On March 28, 2020, Qantas Airways Boeing 747-400ER, the last of five B747s remaining in the airline’s fleet, embarked on a flight QF28 from Santiago to Sydney, making the last passage before being grounded for the time being. 

The Boeing 747-400ER (registration number VH-OEE) took off from Santiago International Airport (SCL) in Chile, landing Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport (SYD), Australia, some 13 hours later. Following the flight QF28, it has been parked, just like the other four 747s remaining in Qantas fleet. 

Boeing 747-400ER is an extended range passenger airliner, which entered service in 2002 with none other than Qantas. The Aussie airline is also the sole customer of the model. 

Having welcomed its first Queen of the skies in October 1971, Qantas has operated Boeing 747 for the last five decades. However, the era of the superjumbos is coming to an end for the Australian airline. In October 2019, the carrier retired its last standard Boeing 747-400. As per initial plan, the last remaining 747-400ERs were to follow by the end of 2020. 

However, the global coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak and the consequential travel restrictions, as well as country border closures around the world, has altered the airlines’ plans. Expecting its international flights network to shrink to only 10%, Qantas has begun grounding planes of its 137-strong fleet, based on planespotters.net data. As of March 30, 27 aircraft have been parked. 

Boeing 747 is not the only wide-body in Qantas fleet, which found itself on the ground during the Coronacrisis. In fact, back on March 17, the airline revealed it would ground around 150 aircraft (~75% of total fleet, including aircraft operated by Jetstart), the first ones to go being wide-bodies, “almost all” of which would be parked until better times. 

Wide-bodies make up around half of Qantas fleet. Besides the five Boeing 747-400ERs, the airline also has 28 Airbus A330s (seven of which are already parked), 12 Airbus A380s (five already parked), and 11 Boeing 878-9 Dreamliners. 

Furthermore, the airline is reportedly negotiating with Airbus to postpone the €3.9 billion ($4.4 billion) order for up to twelve ultra-long-range Airbus A350-1000 airliners. The wide-bodies were due to carry out the longest flights in the world (New York-Sydney and London-Sydney), known as Project Sunrise, from the first half of 2023.