Thursday, November 16, 2017

Jumbo Jets Cleared to Land...for Good?

Jumbo Jets Cleared to Land… For Good?
Alex Steinhaus

Since its rollout in 1970, Boeing has sold over 1,500 747 aircraft. Known by its distinct front hump, the 747 has been dubbed the “Queen of the Skies”, despite being smaller than its competitor, the newer Airbus A380. The 747 typically carries 410 passengers in a standard configuration, while the A380 can carry 544 passengers. While it’s easy to see why these two birds have earned the nickname Jumbo Jet, It is also easy to see that the aircraft are almost ready to be retired and discontinued.

Currently, there are 661 747’s still in service and in the skies: 253 passenger jets, 374 cargo variants and 34 VIP or government owned aircraft. At the end of May 2017, there were only 5 unfilled orders for the most recent model of the 747: the 747-8, as well as 15 unfilled cargo freighter orders.  For Airbus, 100 planes have yet to be delivered, with a total of 217 built since its rollout in 2005. All of the A380s are passenger configurations, and Airbus is no longer exploring a cargo version as it is currently developing the Beluga freighter.

So why are the jumbo jets losing popularity amongst airlines? Fuel costs are a major factor. Even with low fuel costs, jumbo jets are still gas guzzlers, and lack the fuel efficiency technology that manufacturers are putting into their smaller planes, which are in greater demand. Why? Operating costs. The A380 has an operating cost of between $26,000 and $29,000 per hour. Comparing that to a smaller Boeing 737-800, the 737 can fly for $2,180 an hour. With planes that fly for a cheaper operation cost, airlines make a larger profit, despite the fact that the jumbos can carry more paying passengers. Even though these planes can fly farther than a 737 for example, manufacturers have used those fuel efficiency technologies to create their newest products: the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. The 787, also known as the Dreamliner can carry anywhere from 242 to 330 passengers, while the A350 has a capacity of anywhere between 280 to 366 passengers. While these twin-aisle wide body jets are considerably smaller than their jumbo counterparts, the range of these aircraft is comparable. On the American side, the 787 has a range of 14,140 km, and the 747 has a range of 14,816 km. For the European Airbus, the A350’s range is 15,000 km and the A380’s range is 15,200 km.

While the appeal of flying on a double decker plane is cool in appearance, economically it’s a different story. The future of commercial aviation are smaller planes, and the manufacturers have delivered with the launch of the 787 and the A350. While Boeing has conceded that the 747 no longer will carry passengers in the future, the queen is predicted to survive in the cargo freighter market. This as the only american carriers still flying the 747, Delta and United, have plans in place to retire their planes by the end of this year. Airbus, on the other hand, still believes that there is a future for the A380, and is already developing the A380plus, a more fuel efficient model for the world’s largest passenger plane. No matter the case, only time will tell the future for the jumbo jet, but with the current trend, the skies will be dominated by the smaller planes, leaving the queens to be sent to the scrap yard.

Works Cited
“Airbus A380.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, Inc,
“Boeing 747.” Wikipedia, Wikipedia Foundation, Inc,
“Boeing.” Boeing: 787 Dreamliner, Boeing,
Gates, Dominic. “Boeing Admits Its 747 ‘Queen of the Skies’ Has No Future as Passenger Plane.” The Seattle Times, The Seattle Times Company, 20 June 2017, 11:10 AM,
Goldstein, Michael. “Operating Costs Killing Jumbo Jets As Airlines Profit From Smaller Planes.” Forbes, Forbes Media LLC, 5 Oct. 2017, 8:25 PM,
“Technical Specifications & Range.” A350 XWB by Airbus, Airbus SAS,


  1. I think this is a very interesting article that brings up some good points in my mind. Why ride a plane like the Airbus, where it will probably cost more to ride than one that is cheaper like a 747 or 737. Sure there will probably be less seats on them but the cost of fuel has a huge price gap of nearly $20,000. I really like how this was written. You used your knowledge of the Economic terms and threw it in on a interesting subject, well done!

  2. Although the smaller planes are much more cost efficient, the big 747's were quite impressive looking. I wonder if there are any limitations to the new planes, maybe the 747's can fly for a longer period of time, or have better first class, more durable, etc. Maybe in the future the big companies will find a way to make a big airplanes that would also be cost efficient, that would be pretty neat. rip the 747

  3. The airlines starting to retire the bigger planes and not buying as many new big planes is a good idea. Starting to use more of the smaller more efficient planes is a very good idea. There are many benefits like cheaper maintenance, and will use less gas. The only bad thing about them buying the smaller planes is that boeing and other companies may have to discontinue making the larger planes because it will not be worth only manufacturing a couple of the larger planes. The Airlines going to the smaller planes may make flying more affordable for families and people. If that were to happen many more people would use flying as there main source of transportation.

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  5. I think this is a very interesting point. I have noticed that when I go to the airport there are less jumbo jets. I do think that there will always be a market for the jumbo jets, like in cargo and some travel. I do think it would be cheaper for airlines to replace the jumbo jet with smaller, more fuel efficient options. This will help increase their profit and decrease their ATC.

  6. I didn't think planes had such a high operating cost. That's another reason why the airline industry has such a high barrier to entry. A fuel-efficient model will help the exorbitant operating cost but that probably won't help the decline in demand for large planes.

  7. Jumbo planes many look interesting, but having big planes is a problem. There are many problems that are associated with big planes like the cost to operate the plane, dangerous situations, and cost to make the plane. Some dangerous situations can be if their was a fire in the plane or if the plane crashed, then many lives would be risked. If a plane is smaller than there are not many problems. For example if a plane crash was to occur then many lives would be saved as their would be less passengers on the plane. Having big planes also cost a lot of money. There are many passengers on the plane that need to be taken care of. If there are less passenger then it takes less money to operate the plane. Another factor why jumbo planes should not be made is because of the cost to make them. Jumbo planes cost a lot of money to make as they are much larger and there has to be so much thought put into making the plane for safety reasons. Therefore, jumbo planes should not be made and should not be allowed to operate existing ones.

  8. The cost of these planes are huge and it is to no surprise that they are affecting out economy. But will making them smaller affect the economy and if so how much. In addition wouldn't this mean that they are going to change the rules and regulation for these new smaller planes. The cost of the ticket will also rise, and the fight for a space. Changing these airline to a smaller plane size will affect the economy but is it a positive effect or a negative affect? that is what I want to know.

  9. With the bigger passenger planes being retired and company's only using fuel efficient airplanes in place, this could change the price of flights since bigger planes cost just about 13 times more per hour to operate. This could create a bigger industry for traveling since airlines are very expensive and this could drop to be affordable for many more.

  10. I think that it's a good idea to retire the larger planes. Using smaller more fuel efficient planes will cut back on pollution and operation cost the only down side is with smaller planes, more will be needed.

  11. The smaller planes offer many benefits, for the environment and for airline companies. However, due to the lower capacity for passengers, companies may find it plausible to increase price due to the scarcity of seats available. This may not be a problem for everyday flights, but for times such as holidays, there is a large increase in demand for tickets as people travel. While plane tickets over the holidays are already high, consumers may find themselves needing to pay more to guarantee a seat on their desired flight as they have a higher willingness to pay at those times. It is hard to tell how ticket prices will be impacted due to the shift, but it is safe to say the airline companies will be looking to make up for lost profit.


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