Home Classic Airliners 15 Classic Boeing 747 Operators

15 Classic Boeing 747 Operators

by Matt Falcus

With the end of the Boeing 747 production now upon us, it’s time to reflect on its past and the many classic operators of the type over the years.

Through many variants, the 747 has seen over 1,500 examples produced and all corners of the globe conquered by its wings.

Not a comprehensive list by any means, these are just some of the classic operators and liveries seen on the 747, particularly in its early days.

Which would you add to the list? Leave a comment below!


Pan Am

The launch customer for the 747, Pan Am bet the company on the new Jumbo Jet. Until the airline’s demise in 1991, these aircraft could be seen all over the world.


Flying Tiger Line

Flying Tigers Boeing 747-100F; N805FT@ZRH, June 1982/CBU

A worldwide freight delivery company, Flying Tiger Line acquired its first Boeing 747 freighters in 1974. They were a common sight until the company was bought by Federal Express in 1988.



Swissair Boeing 747-300; HB-IGD@ZRH;11.08.1994

Swissair was an early Boeing 747 operators. It later became the launch customer of the extended 747-300, which is depicted here in the airline’s classic 1980s/90s livery.



Qantas Boeing 747-438ER; VH-OEJ@LAX;19.04.2007/465ig

The Boeing 707 revolutionised Qantas’ capabilities on long-haul services, and the 747 took it one step further. It flew the -200B, SP, -300 and -400 variants of the Jumbo, which could be seen far and wide sporting the kangaroo livery, and even some special schemes.


Japan Airlines

Michel Gilliand (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

Japan’s national carrier (alongside All Nippon Airways) flew most variants of the 747, including the specially-developed short range (SR) versions which were targeted at Japan’s domestic network where high capacities were needed over range.



Richard Vandervord, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

British Overseas Airways Corporation was an early adopter to the 747. Its first examples arrived in 1970, but due to negotiations with pilots did not enter service until 1971. This, too, was relatively short-lived as the airline merged to become British Airways in 1974.

A 747-400 was painted in the classic BOAC livery in 2019 to mark British Airways’ 100th anniversary.


National Airlines

clipperarctic, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

A relatively small US operator, National Airlines procured two Boeing 747s in the 1970s to operate trunk routes from hubs in California and the North East and Florida. The airline later sold them to Northwest Orient.


Northwest Orient

Later Northwest Airlines, Northwest Orient operated Boeing 747-100, -200B and -400 types on its long-haul services.

The -400s went on to operate for Delta Air Lines when the two carriers merged in 2009.



TWA Boeing 747-136; N17125@ZRH, April 1987/ BVW

Trans World Airlines, or TWA, was the second airline to take delivery of the Boeing 747. It initially used them on domestic trunk routes, but went on to introduce the Jumbo to international services – particularly to Europe.

Sadly one elderly TWA 747-100 was destroyed by an in-flight breakup shortly after departing New York in 1996, killing all onboard.


Cameroon Airlines

TJ-CAB Boeing 747-2H7B Cameroon Airlines Paris CDG 7.95

Many African nations acquired Boeing 747s for their key international routes, as the pride of their fleets.

One example was Cameroon Airlines, which took on a single 747-200B in 1982 and flew it until it was damaged during landing at Paris in 2000.


Which classic livery did you prefer on the Boeing 747? Leave a comment below!



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