Korean Air 747s in 2024: Routes, Fleet & Retirement Plans

Korean Air is one of the few remaining major Boeing 747 operators. Together with Air China and Lufthansa, it is also one of the only three operators of the passenger version of the 747’s last variant, the 747-8.

Continue reading to see what routes the Korean Air 747s are being deployed on, how many airframes the airline operates, and what its Queen of the Skies retirement plans are.

Korean Air 747s
Korean Air 747s at Incheon Airport.

Korean Air 747 Routes

At this point, three destinations are served by by Korean Air 747-8s out of Seoul Incheon, where they are based. Those include:

  • Atlanta
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle
  • New York JFK

Later on, other routes might be added to the schedule. Now and then, the 747-8 is also used as a substitute aircraft on shorter high-density routes like Seoul Incheon – Tokyo Narita and Seoul Incheon – Taipei Taoyuan.

Korean Air 747 Routes
Routes the Korean Air 747 could be seen on regularly at one point or another in 2024. (Map generated using Great Circle Mapper)

On flights from Seoul Incheon to Atlanta and Paris CDG, the Korean Air 747 is scheduled to appear daily until the end of the currently released schedule (October 2024). Chances are the aircraft will continue being deployed on those routes after that as well. The 747-8 is scheduled to operate the sole daily rotations on those routes – KE35/KE36 and KE901/KE902 respectively.

Korean Air serves the only other route operated using the A380, Seoul – New York JFK, twice a day. Until May 10, 2024, and after October 6, 2024, the 747 is scheduled to operate both rotations. Between those two dates, only KE85/KE86 is scheduled to be operated by the 747 while the KE81/KE82 rotation is scheduled to be operated by the A380.

Earlier this year, the 747s also served on:

  • Korean Air’s single daily rotation between Seoul Incheon and Sydney (until January 15, 2024, out of Seoul, and January 16, 2024, out of Sydney)
  • The airline’s daily flight to Honolulu (KE53/KE54) until March 30, 2023
  • One of its three daily rotations between Seoul Incheon and Singapore, KE645/KE646, between January 17, 2024, and March 30, 2024, (a day later in the direction to Seoul)

Korean Air 747 Fleet

Korean Air has been using one variant of Boeing 747 or another continuously since 1973 when it put its first 747-200C into service. Since then, it also operated some other 747-200 subvariants, 747-300s, 747-400s, and 747-8s at one point or another.

Today, it operates a fleet of 747-400 freighters and 747-8 freighters and passenger aircraft. It is the only airline that uses both the passenger 747-8i and the cargo 747-8F.

Zooming in on active passenger aircraft, Korean Air received a total of 10 747-8s from Boeing between 2015 and 2017.

Nine of those continue to operate Korean Air’s scheduled flights while one, HL7643 (MSN 60410, delivered in 2017), has been re-registered to 22001 (a military registration) and is being used by the South Korean Air Force as its VIP transport aircraft.

It’s also worth noting that two of the nine, HL7630 and HL7638 appear to be currently inactive, presumably due to maintenanc. Another thing worth knowing is that another one of Korean Air 747-8s, HL7644, is the last passenger 747 ever built.

Below is a list of all Korean Air 747s (all 747-8s):

  • HL7630 (MSN 40905, delivered in 2015)
  • HL7631 (MSN 40906, delivered in 2015)
  • HL7632 (MSN 40907, delivered in 2015)
  • HL7633 (MSN 40908, delivered in 2015)
  • HL7636 (MSN 60407, delivered in 2016)
  • HL7637 (MSN 40909, delivered in 2016, inactive since August 2023)
  • HL7638 (MSN 60408, delivered in 2016)
  • HL7642 (MSN 60409, delivered in 2017)
  • HL7644 (MSN 60411, delivered in 2017)
Korean Air 747
In the past, Korean Air used to operate the passenger version of the 747-400.

Korean Air 747 Seat Configuration

All Korean Air Boeing 747-8s are in the same 368-seat, three-class configuration. They are equipped with:

  • 6 first class suites in a 1-1 layout (at the very front of the main deck)
  • 48 lie-flat business class seats including 26 on the main deck behind first class in a 2-2-2 layout and 22 on the upper deck in a 2-2 layout
  • 314 economy class seats in a 3-4-3 layout (2-4-2 in the very back of the aircraft)

Unlike Air China’s and Lufthansa’s first class on the 747, Korean Air’s 747 first class seats are suites equipped with doors. In business class, the Korean Air 747-8s are equipped with Apex Suites – arguably one of the best if not the best business class hard products around.

Korean Air 747 Retirement Plans

Having been built between 2015 and 2017, Korean Air’s 747-8s are fairly young. That said, with the airline making a transition from operating four-engined aircraft, it already has a timeline in place for the retirement of the Jumbo Jets.

Korean Air’s CEO Cho Won-Tae was interviewed by FlightGlobal. In the interview, he outlined the future of both quad jets the airline operates. At the time, Cho said, “the A380s will be leaving Korean Air’s fleet within five years, and the Boeing 747-8i fleet will also follow suit within ten years.”

With that, it seems like the last passenger 747 will leave Korean Air’s fleet by 2031 at the latest. As Korean Air’s A380s will be retired by 2026, the 747 retirement will also mark the end of the airline’s long history of operating four-engined passenger jets.

The timeline for Korean Air’s passenger 747 retirement was further clarified when on May 8, 2024, it was revealed that Korean Air will sell five of its 747-8s to Sierra Nevada Corporation, which will be modified into “doomsday planes” for the US Air Force.

The sale, valued at approximately 675 million dollars, is expected to take place in September 2025, at which point, the airline’s passenger 747 fleet will shrink to just four airframes.

Korean Air 747-8
In addition to passenger aircraft, Korean Air also operates 747 freighters.


Korean Air operates a fleet of just under 10 passenger 747-8s. The aircraft are primarily used on long-haul flights to the United States, Australia, and Europe, but they also appear on shorter flights within Asia. Currently, the aircraft serves Atlanta, New York, and Paris.

While the days of Korean Air operating passenger 747s are already counted, with the retirement expected to take place by 2031, it will still be possible to see and fly on them for quite a few years.

Originally published on 2023/12/15. Updated on 2024/05/09 with current routes and latest retirement plan.

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