It was the mother of all planes, the original jumbo jet, queen of the skies. Once elected to rule the air travel world in 1969, masses looked up in awe, aspiring for the privilege to ride her. Behold the Boeing 747 in all her glory, faithful servant of the people for nearly four decades.

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Photo from Boeing.com

Hubs and Spokes are Not Just for Your Bike

Transportation service strategies for centuries focused on operating the most direct routes between destinations as possible. In 1955 Delta pioneered the hub-and-spoke strategy which increased efficiency by routing all passengers through the main hub and then onward to their final destinations — the spokes. The aviation industry was revolutionized. Airlines could now eliminate less popular routes between smaller cities and still serve the passengers by offering a connection at the hub. Fewer airplanes and crew members are required and money is saved.

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Sample hub-and-spoke system

So Then Why is the 747 Being Ousted?

Hub-and-spoke thrived on the fact that nonstop flights between less-popular cities were inefficient and unprofitable, and it solved that problem by directing every flight through a major hub so that at least one city on each route was highly populated. With the introduction of ultra fuel-efficient jets such as the 787 Dreamliner and A350, however, flights could now be profitably operated between these less popular cities.

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Xiamen Air 787, photo from Boeing.com

Passengers Want Nonstop!

Nonstop flights are considerably more valuable to passengers than connecting flights, as evidenced by the significant price difference. Unless you enjoy a pleasant layover then there’s a good chance you are willing to pay more for a nonstop option. If an airline can offer a flight between two “spoke” destinations by utilizing a next-generation aircraft then they can theoretically cover the cost of empty seats by charging more for a ticket.

It’s Not Too Late to Take the 747 for a Spin

Although airlines are rapidly retiring the 747 it is still not too late to give it a try. From North America, hop aboard British Airways’ 747 to London Heathrow, Qantas’ to Sydney (via Los Angeles), El Al’s to Tel Aviv, and many others.

Written by

Journalist, entrepreneur and student - Boston College, University of Otago. Buddhist. Expert adventurer and consultant for conducting business in Asia.

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