KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is swapping the iconic Boeing 747 for the newer, more efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner on its Houston-Amsterdam route.
With the departure of that final 747 Combi, which carries people and cargo, Houston will no longer have a passenger airline regularly flying the 747.
KLM is just one of many airlines phasing out the double-decker plane. The 747 introduced travelers to wide-body airplanes and helped make flying affordable, but it has lost ground to more fuel-efficient aircraft that can travel farther distances.Last Friday's flight from Houston to Amsterdam was KLM's last using the 747.
Another service using 747 equipment out of IAH is calling it quits at the end of the week, as well: the petroleum-industry-focused "Houston Express," a scheduled charter service linking Houston to Luanda, Angola, is also ending operations this Friday. The service, operated by Atlas Air on behalf of SonAir, gave Bush Intercontinental the distinction of being the only airport in the United States to offer service to six continents:
On Friday, North American oil company Chevron confirmed that the final Houston Express flight will depart Houston on March 28, about 17 years after the first flight took off. The company cited “financial and commercial difficulties” as reasons for ending the flight. Without this direct connection from Houston, workers will have to go through much longer routings to get to Angola.
Technically, the Houston Express will also be the last regularly scheduled passenger flight operating with a U.S. registered passenger Boeing 747. It is unknown what will happen to the two 747s used for the flight, but they will most likely be returned to their leaser. While there will be no direct connections between Houston and Africa for some time, IAH may regain its title if Angola’s national carrier TAAG Angola Airlines decides to reconnect the cities using one of its 777s in the future.Cargo and charter services will continue to operate 747 equipment into Bush Intercontinental, and Lufthansa might occasionally use a 747 on its service to and from Frankfurt when an Airbus 380 isn't available. But this is otherwise it as far as regular, scheduled passenger flights out of IAH using the 747. It's just another example of the gradual disappearance of the 747 from American skies.
If you still want to see four-engined widebodies serving Houston, however, you're not out of luck: in addition to the aforementioned Lufthansa A380 that flies the IAH-FRA route, Emirates is returning the A380 to its IAH-DXB service in June.
It bears repeating that the main reason the 747 is disappearing from the skies is because newer two-engined aircraft such as the Boeing Dreamliner are doing things it could never do; for example, the first-ever nonstop flight between Australia and London.