Qantas Aged 747 Fleet

There a 365 people walking around today that must be some of the luckiest people in the world. They are the passengers and crew of the Qantas 747 that survived a massive failure of its outer skin while cruising at 29,000 feet en-route from Hong Kong to Melbourne yesterday.


Damaged Qantas 747

Damaged Qantas 747

I don’t even want to imagine how terrifying it must have been to experience such an event, but what surprised me was the age of this particular aircraft. The plane is 17 years old and reportedly has a history of corrosion, according to The West Australian newspaper, although Qantas has said that there were no signs of corrosion having been involved in this incident. Commercial aircraft have such rigorous maintenance schedules that planes can be kept airworthy for decades. But surely there comes a time when major international carriers such as Qantas should be decommissioning their older aircraft in favour of more modern, fuel efficient airliners.


When I choose an airline to carry me aloft, one of my major considerations is safety and until now I would have put Qantas in the same category as Singapore Airlines and Emirates who I expect to maintain the highest standards and run the most modern of fleets. For many years Singapore Airlines has claimed an average age for its passenger aircraft of “about 6 years”.

I wondered how the age of aircraft compared amongst some of the major airlines that fly into Australia. As this post relates to a Boeing 747 I have only quoted figures for this particular aircraft. Admittedly the 747 has been around for almost 40 years and so will have a higher average age than other aircraft in the fleets.

The average age of Boeing 747 aircraft in the airline’s fleet:

Singapore Airline Boeing 747-400

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400


Emirates – 6.9 years

Singapore Airlines – 9.5 years

Malaysia Airlines – 11.8 years

Thai Airways 12.2 years

British Airways – 14.0 years

Garuda – 14.9 years

Qantas – 15.1 years

Cathay Pacific – 16.0 years

I really did not expect to see Qantas so low down in the list of aged 747’s being flown by major airlines, but at least it beats Cathay Pacific by 0.9 years and Qantas still holds onto its record of never having had a fatal jet airliner accident, but only by the skin of its teeth, or should that be by the skin of the 747.


Sources:, the West Australian newspaper, the BBC.

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