The retirement of the Boeing 747-400 is part of the China Airlines NexGen Plan. For all related news, please refer to:
Update 2015: The Airbus A340-300 (A343) retirement has also kicked off. B-18801 has been flown to Victorville while the second A343 to be retired will leave by the end of 2015. As for the 747-400, 2 more will leave the fleet towards the end of 2015. All 747s delivered before 2000 are expected to be retired soon while the 4 delivered in the mid-2000s will stay for the short term. The regional subsidiary of China Airlines, Mandarin Airlines, will start retiring its Embraer ERJ190 (E90) fleet, with 2 leaving in 2015. The E90 will be replaced by the larger Boeing 737-800.
By Kai-Chin Shih/ 20 JUN 2014/ TAIPEITAIWAN/ talkairlines.wordpress.com
China Airlines has announced plans for the retirement of all of its passenger version Boeing 747-400s in favour of the more economical Boeing 777-300ERs & Airbus A350-900XWBs. According to the Chairman of the company, the first 747-400 of the plan to be retired will leave Taiwan by late-2014. China Airlines is one of the largest 747 operators in the world and the last customer of the passenger version 747-400. The airline is undergoing fleet renewal process to enhance both its profitability & reputation. The first Boeing 747-400s of the plan to be retired will be N168CL and B-18251. In particular, B-18251, delivered in 1995, is the oldest 747 of the current China Airlines fleet. Over the past few years, China Airlines has retired a few 747-400s, of which 2 became the Boeing 747-400LCF “Dreamlifter”.
China Airlines has ordered 10 Boeing 777-300ER & 14 Airbus A350-900XWB for its next generation long-haul fleet. The 777-300ERs will be replacements of the 747-400s while the A350-900XWB will be replacing the A340-300. The 777-300ERs will either be leased or sold to leasing companies. This indicates that China Airlines is not planning on using the aircraft kind for long and is planning on ordering other next generation aircraft, likely the Boeing 777X, 747-8, or the Airbus A350-1000XWB. Fleet renewal is crucial for China Airlines as it is directly linked to the unprofitability of the carrier. China Airlines has not been able to profit from many of its long haul routes due to the inefficiency of the aircraft kinds deployed on the particular routes. China Airlines mainly flies the Boeing 747-400 and the Airbus A340-300 to North American & European destinations. Ever since oil prices sky-rocketed to over 100 USD per barrel, the fuel-guzzling four-engine jets have made profiting a rather challenging task. Routes including the Taipei Taoyuan – New York JFK route have not been making money for years while the Taipei Taoyuan – London Heathrow nonstop route was cancelled due to heavy losses. Yet, the airline’s failure to decide the replacement for its 747s earlier and the delay of the Airbus A350 have forced the carrier to continue using out-of-date and inefficient jetliners while competitors are busy making profits & expanding networks utilising next-generation aircraft.
How can the Boeing 777-300ER & Airbus A350-900XWB help China Airlines make money on its long-haul routes? According to the carrier, each 777-300ER’s cost per year can be up to 10M USD/ 22% lower than the Boeing 747-400. The 777-300ER also has a significantly larger belly-cargo capacity compared to the 747-400. The A350-900XWB is even more efficient, with an efficiency rate of up to 20% lower than the Boeing 777-300ER.
China Airlines has had a successful medium/short-range fleet plan but a disastrous long-haul fleet plan. The Airbus A330-300 & Boeing 737-800 are extremely economical and the carrier is still placing orders for more of the kinds. The Boeing 747-400 & the Airbus A340-300 are, however, inefficient and unprofitable. While both are uneconomical, the A340-300 is even worse due to its lower capacity and worse in-flight performance. Also noteworthy is that China Airlines was the last customer of the passenger version Boeing 747-400. The cargo fleet plan wasn’t successful either. The 747-400F was first a great addition to the fleet and helped China Airlines Cargo become one of the largest cargo airlines in the world. However, ever since the global recession & the rise of smaller technological devices, the airline has been having troubles filling up its freighter jets. The airline’s cargo division hasn’t been able to make profits since a few years ago and has sent 3 747-400Fs to Victorville, an aircraft boneyard, for storage. China Airlines currently operates 34 Boeing 747-400s, including 13 passenger-versions and 21 cargo-versions. The airline was the last customer of the passenger version 747-400. B-18215 was the last passenger 747-400 built and was delivered in 2005.