Air India is planning to phase out Boeing 747s that it has been operating for around 50 years now. The airline got its first jumbo jet, a B747-200B named Emperor Ashoka, in 1971. For years, the airline was operating the B747-4 version that has an extended upper deck.
Three of the four B747s in the Air India fleet were mainly being used for VVIP flights but last year the government procured two new updated Boeing 777s as India's version of Air Force One. Those will exclusively be used to fly the President, Prime Minister and Vice President during ultralong/long/medium haul international trips.
The airline recently informed the government that it would not be required to use B747s much for VVIP flights, as mentioned in a report in Times of India. A senior official said that they are planning to phase out the jumbo jets and that the final decision would be taken by the AI board in the next meeting. "Their residual value lies in the about 10 engines we have of these 747s that could fetch about $2 million apiece," said the official.
With the 747s, Air India under JRD Tata introduced a new way of luxurious travelling. However, air travel was drastically reduced during the pandemic impacting aviation operations globally. Some of the new-gen four-engine passenger jets are also being overlooked and the frugal twin-engine medium/long haul jets are being preferred.
The upper deck of the B747 that could be accessed by a staircase, saw guests such as young Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, along with grandmother former PM Indira Gandhi.
B747s were also used for commercial flights in the last two decades. The government would inform the airline in advance when the planes were required for VIP flights. The lower deck in such cases would be removed to make way for beds and meeting area for the dignitaries.
Air India was the only commercial Indian airline to operate four-engine aircraft. Vijay Mallya had ordered the Airbus A340s for Kingfisher but could not induct them before the airline shut operations in 2012.