End of an Iconic Era: The passenger Boeing 747

As a young kid, I had a (well-documented) affinity with aircraft. My father and I used to walk down the street from our house in rural Maine to the local air strip, and I would watch the prop planes take off and land. However, it wasn’t until I got older that I started to learn about different types of airliners. And while I’ve been fortunate enough to fly on a variety of different planes over the years, one stands above the rest: the Boeing 747.

The 747 Story

The 747 is a timeless classic — aesthetically and otherwise — whose impact has been like no other. Its distinctive “hump” and four engines are unmistakably unique. It was the plane that revolutionized air travel, making it accessible to the masses.

Ironically, though, it wasn’t even supposed to be more than a stop-gap. Back  in the 1960s, supersonic air travel was thought to be only a few years away. Of course, this didn’t happen for a number of reasons, namely that fuel burn and aircraft stress is disproportionately affected by supersonic travel, as well as the fact that — following tests — civilian aircraft weren’t allowed to fly supersonic over land within the United States. The buzz of supersonic travel came and went, but the 747 stayed.

Even the Airbus A380 — which, in 2007, overtook the 747 as the largest passenger aircraft in service — didn’t have the same impact as the original Jumbo, and the A380 program is largely being kept alive by Emirates. The 747, however, has sold more than 1,500 frames, both cargo and passenger.

All Good Things Must Come to an End

That said, we are entering the twilight years for the 747. Delta Air Lines — the last U.S. carrier to operate the passenger type — will fly its final 747 flight next month. Moreover, the newest passenger variant, the 747-8, is only in service with three carriers: Air China, Korean Air, and Lufthansa. Even British Airways, the world’s largest operator of the 747-400, has stated its intention to retire the fleet by 2024. As cliche as it is, we are entering the end of an era.

A Change in the Landscape

With all that 747s have done over the years, why retire something that has served so many airlines so well?

The answer is multifaceted, but it ultimately comes down to technology. As noted in an earlier blog post, aircraft manufacturers have begun to produce twin-engine aircraft that are more efficient than the 747 yet can handle the same number of passengers. The Boeing 777-300ER (77W), for example, has 85% of the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) as a 747-400. It can also hold near the same number of passengers — and it only has two engines. The 77W is newer, more efficient, and — most importantly — provides airlines with lower fuel costs. Gone are the days when the 747’s unparalleled capacity made it the choice for certain long-haul routes.

Why Not the 747-8?

There has been much made of the lack of success of the 747-8, Boeing’s newest incarnation of a classic. And while some have suggested that it was Boeing’s meek response to the A380 — which, despite outperforming the 747-8, hasn’t exactly been a resounding success — there are a number of factors at play (and it would take another article to cover that). Regardless, the 747-8 is never going to stem the tidal wave of long-haul twin-engine aircraft being purchased, so it’s understandable that it hasn’t been able to continue the 747 passenger jet legacy.

An Indisputable Impact

As outlined, there are many reasons that the Boeing 747 is being retired. However, while the importance of various factors could (and will) be debated for years to come, what’s not up for debate is its impact on aviation. From the 747-100’s maiden New York to London flight with Pan Am World Airways, to the development and debut of the 747-400, which would go on to become arguably the most iconic airliner of all time, it has withstood the test of time, and 2019 will mark 50 years since the type first took flight. I have even had the chance to fly on the type three times, and found each flight to be an incredible experience.

It will be a sad day when the last 747 lands for the final time. However, despite retirement of the type increasing, we are still a long way off from that. In the meantime, I intend to enjoy its remaining time in the air.

Hump Day Fare Hacks: November 30, 2016

Norwegian Index for November 30, 2016: 280.8

In pretty much all other weeks, a new record low by 3.5 points for the Norwegian Index would undoubtedly be the main story of the week. This week, however, there’s an even more noteworthy story: JFK-ARN going for $245.

$245. That’s less than the cheapest BOS-LAX nonstop I’ve found, and a full $11 less than my base fare of $256.30 last spring on BOS-OSL. Of course, my desire to have a window seat for the return flight saw me pay $298.30 when all was said and done, but I still found $256.30 to be cheaper than I thought I’d find on a Norwegian flight – or any intercontinental flight – in the future. Apparently not!

Elsewhere, for the third week in a row, all other prices – including legacies – stayed below $500. Impressive, no doubt, but unfortunately for the legacies, JFK-ARN gets the majority of the praise this week.

Note: All routes profiled are based on a 7-day round trip (departing and arriving the same day a week apart), unless otherwise noted. That said, I strongly encourage you to play with a variety of dates and trip lengths and see what you can find.

BOSTON

Boston – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • April (2017) 4, 25 (return April 13, 2017 and May 4, 2017)
  • May 2, 2017 (return May 11, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $310

Thoughts: A $1 increase over last week doesn’t change that this is exceptionally cheap.

Boston – Lisbon

Leave on:

  • February 23, 2017
  • March 16, 2017

Carrier: TAP Portugal
Price: $492

Thoughts: Unchanged from last week. Even with a couple of dates retracted, this is still very good.

Boston – Madrid

Leave on:

  • March (2017) 2, 5, 6, 9, 13, 16, 20, 23, 27, 29, 30
  • April (2017) 3, 5

Carrier: Iberia
Price: $381

Thoughts: At a quick glance, virtually identical to last week’s offerings.

Boston – Munich

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 10-12, 16, 17, 19, 20, 24-26, 29, 30
  • February (2017) 2, 5, 6, 8
  • April (2017) 3-5

Carrier: Lufthansa
Price: $427

Thoughts: The previous low that I’d seen for this route was around $490. This is significantly cheaper than that.

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • March 27, 2017 (return April 4, 2017)
  • April (2017) 10, 24 (return April 18, 2017 and May 2, 2017)
  • May (2017) 1, 8 (return May 9, 2017 and May 16, 2017)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $288

Thoughts: Like BOS-CPH, up $1 from last week, but still exceptionally cheap.

NEW YORK

New York JFK and Newark – Barcelona

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 14, 20-22, 27-29
  • February (2017) 3, 28
  • March 6, 2017

Carriers: American Airlines, United Airlines
Price: $477

Thoughts: Up a significant amount ($90 to be exact) from last week, proving that all good things must come to an end. Still, the fact that EWR-BCN is available for cheap as well is promising.

New York JFK – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 23, 27, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 8

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $296

Thoughts: Not “exceptional” by Norwegian standards, but pretty darn good.

New York JFK– Madrid

Leave on:

  • December 3-8
  • January (2017) 9, 11-31
  • February (2017) 1-17 19-28
  • March (2017) 1-29
  • April 4, 2017

Carriers: American Airlines, Iberia
Price: $481

Thoughts: Another Spanish city, another $90 increase over last week. Still, sub-$500 to Spain with a variety of available dates in January and February is very, very good.

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  •  January 31, 2017
  • February (2017) 5, 7

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $265

Thoughts: Have you ever seen an athletic competition where both the winner and runner-up blow away the world record? JFK-ARN may get all the press – so perhaps I am an enabler – but JFK-OSL deserves its own special mention as well.

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January 23, 2017
  • February 6, 2017

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $245

Thoughts: The price says it all.

Hump Day Fare Hacks: September 28, 2016

Norwegian Index for September 28, 2016 (measured in dollars): 294.2.

The changes seen in this past week have been pretty significant – in a good way (for travelers). In addition to the always-low Norwegian prices, American is selling – and I don’t believe this is a fare sale – sub-$600 British Airways round trips on BOS-LHR and JFK-LHR. That’s by far the lowest I’ve seen prices on those routes, period, and I haven’t looked at the prices of any other LHR-USA routes. Moreover, BOS-SNN (Aer Lingus), JFK-MUC (Lufthansa) and EWR-MUC (United) are all going for less than $500 round trip, and with a pretty exceptional selection of dates. All told, eight of 10 flights profiled this week are selling for less than $500, and all 10 are priced at less than $600. That is astounding.

Note: All routes profiled are based on a 7-day round trip (departing and arriving the same day a week apart), unless otherwise noted. That said, I strongly encourage you to play with a variety of dates and trip lengths and see what you can find.

 

BOSTON

 

Boston – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • October 11, 18 (return October 20, 27)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $305

Thoughts: $1 over last week. Still time to break the $300 barrier.

 

Boston – London Gatwick

Leave on:

  • November 30
  • December 4, 5, 7
  • January (2016) 9, 11, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, 15, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27
  • March (2017) 1, 6

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $335

Thoughts: The price increased $17 over last week, but the expansion of dates make this worth it. And given what we’ve seen from this route price-wise, I would expect it to stay relatively consistent – I’d be very surprised if it surpassed $350.

 

Boston – London Heathrow

Leave on:

  • October 26-28, 31
  • November 1-17, 19, 21-25, 27-30
  • December 1-8, 11-13, 17, 18

Carrier: British Airways
Price: $509

Thoughts: If you read “Heathrow Hacks,” you’ll understand why British Airways/Delta/Virgin are more expensive than flying Norwegian to Gatwick. Regardless, this is an exceptional price – especially considering it’s BA and not an American-based carrier. (These fares still need to be booked through American, as they are alliance partners, but you would still fly on BA).

 

Boston – Oslo

Leave on: October 17 (return October 25)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $270

Thoughts: I wouldn’t be surprised to see this deal disappear for the season, but I don’t need to further explain that $270 for a transatlantic flight is an exceptional price.

 

Boston – Shannon

Leave on:

  • October 29-31
  • January (2017) 14, 16, 25, 28, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 12, 13

Carrier: Aer Lingus
Price: $496

Thoughts: There are similarly cheap flights on BOS-DUB, but this one takes the cake, no doubt. A pretty exceptional deal whatever way you look at it.

 

NEW YORK

 

New York JFK and Newark – Amsterdam

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 11-31
  • Any date in February
  • Any date in March

Carriers: Delta Air Lines (JFK), KLM (JFK), United Airlines (EWR)
Price: $439

Thoughts: Same date range. Same price. Same great deal.

 

New York JFK – London Heathrow

Leave on:

  • October 31
  • November 1-17, 19, 26
  • December 3, 17, 24, 31
  • January (2017) 14, 21, 28
  • February (2017) 4, 11, 18, 25
  • March (2017) 4, 11, 18, 25

Carriers: Delta Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways
Price: $593

Thoughts: I’m surprised to see that BOS-LHR is beating out JFK-LHR in terms of which has the lower price. Either way, this is the lowest I can remember seeing this route going for – maybe this is signaling a change in the median price of the JFK-LHR (and perhaps U.S. to LHR) market(s)?

 

New York JFK and Newark – Munich

Leave on:

  • January 11-31
  • Any date in February
  • Any date in March

Carriers: Lufthansa (JFK), United Airlines (EWR)
Price: $491

Thoughts: I should also note that there are a few dates when the $491 fare applies on Lufthansa’s EWR-MUC route as well. And while I’m too lazy to go back and distinguish between carriers and dates, you definitely should if you’re interested – this is an excellent price for this route.

 

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 31
  • February (2017) 3, 5, 7, 16

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $283

Thoughts: $3 up on last week, but still well below $300. (For what it’s worth, SAS is offering EWR-OSL round trips for $478 several days this winter, as well).

 

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 18, 20, 25, 27
  • February (2017) 1, 3, 4, 6, 8

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $278

Thoughts: I’d be surprised if the range of dates at this price doesn’t expand soon – especially as winter approaches and demand for traveling to Sweden is affected by people becoming reacquainted with the cold.

Hump Day Fare Hacks: September 7, 2016

This week, I’m introducing a new measurement called the “Norwegian Index.” Before you accuse me of turning a user-friendly blog into pure airline jargon, I should say that the Norwegian Index is simply the average of all Norwegian Air Shuttle flights profiled by Hump Day Fare Hacks in a given week. I think this is a solid way of seeing what an average “low-cost” (e.g. non-legacy carrier) transatlantic fare is at a given time, and, as such, will provide a basis of comparison for the cost progression or regression, depending on how the market behaves. And while a more comprehensive version would perhaps be weighted by the number of available days for each route, I simply don’t have the time or interest to take that on. If you’d like to undertake that task, be my guest – I’ll be sure that you get the appropriate recognition.

Norwegian Index for September 7, 2016 (measured in dollars): 294.0.

Just to be clear – this does not mean that I’ll be profiling more or less Norwegian flights in order to generate a more favorable Index. The average will be computed after I choose the deals to be profiled in a given week, ensuring that the Index is calculated objectively.

Moving on – Lufthansa is the airline to watch this week, offering a range of flights for less than $510 on BOS-FRA, JFK-MUC, and EWR-MUC. The German flag carrier usually charges significantly more on transatlantic flights, so this is something to take advantage of if you have the desire to travel to Bavaria or Hesse. Additionally, Hainan is offering exceptionally low fares on BOS-PEK for a number of September dates – prices which seem unthinkable at first glance given that the closest one is just six days away.  Two different countries; two carriers synonymous with quality; four great deals. Can’t beat it. (Maybe they can, but I don’t see it happening).

Note: All routes profiled are based on a 7-day round trip (departing and arriving the same day a week apart), unless otherwise noted. That said, I strongly encourage you to play with a variety of dates and trip lengths and see what you can find.

 

BOSTON

 

Boston – Beijing

Leave on:

  • September 13, 14, 21, 26, 27

Carrier: Hainan Airlines
Price: $638

Thoughts: It may well be too short of notice to plan a trip to China, but if you’ve got a week and $638 to burn, I can’t think of a better investment. I’m kidding, of course – however, the fact that this fare is available for a transpacific flight less than a week away is almost unthinkable.

 

Boston – Copenhagen

Leave on:

  • October 11 (return October 20)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $305

Thoughts: Just one date left. Either way, an exceptional deal, even if not as cheap as BOS-OSL.

 

Boston – Frankfurt

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 11, 13-16, 18, 20-23, 25, 27-30
  • February (2017) 1, 3-6, 8, 10-13, 15, 16, 18-28
  • March (2017) 1-23, 27-31

Carrier: Lufthansa
Price: $507

Thoughts: If a $1 decrease wasn’t enough, the fact that the number of available dates drastically increased makes this deal a very attractive proposition. Anything transatlantic trip for less than $600 on Lufthansa is an exceptional fare.

 

Boston – London Gatwick

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 30
  • February (2017) 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $330

Thoughts: A $3 increase with 2 more days of availability. Business as usual for Norwegian.

 

Boston – Oslo

Leave on:

  • September 30 (return October 8)
  • October 17, 21 (return October 25, 20)

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $269

Thoughts: This is the second week that this fare and these dates are available. If you haven’t bought your ticket already and you have even the slightest of desire to do so, you probably should.

 

NEW YORK

 

New York JFK and Newark – Amsterdam

Leave on:

  • December 6-20
  • January (2017) 11-31
  • Any date in February (2017)
  • Any date in March (2017)

Carriers: Delta Air Lines (JFK), KLM (JFK), United Airlines (EWR)
Price: $439

Thoughts: This smells of an over saturation of capacity in the market – one that could well be rectified in the coming months. Either way, this is a fantastic deal to take advantage of – personally, I’d recommend KLM and its Boeing 747 or 777 over the Delta 767 or United 757, but you can’t go wrong with this price and the extensive range of dates.

 

New York JFK and Newark – Munich

Leave on:

  • December 6, 7, 12, 13

Carriers: Lufthansa, United Airlines
Price: $505

Thoughts: A pretty exceptional fare for Munich, and made even better by the fact that you have the option between two airports and two carriers. I personally would choose Lufthansa over United, but that’s just me – you can’t go wrong with this price.

 

New York JFK – Oslo

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 15, 17, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 27, 31
  • February (2017) 2, 3, 5, 7, 21, 23
  • March (2017) 2

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $262

Thoughts: Don’t know how Norway in the winter is – I imagine it’s probably cold. What I do know, however, is that this is an exceptional price.

 

New York JFK – Paris

Leave on:

  • December 8
  • January (2017) 19, 24, 26, 31
  • February (2017) 28

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $328

Thoughts: $1 more than last week. Guess this isn’t a good deal anymore (sarcasm).

 

New York JFK – Stockholm

Leave on:

  • January (2017) 18, 20, 21, 23, 25, 27, 28
  • February (2017) 1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 15, 22, 27

Carrier: Norwegian Air Shuttle
Price: $270

Thoughts: I’d be curious to see what flights between New York and Miami are going for during the winter. I bet this price would be competitive with those fares.