Air New Zealand readies last Boeing 747 for retirement

By David Flynn, August 7 2014
Air New Zealand readies last Boeing 747 for retirement

It’s no coincidence that Air New Zealand will begin international flights of its new Boeing 787-9 in the same month that the last of its jumbo jets is put out to pasture.

Shortly after the new Dreamliner settles into a daily service between Auckland and Perth from October 15, the Kiwi carrier’s final Boeing 747 will make its last flight to an aircraft graveyard in California.

It will fly San Francisco on September 10, returning to Auckland two days later.

That trip marks not only the end for this 16 year old jet but for Air New Zealand’s once 13-strong jumbo jet fleet.

Like many other airlines, Air New Zealand is shifting from the ageing fuel-guzzling four engine aircraft to the new generation of advanced twin-engine jets such as the Boeing 787, Airbus A350 and, later this decade, the Boeing 777X.

“Our initial three Boeing 787s are to help us phase out the 747s and provide coverage for upgrading the Boeing 777-200s” says Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787 programme director Kerry Reeves.

“The following ones are more to finally kick out the Boeing 767s, and then we have options to purchase more Boeing 787s in 2016 to 2018 which we can use for further growth if we need it” Reeves tells Australian Business Traveller.

And despite the long wait for the Boeing 787-9, with Air New Zealand's first purchase contract signed in 2006, “the features and economics that first drew us to this aircraft are even more attractive and valid to us today than they were 10 years ago” noted the airline's chief financial officer Rob McDonald.

“The cost of a barrel of jet fuel is more than 180% higher today than it was when we first placed our 787-9 order” McDonald reflected.

“Given New Zealand’s relative geographic isolation we have a natural bias towards long-distance flights… this combined with the ever-changing price of jet fuel brings aircraft efficiency into very sharp focus for us.”

Also read: Air New Zealand pushes back Boeing 777-200 upgrade plan

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

04 Sep 2012

Total posts 136


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Oct 2013

Total posts 10

Going to miss the 747. Spent many a SFO/AUK flight on them, in all three classes. Upper-deck PE was outstandingly good and the arrival times and quick disembarkation when on upper deck meant I could always get through SFO customs inside of 15 mins. 

Still, very excited to see the 777-300 and refurbished -200s on the SFO route soon. With VA off the MEL - LAX route, this Velocity Platinum will probably be switching to Star Alliance.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

I do the MEL-SFO-AKL run two or three times a year at the moment (on my own dime) and have been carefully avoiding the 773s as they've been put onto the network because damned if I'm travelling ten abreast. 

So I'll miss the old 747 in that regard. On the other hand, it was old, noisier than a 777, had a clunky old IFE system, and last time I tried to catch one (last December) it broke down and I got delayed a full 24 hours, complete with two nights at airport hotels in SFO and AKL. So, I'm happy to trade it in for something that's more reliable.

It's sad, though, to think that the day will come when I'll catch my last ever 747. Or perhaps it has already happened.


Air NZ Airpoints

12 Mar 2014

Total posts 36

NIcely put, Hugo. The B747 carried many a passenger out of NZ on their first international flights (including me), it really is the end of an era. As cool as the B789 looks (except for that 9-across in Y...), it won't have the sense of presence a B747 has always had.

It's interesting though, that NZ didn't keep the 744s clunking along for one last Christmas peak season... I can confirm that the AKL to US flights during that period are almost always jammed, you'd think the extra capacity would have been welcome.

A great plane that will be missed.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1488

Indeed - I like it above any other plane.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2013

Total posts 33

+1. The B747 still looks fast and sexy in the way that the modern craft do not. Not as comfortable as the modern ones but kills them in the looks department. End of an era when air travel actually was exciting as opposed to the bus service it has become today. 

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