Cathay Pacific Is Retiring The 747 In A Few Weeks

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Over the past several years we’ve seen many airlines retire the 747, given that there are more modern planes out there nowadays. Planes like the A350 and 787 have the same range as the 747, but are lower capacity and fuel efficient, meaning they can economically serve markets that might not work with a 747.

As an aviation geek I’m sad whenever a plane is retired, though at the same time the 747 has significance beyond that. The 747 didn’t just change commercial aviation, but rather changed the world as a whole. The plane was a quantum leap for aviation, as it’s the next model type Boeing introduced after the 707. The 747 allowed airlines to serve markets that couldn’t be served before, making it easier to travel across the globe.

So as much as I’d be sad if airlines ever retired the A380 (given the great amenities the plane has), the A380 hasn’t had nearly the impact on commercial aviation that the 747 has.

With that in mind, 747 retirements have been a pretty big deal for airlines, and we’ve seen some beautiful tributes, including from Singapore Airlines, Philippine Airlines, and Air France, just to name a few. This Singapore Airlines 747 tribute in particular actually makes me tear up a bit every time I see it:

Well, it looks like the next airline to retire the 747 will be Cathay Pacific. Cathay Pacific’s last 747 flight is scheduled from Tokyo Haneda to Hong Kong on October 1, 2016. It will operate flight CX543, departing at 10:35AM and arriving in Hong Kong at 2:10PM.


Last week Cathay Pacific uploaded a tribute video to the 747, showing the plane in its original livery:

I’ll be very sad to see Cathay Pacific retire their 747. Cathay Pacific is one of the airlines I’ve flown most often on the 747, and I especially loved the first class section they have in the nose of the plane. It’s such an intimate cabin, and if you’re seated in row one and have a crosswind landing, you can sometimes even look straight onto the runway on final approach.


Sadly I won’t be able to make Cathay Pacific’s final 747 flight, as I have other travel plans then. If you’re an aviation geek, there are still some seats left in economy, though first & business class are sold out.

Is anyone still flying a Cathay Pacific 747 before it retires?

(Tip of the hat to Wild About Travel)

  1. The 707s variant, the 720 along with the 727 and the first 737-100 were designed and commercially produced before the 747. The first flight of the 737 occurred in 1967.

    I am not sure what you mean by the 747 being the next model offered after the 707.

  2. To answer your question – yes, I will be on the final flight in the current CX livery between HND and HKG (not open for commercial carriage) to appraise the aircraft and the engines following the flight back to HKG. The aircraft will most probably be converted into a freighter at this point – although a lease is not out of the picture.

  3. @Jared: I thought the HND-HKG flight was the last commercial flight?

    Don’t know how you appraise the aircraft – it would be difficult for me. It’s worth so much more to so many of us.

  4. I’m doing that same journey (HND to HKG) but on 27th Sept. I’ve never actually flown on a 747 before! I’m up top, at the front (only business class, I’m afraid!). Glad I’m getting to experience it before it’s retired.

  5. @Kent: The HKG-HND is the last commercial flight. The return flight is being operated by a technical crew and third-party aviation technologists (where I come in) to perform a performance assessment. Depending on that and the appraisal with depreciation considerations, we decide on one of three routes:

    1. Convert to a 747-BCF
    2. Lease/Sell aircraft to another company
    3. Return to the US for teardown

    How do my colleagues and I do it? With a heavy heart because the aircraft represents the joy, the dreams and the technical perseverance of millions. It’s tough to separate the emotional aspect, but that can be said about anyone in the world of aviation when it comes to the 747. I can’t think of another aircraft which invokes or will invoke such a strong emotional attachment. My first flight was on a 747-200 when I was 2 months old and little did I know many would follow.

  6. Cathay’s real heyday was in the era of the Tristar and Kai Tak, at least from a regional perspective. It was the pre-eminent airline of the day. Yes, the 747s were great long haul but the bypassing of Hong Kong via direct flights to China has seen them struggle in recent years ( same as SQ and the competition from the MEA group).
    It is sad to see the 747 retire : younger people may not appreciate the revolution in travel it created and probably not the feeling of amazement getting on one for the first time ( relative to the 707 and DC8 and other predecessors).

  7. Does anyone else not believe Jared actually does that as a job and just sits at home in his panties eating Cheetos? He’s probably just a big aviation geek/fantasist.

    Looooooosssssser. Exposed.

  8. It makes no sense to operate the last flight of an aircraft away from their hub. What are they going to do with it afterwards in Japan? The only time it makes sense to operate a one way final flight is if it’s going somewhere near an airplane graveyard (like LAX)

  9. @Jared: I’m pretty sure that CX 543 from HND to HKG on Oct 1 is commercially available, as I was able to get two seats on it with Alaska miles.

    At a window and hoping to get a good view of any water salute(s) that may happen. Very excited!

  10. @Jared, you’re kidding right? CX543/01OCT operating HNDHKG is the last commercial flight. And this last 744 will not be turned into a freighter either.

  11. I just saw availability (90 seconds ago) for Y seats on CX543 on Oct 1 HND-HKG for $2,187 so it’s definitely available as a commercial flight.

  12. I am hazarding a guess that there is confusion based on statements above. All I know is that I am accompanying a team of 4 RR propulsion engineers to decide on a buy-back and/or scrapping of the the RR engines on SN27595. Our flight is the HKG-HND segment scheduled for Oct 3. In February of this year, CX had informed us that this was the last planned commercial flight for the 744. On the return segment, we would be accompanied by interested stakeholders and representatives from various parties (i.e. Jared T. representing his employer) on a qual and assessment flight. If CX cancelled the commercial flights between Oct 1st and Oct 3rd, this is the first I am hearing about it. On the plus, it probably means we get an aircraft to ourselves!

    It is also common to do the publicized retirements on the segments away from hubs and to do a worthiness check on the return. While it may not have the same emotional value for aviation enthusiasts, it does make economic sense to avoid additional flights just for testing. Many of the LH queens were evaluated in the same way and some were sent to their graves, sadly (I wasn’t involved since those ran on GEs).

    In the case of this aircraft, its fate has not yet been decided except that CX will not operate it as a passenger aircraft. The options are still open. BAHC is interested in the air-frame for conversion to a BCF with engine retro-fits.

    @Aaron Tan
    I find your comments very insulting and immature partly because I know quite a few folks on this blog (including Jared) because of our shared interest in aviation and partly because we work diligently in the aviation industry to keep idiots like you safe on your journeys. You are simply a jerk 🙂 Don’t be an ass if you don’t have the complete picture.

  13. @Samantha A @Jared, always awesome to get comments from those in the industry, especially around niche areas such as aircraft decommissioning / evaluation. Thanks for the details!

  14. Similar sentiments to Vand. @Jared: However, probably not a bad idea to read the article more closely in the future, hey? Lucky mentions the dates pretty clearly.

    @Samantha A. @Jared or anyone above who may know – are you guys going doing what is called an acceptance flight? Why would an airline do tests during decommissioning?

  15. @Gerard: An acceptance flight test is just a flight test where someone is accepting the aircraft (new or old) once it meets all performance criteria. I work for Airbus as an engineer in their customer facing team, so I will share our delivery itinerary before the customer “accepts” the aircraft:

    In the case of the retirement for the CX747 SN27595, there may be other parties who have displayed interest in the aircraft. Therefore, they will want to send their engineers, maintenance leaders, etc., to instruct and assess various in-flight and on-ground tests. In such tests, the engine manufacturers send their engineering team (i.e. Samantha A. et al.) and other airline/leasing companies may send independent adjudicators (i.e. Jared et al.) who will assess and estimate the cost of the aircraft. So, it’s pretty common to have a flight test during decommissioning as well. If the ownership of the aircraft changes, then it will gain a new registration. I hope this is a little clearer.

    Wish I could join Jared and Samantha for this flight as I am a big fan of the 747 (no one from Airbus here I hope :P).

  16. @Aaron

    I tried to follow your advice:

    “When it comes to the absolutely absurd comments posted by one particular person on this thread, it really is better to just completely ignore them. Debating them gives whoever that person is exactly what they want. Pretend it was never seen, speak about aviation, and do not give them the satisfaction.”

    But I failed. Why does every single comment of yours make you sound like a prick!

  17. Whoa! Great luck that I came across this discussion. Booked a ticket in Jan for Oct. 5 HKG-HND becoz that was last flight with the 747 showing up CX’s reservation system at the time while the return on the 6th was with a 777. Just double checked after seeing this post and the discussions above and now the outbound shows an equipment change to 777. Thankfully it was a full-fare biz ticket so I got to change the outbound to the 29th and the return to the 1st. Outbound with window seats on the first deck with close proximity to those rumbling RRs so I can record the spool up and the return with a window seat on upper deck to enjoy that space for the last time 🙂

  18. October 1st is my birthday… That would be amaaaaaaahzing if I could swing it. Never going to happen at the price. Le sigh.

  19. I will be on a Hong Kong-Haneda flight on the 747 next week. Until reading this I hadn’t realised it would be one of the last flights so thanks for pointing it out! I will be upstairs in business class and it will be my first (and almost certainly last) time on a Cathay 747.

  20. Sudden change in scheduling again by CX on decommissioning. Suspect they want to give the queen a nice go-through before inviting potential bidders.

    Sorry for the confusion above.

    @Sam A. – see you on the 4th.

    @John O. – I hope AerCap is serious about their bid this time.

  21. Wondering why a passenger CX B747 is still parked at MEL T4 on 3 Oct. ? I would have thought final flights would end up in HKG or a maintenance port.

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