. Mumbai was number-one on an airport basis.
Japan and China had just under half of China Airlines’ B747-400 seats, rising to almost six in ten if Hong Kong is included.
Hong Kong was by far China Airlines’ top city of course. This was followed by Tokyo, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Bangkok, and Osaka – all with about half as many seats each as Hong Kong.
B747-400s: top-20 routes this decade
Across all airlines, London Heathrow to/from New York JFK was by far the top Boeing 747-400 route this decade.
It had 14 million seats with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, the latter operating B747-400s on it until 2017.
Of the B747-400’s top-20 routes, domestic routes appeared five times. Three were in the top-five.
With 9.4 million seats, Sapporo – Tokyo Haneda was the second thickest route. All Nippon had 94% of the route in these 10 years, with Japan Airlines providing the rest. B747-400s stopped being used in 2014. In 2010, there were up to 24 daily 744 flights each way.
Despite Lufthansa being the decade’s second-largest B747-400 operator, it is notable that Frankfurt does not once appear in the top-20 route list. Frankfurt – San Francisco comes in at 23rd, with both Lufthansa and United Airlines operating the type on it. Lufthansa ended it in 2014, United in 2017.
New York JFK – Tel Aviv was in the top-10. Both Delta and El Al used B747-400s on the route, the former until 2014, the latter until 2019.
USA – Israel is a huge market. Earlier this year we showed that this country-pair is Turkish Airlines’ second-largest.
In all, these top-20 routes had 115 million seats – or one-quarter of the total by B747-400s. They defined the type.