The Unexpected Equipment Change
Every aviation enthusiast has a plane they absolutely love to fly on, but there is only one “Queen of the Skies”. The 747-400 began service in 1988 as a replacement to the 747-300 which dated back all the way to the 1960’s. For a long time this huge jumbo jet was the only mainstream aircraft with two passenger decks. Of course the A380 came along as a competitor and technology meant this gas guzzler wasn’t efficient to run. So slowly it’s dying.
Growing up my family didn’t travel internationally a lot, which means my first 747 experience came as an adult. Back in 2007 during our 18 month around the world trip, I was so excited to book travel on an Air Pacific (now Fiji Airways) 747 to New Zealand via Fiji. Even back then the plane was dated but it had an IFE screen at every seat (no on-demand video though) and it was a comfortable ride.
Since then I have checked off my 747 boxes whenever I could. Back in 2014 when flying Cathay Pacific on an intra-asia route I chose business class instead of first just to fly on the upper deck. Then, a couple of years ago my dad and I flew on the second to last Cathay Pacific 747 flight in First Class located in the nose of the aircraft. It was amazing to see just how much the Cathay crew loved this plane and were sad to have their final flights on it.
Earlier this year the last of the U.S. airlines dumped the 747 which means it is getting harder to find and when you do, the planes are generally dated and not as nice as newer planes since airlines don’t want to invest in updating them. Within a decade you won’t find many more of these planes around.
I mentioned earlier that I have checked off my boxes for the 747. Having flown on Air Pacific (Fiji Airways), KLM, British Airways, United and Cathay Pacific versions of the plane, I was able to fly coach, fly business on the upper deck and even fly in the nose in First Class. There was only one more thing that I wanted to do.
As I wrote about the other day, I took a quick last minute trip to Asia. As part of my return journey, I booked Korean Air First class on their 747-8. This is the newer version of the 747, but it is very rare since only 36 of them have been delivered to commercial airlines. Only Lufthansa, Korean Air and Air China fly this plane and with few orders, it doesn’t look like many more (if any) will be delivered for commercial use.
When I booked my flight I was so excited because I was able to book Seat 1A. This meant that I was going to be flying as far forward as possible on the giant plane. While I had previously flown in the nose of a 747-400 on Cathay, I was in the 3rd row. I had always wanted to be in the FRONT. I am still very excited for that upcoming flight, but……something else happened that was SO COOL!
One of the cool things about my return ticket was that I was going to get to experience Korean Air’s new Cosmo 2.0 Suite in First Class twice. My ticket had me flying TPE-ICN in a 777-300ER and then ICN-SFO in the 747-8. (Both have the new product.) Imagine my surprise then when I got to the gate and found “The Queen”. An old 747-400 sitting there waiting to bring me to Korea!
Of course I was excited for this development since it meant my seat 1A would give me the experience of flying in the very front on both the 747-400 and the 747-8. (As long as they don’t change planes on that upcoming flight.) How awesome is that? But wait, it gets so much better. As I boarded the aircraft the flight attendant let me know I was the only one flying First Class on this flight. Yes, I had the ENTIRE nose of the plane to myself.
I will say Korean Air’s 747-400 aircraft are old and dated. (The seats have ashtrays!) These planes will be replaced sooner rather than later so they don’t have any of the airline’s recent seat products. This means that my first class seat was an angled lie flat affair with a small IFE screen that came out of the armrest. This cabin screamed 2000 (or even ’90s) but I didn’t care. The flight was short and I was so excited to be there.
The truth is that jetlag kicked in after about an hour and with such a quiet and private cabin, I fell asleep for most of the short flight, but that’s okay. With 1:1 flight attendant service, a quiet cabin and a throwback interior, this flight turned out to be one of my favorites in awhile.
What is your favorite experience flying on the “Queen of the Skies”? Let me know in the comments!