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End of an era: The last four Air India Boeing 747s leave the carrier’s fleet    

After over a quarter of a century, the last four Boeing 747-400s have finally left Air India’s fleet. According to the carrier, the four remaining aircraft, the oldest of which dates back to 1993, have been sold to a US company that specializes in the sale of used aircraft, spare parts, and jet engines. One of the aircraft was acquired by the airline in 1993, one in 1994, and the remaining two in 1996.  

It has been reported that two of the ‘Queens of the Sky’ will be converted into freighters, while the remaining two will be parted out for parts that will be sold in the 747 spares aftermarket.  

While three aircraft remain parked at Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (BOM) in India, the fourth aircraft (originally registered VT-EVA and named ‘Agra’) is currently undertaking a ferry flight to Seattle in the US using the registration N940AS. The aircraft departed Mumbai at 05:16 GMT on Monday, April 22, 2024, heading east over Bangladesh, Myanmar/Burma, and China before it crosses the Pacific Ocean. 

According to ch-aviation, this particular aircraft was delivered new to Air India in October 1996. Having served the carrier on its long-haul routes until March 2021, the aircraft was retired from service and has been in storage in Mumbai since.  

The type became a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic as the airline deemed them to be economically unviable given the prevailing market and operating conditions. The Tata Group, the new owner of Air India, subsequently decided to retire the carrier’s remaining 747s, replacing them on long-haul routes with 777-300ERs which themselves are due to be replaced in the coming years with the carrier’s new fleet of Airbus A350s.  

Nattanon Tavonthammarit / Shutterstock

The last operational flight by Air India 747 occurred on the Delhi to Mumbai route in March 2021. Before being parked at Mumbai Airport, a couple of the aircraft were used for ministerial VVIP flights, including transporting the country’s Prime Minister and President on official visits. Following its acquisition of the carrier, Tata Group enlisted the services of the UK-based remarketing firm Skytech-AIC to facilitate the sale of the four aircraft. 

Over five decades, Air India operated 25 examples of the Boeing 747s in total. With the airline having received its first aircraft (a Boeing 747-200B registered VT-EBE) in April 1971, several variants of the type were added to the carrier’s fleet over the next two decades. This included more 747-200s (bringing the total to nine), followed by a pair of the stretched upper deck 747-300M combi variant in the 1980s. Lastly, the 747-400 entered service with the carrier in 1996, with 14 different aircraft being employed by the airline, including a single 747-400M combi (VT-AIM).   


Air India’s 747 takes final flight from Mumbai with impressive wing wave.

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— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) April 22, 2024

The introduction of the Boeing 747 into the Air India fleet took the carrier into what many still consider the golden age of air travel in the country. The type initially entered service on the company’s flagship daily service to London-Heathrow Airport (LHR), with the planes being given a refreshed company livery (featuring frames around each passenger window resembling Rajasthani-style arches) and with the slogan “Your Palace in the Sky” adorning the side of the fuselage.  

The Air India 747 upper deck areas featured an exclusive lounge and bar area for well-heeled passengers traveling in first class.   

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