If a carrier is experiencing low load factors on certain routes, replacing a 747-400 with a 777-300ER is definitely a consideration. There is an approximately 50 passenger difference in capacity between the aircraft (416 vs. 365), therefore, if the airline needs the capacity, then the 744 wouldn't go anywhere. However, given our current and forecasted economic situation, that capacity isn't always going to be needed. The situation becomes even more complicated when you consider the 773ER carries a little over 1,000 cubic feet more cargo than its Everett sibling (7,080 vs. 6,025). The range difference is virtually negligible (8,430 miles for the 744, 8,350 miles for the 773ER). In fact, this will probably be erased with a rumored MTOW increase for the big twin. A final selling point for the 773ER would be the inherent efficiency of running 2 engines vs. 4. To accomplish its mission, which comes down to more pax, less cargo versus the 773ER, the 744 burns a maximum 57,285 gallons of fuel. The 773ER, carrying fewer passengers but more cargo, burns nearly 10,000 fewer
gallons, at 47,890. In so doing, it makes the 777 considerably lighter as well, with a MTOW of 750,000 lbs. vs. 875,000 lbs. for the 744.
The final point to raise, therefore, is the question of timing. As Boeing747-400
already pointed out, the 744 is not all that old, comparatively. The first aircraft was delivered to Northwest in January of 1989, and we all know how Northwest feels about renewing their fleet.
However, when one looks at an airline such as Singapore, whose first 744 entered the fleet 2 months later, you do begin to wonder. Flight International
already ran an article, stating that SQ was considering replacing some early 747-400s with the 777-300ER. There have also been persistent rumors from both British Airways and United Airlines about doing the same. Time will tell if it ever happens. Unfortunately, time is one thing the 744 does not have on its side.
Honor the warriors, not the war.