March 6, 2024

Qatar Airways says goodbye to Boeing 747 freighter


The 747 jumbo jet era is over at Qatar Airways. The company’s cargo subsidiary announced that its lone remaining Boeing 747-8 freighter finished its last flight on Friday, arriving at its base in Doha from Barcelona, Spain.

Qatar Airways Cargo acquired two 747-8s in 2017 and recently agreed to sell them to UPS. The airline will now operate an all-Boeing 777 fleet as it seeks better efficiency and emissions reductions.

The two cargo jets, which are young by freighter standards at 10 and seven years, logged more than 9,000 flights totaling more than 66,000 hours. Together hauled nearly 882,000 tons of goods, including racing cars and horses, around the world.

Qatar Airways Cargo is the largest cargo airline in the world by cargo ton miles. “When we welcomed our Boeing 747 freighters to the Qatar Airways Cargo fleet seven years ago we were responding to a sharp rise in customer demand for capacity, which we were quickly able to fulfill. Our Next Generation freighter strategy is based both on evolving customer expectations and our firm commitment on sustainability and efficiency. Efficiency is achieved through fleet harmonization and simplification, and sustainability is improved by the latest in-flight and fuel technology,” said Chief Cargo Officer Mark Drusch, in a news release.

Drusch moved to the cargo side in January from Qatar Airways, where he was senior vice president of revenue management, alliances and strategy. Prior to joining Qatar Airways in 2019, he spent 20 years at Delta Air Lines, Continental Airlines and Lufthansa LSG Sky Chefs. He took the position previously held by Guillaume Halleux, who left the company last year.

Qatar Airways Cargo operates 27 Boeing 777 freighters and expects to receive another aircraft by the middle of March. It has a firm order with Boeing for 34 next-generation 777-8 freighters, which will reduce fuel use and carbon emissions by 30% compared to the 747-8. 

Emirates CEO Tim Clark recently said he expects further development delays for the first 777X passenger plane .

UPS recently confirmed that the 747-8s picked up from Qatar Airways won’t join the fleet until late this year or early 2025. The planes require some modifications and a new paint job to meet UPS requirements. Aircraft tracking site FlightRadar24 shows the last Qatar Airways 747 arrived at Victorville Logistics Airport in Southern California, which has an aircraft maintenance facility. In 2014, Boeing painted the plane in the colors of the Seattle Seahawks football team to celebrate the team’s Super Bowl victory.

The 747-8s represent an environmental and fuel upgrade compared to the MD-11s that UPS is phasing out.

Click here for more FreightWaves/American Shipper stories by Eric Kulisch.

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