Friday, April 13, 2012

Iconic airline, iconic aircraft

My first flight on a 747 took place from Los Angeles, 11 hours on to Narita Airport in Tokyo and continuing an additional eight hours to Singapore. A long but memorable journey in what was then called Raffles Class came to and end when I finally stepped off, a little disoriented, into a balmy Singapore evening in February of 1991. It was my first trip to Asia. 

That's what I was thinking of when I saw that Singapore Airlines held its final 747 flight last week from Changi Airport to Hong Kong. The big, lumbering double-decker seems like something an airline would never want to get rid of. I've made several trips to Singapore since then -- all of them, as I recall involved an ending that had me getting off a 747. 

As is always the case on Singapore Airlines the service was, I'm sure, outstanding. The press release only says that "exquisitely-crafted meals are also being served on board, with First and Business class customers enjoying courses specially paired with premium wines from top producers." It was ever thus with Singapore Airlines. 

SIA had the first delivery of a 747 back in 1972 and at one time was the biggest 747-400 operator in the world with a fleet of 23. "We would not be the airline that we are today if we had not made the bold decision in 1972 to purchase this iconic jetliner," said Mak Swee Wah, Executive Vice President Commercial at Singapore Airlines. 

One can't help but wonder how many other airlines will be following suit over the next several years. As more and more A380s and 787s make their way into long-haul fleets of the world, the 747 will be coming back in a new incarnation in the 747-8, which is flying in a cargo version and will take flight in a passenger model sometime this year. Still, seeing an airline end its association with the big jet is a signal that time, and advancement, marches on.

-Rick Lundstrom 

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