Air China has celebrated the delivery of its first ever Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental – the new version of Boeing’s famous old jumbo jet.
The new aircraft took off from Boeing’s factory in the US this week, bound for Beijing, where it will join Air China’s long-haul fleet. Air China becomes the first airline in Asia and only the second in the world, after Lufthansa, to operate the passenger version of the B747-8.
“Air China has been operating 747s since the 1980s,” said the airline’s president, Song Zhiyong. “This iconic airplane has played an important role in Air China’s international development and has also witnessed many milestones of the reform and opening-up of China. We are very proud to introduce the new 747-8 into our fleet to continue its tradition into the future.”
Based on the design of the original B747, with its bulb-shaped head creating space for an upper deck of seating at the front of the aircraft, the new B747-8 is the longest commercial aircraft in the world, stretching 76.3 metres from nose to tail.
Air China has equipped its B747-8s with 365 seats in three cabins – 12 in first class, 54 in business class and 299 in economy. This makes it the biggest aircraft in Air China’s fleet, with 21 more seats than the old B747-400.
And the B747-8 will also be more economical than its predecessor, offering “double-digit improvements in fuel consumption and emissions” compared to the B747-400, according to Boeing.
Despite this however, the new B747 has not been especially popular with passenger airlines. To date, just five carriers have committed to the B747-8 Intercontinental: existing operators, Air China and Lufthansa, plus Korean Air, Russia’s Transaero Airlines and Nigeria’s Arik Air.
Air China will initially deploy the new aircraft on the Beijing-Guangzhou route, before commencing long-haul services to Frankfurt in January 2015. In total, Air China has ordered seven B747-8s.