Thursday, July 17, 2014

EVA Air to End 747 Service to Manila in January 2015

As part of its gradual phase out of the Boeing 747-400 Combi aircraft from its fleet, EVA Air has announced that it will operate its last Boeing 747 flight to Manila on January 4, 2015. The aircraft will be replaced by a more fuel efficient Airbus A330-200.
Image Source: Wikimedia
Beginning on December 15, passengers departing from Manila on EVA Air will begin to see the introduction of the A330 aircraft. EVA Air plans to operate the A330 for three flights each week, while the Boeing 747 will continue to operate the remaining four weekly services. This will continue until January 5, 2015 when the A330 takes over full-time operating EVA Air's daily flight to Manila. 

The EVA Air Airbus A330-200 is equipped with 252 seats in a two-class configuration featuring Economy Class and Premium Laurel Class. Passengers in Economy Class enjoy personal in-flight entertainment delivered through seat back monitors and a 33" seat pitch, while passengers in Premium Laurel Class enjoy a number of service enhancements including a 61" seat pitch. EVA Air currently has eleven A330-200 aircraft in its fleet. 

EVA Air is one of the last airlines around the world to continue operating the Boeing 747-400 Combi aircraft. It was designed for routes with minimal passenger traffic that could not justify a Boeing 747 in full passenger configuration, but had strong demand for freight services. EVA Air currently has 2 Boeing 747 Combi aircraft left in the fleet. They are configured in a three-class configuration featuring 276 seats. In addition, the aircraft can transport up to fourteen LD-1 cargo containers with seven on the main deck and five in the lower hold. 

Image Source: Wikimedia
With its ability to accommodate pallets on the main deck of the aircraft, the Boeing 747-400 Combi was practically considered a freighter. The aircraft took flight in 1989 and earned popularity with more than 30 carriers around the world that deployed it on thin passenger routes with a stronger focus on cargo. Many of the carriers that used the type were from Asia. Over its lifespan, Boeing delivered 144 Boeing 747 Combi aircraft, with 58 of them being 400 series aircraft. Production of the Combi aircraft was stopped in 2002. 

Air China, Asiana, EVA Air, and KLM are the last of the Boeing 747 Combi operators. However, all of these carriers have since placed orders for other wide-body aircraft, particularly the Boeing 777-300ER, which features a similar cargo and passenger capacity, but without the ability to accommodate main deck pallets. 

While many are emotionally attached to the Boeing 747 aircraft, emotions are no match for economics and like Philippine Airlines, EVA Air and many other carriers around the world have decided to retire the four-engined Queen of the Skies that consumes too much fuel and requires too many passengers to fill. 

"Like a good car, when it gets old and it's time to replace it, you get sad, of course," says Austin Cheng, President of Taiwan based EVA Air. The carrier has been gradually swapping out the Boeing 747 for the twin-engined Boeing 777 aircraft. The 777-300ER has proven to be the airplane of choice for most carriers seeking to improve operational efficiency. 

While the Boeing 777 aircraft is smaller, most carriers end up losing approximately fifty economy class seats, with the premium cabin seating usually maintained at a level similar to that of the 747. The distinct advantage for the 777 aircraft is its two extremely efficient engines that replace the four older engines of the 747. Overall, the 777 is a vastly more economical aircraft that makes it an obvious choice for airlines as a replacement for older aircraft. In September, Philippine Airlines will retire its entire Boeing 747 fleet and operate Boeing 777 aircraft exclusively to its destinations on the US mainland. 

The EVA Air Boeing 747-400 Combi will continue to be operated until its retirement on routes from Taipei Taoyuan to Manila, Qingdao, Shenzhen, and Tianjin. However, it remains unclear when it's official last flight will be. Early reports suggest that it could be on January 4, 2015 from Shenzhen to Taipei or on January 5, 2015 from Hong Kong to Taipei.  

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