VC10er
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747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 11:29 am

Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

I know that American, Delta and Eastern gave them a whirl many decades ago, but never embraced them long term. But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades. Old Continental seemed to have a number of 747's but soon got rid of them after their rebirth. The 747 was also so important to many international carriers as well, but I am most curious about how split-up US airlines were over them.

Was it their differing business models, routes or fleet strategy (e.g; more frequencies)?

American, Delta and Eastern did obviously require "jumbo" jets (which I think the L-1011, DC-10/MD-11 qualify as Jumbos) but those models also fit into the fleets of the others at the same time as they flew their 747's.

I am really a novice on this topic so please excuse me if the answers are either obvious or well known to others.

Thanks, VC10er
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jfk777
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 11:58 am

There were a number of reason airlines got 747 and some dumped them. AA and Continental got them for Hawaii primarily but them took DC-10's which worked better on domestic flights. Delta did the same with L-1011's. Eastern tried Miami to JFK with them but went with the L-1011, later EA did buy two used Qantas 747's for a MIA to LGW route which died at the last minute and the planes stayed with QF.

PAN AM, Northwest Orient and TWA used them to Europe and Asia which were the longer routes the planes were designed for. The sad thing is the plane to have in 1970, the 747, was the plane that killed them in the 1980 and 1990's. PA and TWA didn't dump the 747 for smaller planes fast enough. PA needed less and less 747 when they sold off the Pacific to UA in 1986. TWA was getting bled dry by Carl Icahn sand selling the London routes to AA certainly didn't hep since many 747 were used to LHR.
 
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BN727227Ultra
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:03 pm

If the 747 had arrived in tandem with US airline deregulation, it would have been a different story. When, in the case of Delta, your longest-haul was ATL-LAX; AA, JFK-LAX; EA, JFK-SJU, thankfully the bean-counters finally convinced the PR people that it was too much aircraft.

Sure, CO had Hawai'i, same for UA, NW Japan, and TW and PA still had a cachet. Braniff tried to grow their own cachet and they did a Texas-sized job of it.

By the time US domestic dereg occurred, DC-10s and Elton-Elevens were ready for high-frequency transcon and Hawai'i. The open-skies revolution arrived in tandem with the 744 but by that time, UA and NW had other places to fly their 744s other than domestic US.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:12 pm

VC10er wrote:
But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades.


What exactly do you mean by "flagship"? The 747 was certainly the biggest plane in their fleet, so very highly visible......but is that all that matters? These airlines had much bigger fleets of 727s, 707s, etc......there is no such a thing as flagship....
 
nitepilot79
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:34 pm

Gr8Circle wrote:
VC10er wrote:
But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades.


What exactly do you mean by "flagship"? The 747 was certainly the biggest plane in their fleet, so very highly visible......but is that all that matters?


Interestingly, LH has the A380 (obviously) yet the 747 is the only plane shown on their homepage:

http://www.lufthansa.com/online/portal/lh/us/homepage
 
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Polot
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:46 pm

VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

Pan Am, United, TWA, and NW had the network to support 747s (although PA/TWA both over ordered), the others (I think it is debatable to say the 747 "worked so well" for Braniff) didn't. AA, DL, EA were primary domestic airlines, the 747 was never a great fit for them (same with UA up until they got PA's Pacific network)
 
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BawliBooch
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:47 pm

FWIR airlines which got PanAm's Pacific rights were the only US airlines to acquire 747's. Perhaps that, more than anything else, was the factor?
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Keith2004
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:52 pm

nitepilot79 wrote:
Gr8Circle wrote:
VC10er wrote:
But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades.


What exactly do you mean by "flagship"? The 747 was certainly the biggest plane in their fleet, so very highly visible......but is that all that matters?


Interestingly, LH has the A380 (obviously) yet the 747 is the only plane shown on their homepage:

http://www.lufthansa.com/online/portal/lh/us/homepage


And Delta has 747 and 777 but show a330 on home page and other marketing materials
 
QueenoftheSkies
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:53 pm

VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

I know that American, Delta and Eastern gave them a whirl many decades ago, but never embraced them long term. But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades. Old Continental seemed to have a number of 747's but soon got rid of them after their rebirth. The 747 was also so important to many international carriers as well, but I am most curious about how split-up US airlines were over them.

Was it their differing business models, routes or fleet strategy (e.g; more frequencies)?

American, Delta and Eastern did obviously require "jumbo" jets (which I think the L-1011, DC-10/MD-11 qualify as Jumbos) but those models also fit into the fleets of the others at the same time as they flew their 747's.

I am really a novice on this topic so please excuse me if the answers are either obvious or well known to others.

Thanks, VC10er


I wouldn't exactly say the 747s worked well for Pan Am.
 
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Keith2004
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 12:58 pm

BawliBooch wrote:
FWIR airlines which got PanAm's Pacific rights were the only US airlines to acquire 747's. Perhaps that, more than anything else, was the factor?


:checkmark:

Never thought about that angle but that makes it obvious. 747 is not needed if international flights are primarily Europe and South America.
UA and NW both needed 747 for Pacific network and later Delta which inherited NW 747s. DC-10, L1011 and later 767 were plenty sufficient for AA, DL, and others
 
jfk777
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 1:06 pm

QueenoftheSkies wrote:
VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

I know that American, Delta and Eastern gave them a whirl many decades ago, but never embraced them long term. But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades. Old Continental seemed to have a number of 747's but soon got rid of them after their rebirth. The 747 was also so important to many international carriers as well, but I am most curious about how split-up US airlines were over them.

Was it their differing business models, routes or fleet strategy (e.g; more frequencies)?

American, Delta and Eastern did obviously require "jumbo" jets (which I think the L-1011, DC-10/MD-11 qualify as Jumbos) but those models also fit into the fleets of the others at the same time as they flew their 747's.

I am really a novice on this topic so please excuse me if the answers are either obvious or well known to others.

Thanks, VC10er


I wouldn't exactly say the 747s worked well for Pan Am.


The 747 was both heaven and hell for PA, it stunk early during the oil crisis of the early 1970's, and worked well until they had no more Asia. The flying done by Delta, AA and others from their hubs to Europe didn;t help PA either. Even though all the 747SP went to United with the Pacific, PA used regular sized 747 to Asia too. PA 747 also suffered from seasonality, PA was famous for flying JFK to Rome with only 100 passengers in the winter.
 
nitepilot79
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 1:11 pm

Gr8Circle wrote:
there is no such a thing as flagship....


Yes there is, it's called a "prop" plane:)
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 1:13 pm

Keith2004 wrote:
BawliBooch wrote:
FWIR airlines which got PanAm's Pacific rights were the only US airlines to acquire 747's. Perhaps that, more than anything else, was the factor?


:checkmark:

Never thought about that angle but that makes it obvious. 747 is not needed if international flights are primarily Europe and South America.
UA and NW both needed 747 for Pacific network and later Delta which inherited NW 747s. DC-10, L1011 and later 767 were plenty sufficient for AA, DL, and others


1970-late 90s I believe the 747 was the only WB aircraft across the Pacific, really shows you how dominant it was.
 
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Keith2004
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 1:20 pm

DaufuskieGuy wrote:
Keith2004 wrote:
BawliBooch wrote:
FWIR airlines which got PanAm's Pacific rights were the only US airlines to acquire 747's. Perhaps that, more than anything else, was the factor?


:checkmark:

Never thought about that angle but that makes it obvious. 747 is not needed if international flights are primarily Europe and South America.
UA and NW both needed 747 for Pacific network and later Delta which inherited NW 747s. DC-10, L1011 and later 767 were plenty sufficient for AA, DL, and others


1970-late 90s I believe the 747 was the only WB aircraft across the Pacific, really shows you how dominant it was.


By 90s you had quite a few 340s and 777s across the Pacific
In 1980s I believe a few DC-10s and L1011s may have been doing US west coast to Japan at least, but not sure
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 1:48 pm

jfk777 wrote:
PA was famous for flying JFK to Rome with only 100 passengers in the winter.


Boy that sure sounds nice. That's a luxury cruise right there :fluffy:
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 2:27 pm

VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

I know that American, Delta and Eastern gave them a whirl many decades ago, but never embraced them long term. But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades. Old Continental seemed to have a number of 747's but soon got rid of them after their rebirth. The 747 was also so important to many international carriers as well, but I am most curious about how split-up US airlines were over them.

Was it their differing business models, routes or fleet strategy (e.g; more frequencies)?

American, Delta and Eastern did obviously require "jumbo" jets (which I think the L-1011, DC-10/MD-11 qualify as Jumbos) but those models also fit into the fleets of the others at the same time as they flew their 747's.

I am really a novice on this topic so please excuse me if the answers are either obvious or well known to others.

Thanks, VC10er


American, Delta & Eastern did not have route structures that kept them full. Northwest, Pan Am, TWA, United had lots of International long range TPAC &/or TATL routes that filled them. 747 was designed for long range overseas service. The DC10 & L1011 were for domestic routes & designed for short runways at LGA as part of the design spec. American, Continental & United went the DC-10 route. Delta & TWA went the L1011 route. That was what they were designed to do efficiently. American tried using them on domestic routes and could not keep them filled. At first every US carrier hopped on the 747 train so they looked as good as the others. Sadly size for the prestige does not make money.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 2:28 pm

VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

I know that American, Delta and Eastern gave them a whirl many decades ago, but never embraced them long term. But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades. Old Continental seemed to have a number of 747's but soon got rid of them after their rebirth. The 747 was also so important to many international carriers as well, but I am most curious about how split-up US airlines were over them.

Was it their differing business models, routes or fleet strategy (e.g; more frequencies)?

American, Delta and Eastern did obviously require "jumbo" jets (which I think the L-1011, DC-10/MD-11 qualify as Jumbos) but those models also fit into the fleets of the others at the same time as they flew their 747's.

I am really a novice on this topic so please excuse me if the answers are either obvious or well known to others.

Thanks, VC10er


The 747s worked for NW & UA, at least up until about 15 years ago, largely because they were used in markets where bilaterals and slots severely restricted frequency and the number of operators, particularly to Asia. The other U.S. carriers held few or no slots at NRT and prior to 1999, all U.S. carriers were only permitted a total of 27 weekly frequencies to China. As air service agreements have been liberalized and more competitors have entered the transpacific markets, the need for the 747 at the traditional incumbents has waned. Note that even as recently as the mid-2000s, JL had the world's largest 747 fleet; today they have none.

Arguably the 747 did not work well for PA and TW as those two airlines both failed eventually. As others have noted, PA did very well in the summer with full 747s to Europe, but they bled massive amounts of cash in the winter flying those aircraft nearly empty across the Atlantic. Unfortunately, they had little flexibility in adapting capacity to market demand, which is a problem faced today for A380 operators as well. The same was true of TW, although they lasted longer thanks to a more robust domestic route network. But the 747s lost money to Europe in the low season for them as well, and TW was one of the pioneers in transatlantic 757 operations late in their history. TW parked their remaining 747s in 1997.

The later CO 747s were inherited from PeoplExpress and seemed to be something of an orphan fleet. In the years leading up to their retirement, they were flying masses of Japanese tourists between NRT & GUM.

Post-deregulation, the domestic market was far better-served by smaller aircraft at greater frequency. There was less capacity risk and greater operational flexibility, and the successful carriers found that a desirable schedule was a better strategy for improving yields than offering larger aircraft.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 2:38 pm

Gr8Circle wrote:
VC10er wrote:
But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades.


What exactly do you mean by "flagship"? The 747 was certainly the biggest plane in their fleet, so very highly visible......but is that all that matters? These airlines had much bigger fleets of 727s, 707s, etc......there is no such a thing as flagship....


Really then why did Virgin Atlantic join the A380 order craze to get the biggest airliner made. Why does Emirates QR & Singapore refer to them as their flagship aircraft. It's because it's the biggest, it stands out and passengers want to say they have been on one. It does not mean its a good Idea to buy them. Ask Thai & Malaysian (Not a good size for their market) & Air France ( purchased to many)
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 2:40 pm

BawliBooch wrote:
FWIR airlines which got PanAm's Pacific rights were the only US airlines to acquire 747's. Perhaps that, more than anything else, was the factor?


FWIR? Do you mean United which did get PanAm's pacific routes?
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 2:44 pm

QueenoftheSkies wrote:
VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?

I know that American, Delta and Eastern gave them a whirl many decades ago, but never embraced them long term. But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades. Old Continental seemed to have a number of 747's but soon got rid of them after their rebirth. The 747 was also so important to many international carriers as well, but I am most curious about how split-up US airlines were over them.

Was it their differing business models, routes or fleet strategy (e.g; more frequencies)?

American, Delta and Eastern did obviously require "jumbo" jets (which I think the L-1011, DC-10/MD-11 qualify as Jumbos) but those models also fit into the fleets of the others at the same time as they flew their 747's.

I am really a novice on this topic so please excuse me if the answers are either obvious or well known to others.

Thanks, VC10er


I wouldn't exactly say the 747s worked well for Pan Am.


They did for years. What killed panAm in the long run was years after deregulation the other US airlines used congress to keep PanAm from building domestic route. By the time Pam Am was allowed to fly domestic. OED-JFK-LHR would be flown but only the single flight domestic. They could not build multiple daily flights for years, while the other US airlines were allowed to add international flights. When they finally were allowed to build a domestic network it was to late. And the slow death of PanAm etched forward.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 2:47 pm

DaufuskieGuy wrote:
Keith2004 wrote:
BawliBooch wrote:
FWIR airlines which got PanAm's Pacific rights were the only US airlines to acquire 747's. Perhaps that, more than anything else, was the factor?


:checkmark:

Never thought about that angle but that makes it obvious. 747 is not needed if international flights are primarily Europe and South America.
UA and NW both needed 747 for Pacific network and later Delta which inherited NW 747s. DC-10, L1011 and later 767 were plenty sufficient for AA, DL, and others


1970-late 90s I believe the 747 was the only WB aircraft across the Pacific, really shows you how dominant it was.


Northwest ran DC-10-40's TPAC during those years.
 
lavalampluva
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 3:27 pm

I suppose another way to look at this is why there are no U.S. air carriers who fly the A380?
Remind me to send a thank you note to Mr. Boeing.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 3:45 pm

nitepilot79 wrote:
jfk777 wrote:
PA was famous for flying JFK to Rome with only 100 passengers in the winter.


Boy that sure sounds nice. That's a luxury cruise right there :fluffy:



If you ever have been on the old -100s PanAm had in the 70s (and the -200s as well), that was far from a cruise. First class had lousy seats but the Food and wine was great, far better than what we get today.

Back to the Topic, going through who was around in the early days of the 747, I think every major had them, plus Flying Tigers and Seaboard Cargo Airlines, except Western Airlines. And that is only those who got factory delivered, second Hand would add some to the list.

Both CP Air and AC plus Wardair in Canada operated trhe 747s as well.
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 3:48 pm

rbavfan wrote:
They did for years. What killed panAm in the long run was years after deregulation the other US airlines used congress to keep PanAm from building domestic route. By the time Pam Am was allowed to fly domestic. OED-JFK-LHR would be flown but only the single flight domestic. They could not build multiple daily flights for years, while the other US airlines were allowed to add international flights. When they finally were allowed to build a domestic network it was to late. And the slow death of PanAm etched forward.


You've got your history backwards. It was during regulation that the domestic airlines lobbied the CAB to prevent PanAm from building out a domestic network or merging. After deregulation in 1978, PanAm was free from CAB controls and allowed to merge and did so with National in 1980.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 3:56 pm

I think BA called Concorde their flagship, back in the day. :old:
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 4:00 pm

lavalampluva wrote:
I suppose another way to look at this is why there are no U.S. air carriers who fly the A380?


You mean, besides the Boeing lobby in D.C.? :-)

US airlines prefer frequency over size. Also, Tokyo and London are the only two destinations that are slot-controlled, and have the pax volume. It would follow that the British and Japanese carriers would at least have the economy-of-scale to buy a decent fleet. BA bit the bullet and bought 380s, Japan Air Lines and ANA didn't (except for that sweetheart deal that ANA got for what is it, three frames?)
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 4:12 pm

lavalampluva wrote:
I suppose another way to look at this is why there are no U.S. air carriers who fly the A380?


Not really. The 747 offered range that no airliner had before. It was also really big. The A380 is big, but doesn't unlock new routes the way the 747 did.
 
32andBelow
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 4:14 pm

PanAm was an absolute mess of a company for its entire history. It is amazing they were in business as long as they were.
 
drdisque
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 4:24 pm

Yeah, Simply, airlines other than PA, NW, and UA didn't have routes that required the 747 after the DC-10 and L1011 came out.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 4:53 pm

lavalampluva wrote:
I suppose another way to look at this is why there are no U.S. air carriers who fly the A380?

None ever flew the A340 either. Going to Australia from LAX, that could have worked pre-ETOPS 330.
 
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Polot
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 4:59 pm

aemoreira1981 wrote:
lavalampluva wrote:
I suppose another way to look at this is why there are no U.S. air carriers who fly the A380?

None ever flew the A340 either. Going to Australia from LAX, that could have worked pre-ETOPS 330.

Granted that is mostly due to bad luck. NW and CO both had A340s on order at one point, but CO couldn't afford them so cancelled the order and NW kept on deferring them due to I believe the early 90s recession and eventually took the A330 instead. DL and AA were MD-11 customers who eventually moved to the 777 and of course UA was the 777 launch customer (and US had no need for the A340 and its range).
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 5:33 pm

Ordering the 747 in the mid/late 1960s was a matter of prestige for most of the regulated carriers. As many here have said, the aircraft was suited for some (Pan Am, TWA, Northwest, arguably United for Hawaii) but very poorly sized for others (American, Continental, Delta, Eastern, National). The only trunk carrier that was disciplined enough not to jump in was Western, and if I'm not mistaken, even they placed a preliminary order before canceling it. Braniff's single 747 worked on the Honolulu run because they had a strong hub providing feed.

Service was the only thing the airlines could compete on in those days, so having the latest and greatest aircraft meant a lot more than it does today. It was a bit of an "arms race" to get the biggest and best plane, and that meant some airlines' eyes were bigger than their stomachs.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 6:03 pm

michman wrote:
rbavfan wrote:
They did for years. What killed panAm in the long run was years after deregulation the other US airlines used congress to keep PanAm from building domestic route. By the time Pam Am was allowed to fly domestic. OED-JFK-LHR would be flown but only the single flight domestic. They could not build multiple daily flights for years, while the other US airlines were allowed to add international flights. When they finally were allowed to build a domestic network it was to late. And the slow death of PanAm etched forward.


You've got your history backwards. It was during regulation that the domestic airlines lobbied the CAB to prevent PanAm from building out a domestic network or merging. After deregulation in 1978, PanAm was free from CAB controls and allowed to merge and did so with National in 1980.

FINALLY someone mentioned NA in this thread! They actually had 747s briefly in the early 70s as well but then went all DC10 for their widebodies.
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 6:15 pm

VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?


America West also had the 747 for a brief period. It did not work out well for them either. They flew it PHX to HNL and to Japan.
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 6:17 pm

The NAL 747's ended up at NW. N620US and N621US. We called them Laverne and Shirley. They were maintenance pigs, and the lavs always smelled....
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 6:24 pm

VC10er wrote:
Looking back over history, especially as I sadly watch the 747 dwindle away, I am curious why the 747 worked so well for Pan Am, United and Northwest, Braniff but not American Airlines, Delta and Eastern?


The title of this thread is somewhat misleading - in actuality, pretty much every single major U.S. carrier in business at the time of the 747's introduction ended up flying at least a few aircraft for at least some period of time. But, as said above, most exited their 747 operations relatively quickly (within 10 years). The reason, as others have said, all comes down to the route networks of these individual airlines. The airlines that tended to continue operating 747s longer-term - Northwest, Pan Am, TWA and United - were the airlines with significant longhaul international/Hawaii networks - that was the niche where the early 747s proved to be economically viable. For all of the other major U.S. 747 operators - AA, Braniff, Delta, Eastern, National, etc. - the plane proved far, far too large for their primarily-domestic networks.

What has ultimately eroded the 747's relevance around the world - and especially with U.S. carriers - is the advent of incredibly advanced, fuel efficient and capable twin-engine aircraft that can perform the same missions as the 747 with better economics. This is precisely what ultimately undermined the 747 across the Atlantic - especially for Pan Am and TWA, which relied on collecting lots of people at JFK and then shuttling them to Europe on 747s. The advent of long-range 767s and ETOPS meant that smaller and/or less-international U.S. entrants could leverage the smaller size and longer range of the 767 to overly JFK and link their large and growing interior U.S. hubs nonstop with Europe. This is exactly what AA and Delta did in the 1980s - and it had a profound effect on the transatlantic market. Fast forward 15-20 years later, and the 777 started having the same effect across the Pacific. Now, with the advent of the 787 and A350, this is only further accelerating - with a 787 or A350, any U.S. carrier can fly nonstop from almost anywhere in the U.S. to almost any of the principle cities of the Pacific Rim.

All of this affected Pan Am and TWA first because they were the carriers most reliant on the 747 across the Atlantic, the first transoceanic corridor to undergo this transformation. With the advent of the 777, Northwest's Pacific franchise at NRT - since merged into Delta - started feeling the same pressure, and has been steadily dismantled, too.

jfk777 wrote:
AA and Continental got them for Hawaii primarily but the[n] took DC-10's which worked better on domestic flights.


I don't think that's really accurate, at least in the case of AA. I don't think AA bought 747s "primarily" for Hawaii. AA's service to Hawaii was limited and non-continuous during the ~10 year period when the airline operated 747s. I think AA purchased 747s much more with dense transcontinental and Caribbean routes in mind. Of course, as already mentioned, economic reality very quickly set in and it became apparent that the 747 was way too large for those markets.
 
lavalampluva
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 6:44 pm

blockski wrote:
lavalampluva wrote:
I suppose another way to look at this is why there are no U.S. air carriers who fly the A380?


Not really. The 747 offered range that no airliner had before. It was also really big. The A380 is big, but doesn't unlock new routes the way the 747 did.


Maybe it wouldn't have opened new routes, but it could have been used to replaced older 747 a/c.
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Western727
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 8:52 pm

nitepilot79 wrote:
Gr8Circle wrote:
VC10er wrote:
But airlines like United, Northwest and especially Pan Am did seem to rely on the 747 as their flagship aircraft for so many decades.


What exactly do you mean by "flagship"? The 747 was certainly the biggest plane in their fleet, so very highly visible......but is that all that matters?


Interestingly, LH has the A380 (obviously) yet the 747 is the only plane shown on their homepage:

http://www.lufthansa.com/online/portal/lh/us/homepage


Intriguing. I would imagine that's a case of marketing having an ideal picture that happened to be of a 747. Plus, let's be honest: while totally subjective, I believe the 747 is likely more photogenic with its "hump" than the 380 is to the layperson. And before I get flamed as a B fanboy, I think the 330 with GE engines, and especially the 350, look nicer than the 380.
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 9:16 pm

32andBelow wrote:
PanAm was an absolute mess of a company for its entire history. It is amazing they were in business as long as they were.


You do, of course, realize all of the "firsts" appropriately attributed to Pan Am? First across the Atlantic, First across the Pacific, First to South America, First around the world? Not to forget their role in WWII?

Pan Am had a colorful leader in Juan Trippe, who made "enemies". So did all of the American carriers of the day: CR Smith at American, Tom Braniff at Braniff, Bob Six at Continental, Woolman at Delta, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker at Eastern, Ted Baker at National, Jack Frye and Howard Hughes at TWA, W.A. "Pat" Paterson at United, just to name a few.

Pan Am had management problems at the end. So did a bunch of others. but they were definitely not an "absolute mess of a company"
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 9:27 pm

superjeff wrote:
32andBelow wrote:
PanAm was an absolute mess of a company for its entire history. It is amazing they were in business as long as they were.


You do, of course, realize all of the "firsts" appropriately attributed to Pan Am? First across the Atlantic, First across the Pacific, First to South America, First around the world? Not to forget their role in WWII?

Pan Am had a colorful leader in Juan Trippe, who made "enemies". So did all of the American carriers of the day: CR Smith at American, Tom Braniff at Braniff, Bob Six at Continental, Woolman at Delta, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker at Eastern, Ted Baker at National, Jack Frye and Howard Hughes at TWA, W.A. "Pat" Paterson at United, just to name a few.

Pan Am had management problems at the end. So did a bunch of others. but they were definitely not an "absolute mess of a company"


I think, in retrospect, the biggest leadership shortcoming that, ultimately, ended up killing Pan Am was the failure to adapt to a changing market. Now, in fairness, it's understandable why Pan Am became complacent and didn't necessarily see, or internalize, the proverbial ground shifting under them as or when they should have. Pan Am started out as an instrument - almost explicitly - of U.S. government foreign policy. In the early days, that worked enormously to Pan Am's benefit - Pan Am was effectively given a government-sanctioned monopoly (or at least oligopoly) almost everywhere it flew. But that bred complacency at the company so that Pan Am didn't sense the proverbial ground shifting beneath it, and didn't respond, and respond as quickly, as it needed to. The world changed. International competition increased. Domestic competition increased just at the moment that Pan Am finally got access to the domestic market. And on and on. In that sense, the 747 at Pan Am is actually quite instructive of this problem. Pan Am got very comfortable flying big, expensive 747s from JFK to Europe, and from SFO to Asia, etc., carrying lots of interline passengers flown in by domestic operators. And then those domestic operators got their own modern, efficient longhaul aircraft and build megahubs. And Pan Am didn't catch it in time, or at least didn't adjust accordingly, and was stranded with that aging fleet of expensive 747s and a network, sales infrastructure and fleet to support it.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 10:25 pm

Not totally relevant to what's being discussed but seeing it took a few posts for someone to add National Airlines to the list of US carriers that initially operated the Boeing 747 but their was one other US airline that ordered it at the time.

Although it wasn't a major US scheduled airline World Airways was also at one time a Boeing 747 operator, the airline ordered it along with the other US majors at the time of its launch but it didn't last long in their fleet as the airline went in favour of the DC10 for their wide body needs.

Transamerica Airlines was another US airline that flew the Boeing 747, I'm not sure if they were factory fresh deliveries but their market was slightly different to World Airways at the time they received them in 1980.
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TigerFlyer
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 10:37 pm

One of the best Bob Crandall quotes: " you can never go broke if you're planes are too small; you can only go broke if your planes are too big".
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Thu May 04, 2017 10:42 pm

TigerFlyer wrote:

One of the best Bob Crandall quotes: " you can never go broke if you're planes are too small; you can only go broke if your planes are too big".


Well put. :yes:
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Which are the children of an idle brain." -Mercutio
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 3:57 am

Excellent thread, one of the best reads on a.net in a long time! I've enjoyed reading everyone's comments here. And, a tip of my baseball cap to our Topic Author. If you are a VC10er, then I must be a Boeing Baritone.
"Your talents may take you where your character can not keep you." - Terry Nelson
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 4:45 am

Its hard to say the 747 worked "well" for US Airlines. Foreign carriers, unlike the US carriers, tend to have a much more focused networks where they are able to funnel traffic through a single strong hub (think LHR for BA, CDG for AF, NRT for JL, etc.) and could use the 747 on trunk routes where there was/is strong consistent traffic. The US on the other hand didn't have a single dominant global gateway and those strong natural gateways that did exist (JFK for TATL; SFO/LA for TPAC; MIA for LatAm) were usually divided with several airlines jockeying for traffic on the same route.

Also: Whereas the European and Asian carriers either had the market to themselves (LH, SR, AZ, SK, KL) or the routes were given to specific carriers (as in the case with UK and France where BA and BR or AF and UTA rarely competed directly against one another) the US airlines were often running against one another on the same route -- PA and TW on TATL; PA and BN/EA on LatAm; NW and PA/UA on TPAC. That split the market to the point where it made it hard for TWA and Pan Am to both fill 747s to Paris.

Northwest, in particular, was able to make the 747s (742s and then 744s) work on the TPAC network because, as others pointed out, they had a very focused network around TYO/NRT. There was a triple whammy of:
1. limited competition due to the strong bi-laterials that limited operations to essentially two US airlines in Asia
2. a length and time zone pattern that made only one bank of mid-day US departures and afternoon JP arrivals preferable rather than offering multiple frequencies and thereby allowing you to funnel all your traffic demand onto one large flight
3. An Asian hub that actually made NW's asian network look more like a foreign carrier than a US carrier and hence have that single point of gathering rather than diffuse hubs.


Note how the over-TYO flying from DTW and post DL merger with the opening of the SEA and LAX gateways made the utility of the 744 (or any very large aircraft) diminish. DL hasn't rushed to add 748/380s or even 77Ws but rather smaller A330s and A350s to run across the pacific because they are looking to diffuse the traffic over four gateways (DTW, SEA, LAX and soon ICN). Similarly in Europe traffic runs across four hubs (JFK, ATL, CDG and AMS). You can offer a lot more options with a 767 or 330 and you have less risk.

Finally, AA and DL's major TATL buildups against TW and PA in the late '80s showed how multiple flights on a 762 during peak season was actually more profitable than a single 747. Not only did you have the flexility to downgrade to a single flight when traffic was light but you could get a ticket premium by going after the different business travelers who wanted the 6 pm or needed the 8 pm departure and more starkly on the other side with morning and afternoon flights back to the US.
 
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 5:14 am

4 engines. The fuel crisis and eventually ETOPS didn't help the case for the 747. A.net lore is that plans were made for a 2-engined 747 but they trashed those plans and then out popped the 777.
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Max Q
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 5:39 am

BN727227Ultra wrote:
If the 747 had arrived in tandem with US airline deregulation, it would have been a different story. When, in the case of Delta, your longest-haul was ATL-LAX; AA, JFK-LAX; EA, JFK-SJU, thankfully the bean-counters finally convinced the PR people that it was too much aircraft.

Sure, CO had Hawai'i, same for UA, NW Japan, and TW and PA still had a cachet. Braniff tried to grow their own cachet and they did a Texas-sized job of it.

By the time US domestic dereg occurred, DC-10s and Elton-Elevens were ready for high-frequency transcon and Hawai'i. The open-skies revolution arrived in tandem with the 744 but by that time, UA and NW had other places to fly their 744s other than domestic US.



Elton-Elevens eh, was that Elton John's Aircraft ?!
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rbavfan
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 6:55 am

N717TW wrote:
Its hard to say the 747 worked "well" for US Airlines. Foreign carriers, unlike the US carriers, tend to have a much more focused networks where they are able to funnel traffic through a single strong hub (think LHR for BA, CDG for AF, NRT for JL, etc.) and could use the 747 on trunk routes where there was/is strong consistent traffic. The US on the other hand didn't have a single dominant global gateway and those strong natural gateways that did exist (JFK for TATL; SFO/LA for TPAC; MIA for LatAm) were usually divided with several airlines jockeying for traffic on the same route.

Also: Whereas the European and Asian carriers either had the market to themselves (LH, SR, AZ, SK, KL) or the routes were given to specific carriers (as in the case with UK and France where BA and BR or AF and UTA rarely competed directly against one another) the US airlines were often running against one another on the same route -- PA and TW on TATL; PA and BN/EA on LatAm; NW and PA/UA on TPAC. That split the market to the point where it made it hard for TWA and Pan Am to both fill 747s to Paris.

Northwest, in particular, was able to make the 747s (742s and then 744s) work on the TPAC network because, as others pointed out, they had a very focused network around TYO/NRT. There was a triple whammy of:
1. limited competition due to the strong bi-laterials that limited operations to essentially two US airlines in Asia
2. a length and time zone pattern that made only one bank of mid-day US departures and afternoon JP arrivals preferable rather than offering multiple frequencies and thereby allowing you to funnel all your traffic demand onto one large flight
3. An Asian hub that actually made NW's asian network look more like a foreign carrier than a US carrier and hence have that single point of gathering rather than diffuse hubs.


Note how the over-TYO flying from DTW and post DL merger with the opening of the SEA and LAX gateways made the utility of the 744 (or any very large aircraft) diminish. DL hasn't rushed to add 748/380s or even 77Ws but rather smaller A330s and A350s to run across the pacific because they are looking to diffuse the traffic over four gateways (DTW, SEA, LAX and soon ICN). Similarly in Europe traffic runs across four hubs (JFK, ATL, CDG and AMS). You can offer a lot more options with a 767 or 330 and you have less risk.

Finally, AA and DL's major TATL buildups against TW and PA in the late '80s showed how multiple flights on a 762 during peak season was actually more profitable than a single 747. Not only did you have the flexility to downgrade to a single flight when traffic was light but you could get a ticket premium by going after the different business travelers who wanted the 6 pm or needed the 8 pm departure and more starkly on the other side with morning and afternoon flights back to the US.



LHR, CDG, NRT are all slot constrained & they have a monopoly. That has more to do with it than strong consistent traffic.
 
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BN727227Ultra
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 11:42 am

Max Q wrote:
Elton-Elevens eh, was that Elton John's Aircraft ?!


:-) If not, it should have been!
 
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Channex757
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Re: 747: why did some US carries fly them and others not?

Fri May 05, 2017 12:17 pm

cha747 wrote:
4 engines. The fuel crisis and eventually ETOPS didn't help the case for the 747. A.net lore is that plans were made for a 2-engined 747 but they trashed those plans and then out popped the 777.

Boeing did have plans for a trijet version at one stage, that looked much like a TriStar with the hump. Aerodynamically it would have been a nightmare as the hump would have washed the tail engine out in the same way the very early 727s used to have issues with the centreline engine.

No doubt they could have solved it in time but obviously they went in different directions.

To get back to the original thread, the US carriers went for the 747 because of the "halo" effect. That hump was probably the biggest factor at the time. Passengers saw mockups and TV clips of the lounge with its swivel chairs and even a baby grand piano, and nobody wanted to be left behind in that arms race. Unfortunately the sales of the back of the plane where passengers sit and ironically would never get to see the hump couldn't justify the huge extra costs of the 747 so those airlines flying domestic and with shorter stage lengths found better alternatives.

The same happened with several European carriers who basically went extra large when their passenger sales were medium at best.

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