More than two dozen airlines had already committed to buying the 747 First shown to the public. In 1970, the 747 took its first commercial flight, carrying more than 300 Pan Am passengers from New York to London.
It became an instant public sensation. The four-engine plane was much larger than the others and could fit hundreds of people in rows of up to 10 seats. The upper floor, reached by a spiral staircase, hosted a luxurious lounge. American Airlines installed a piano bar in the main cabin.
Orders started coming in, bringing in much-needed revenue for Boeing. Owning a 747 became a status symbol for airlines. Some companies bought the aircraft even though it was not suitable for their needs.
The most important reason airlines bought the plane was because the 747 helped keep costs down. Since the plane can carry more passengers in a single trip, airlines can sell tickets more cheaply, making air travel affordable for people.
Boeing produced several versions of the plane in the 1970s and 80s for different applications and improved how much it could carry and how far it could fly. In 1989, the company unveiled a major upgrade, the 747-400, which became the airline’s best-selling model. Boeing sold more 747s in the 1990s than any other decade.
But as airplanes became popular, the world began to move.
Smaller, more efficient twin-engine airplanes can now fly longer distances. Their small size means that airlines can offer direct international routes between smaller cities. such as St. Louis and Frankfurt.
In the mid-90s, Boeing introduced the 777, which was almost as large as the 747. With two engines, it was more advanced and efficient. A decade later, Boeing’s main competitor, Airbus, introduced the A380, which carries more passengers than the 747. But Airbus struggled to sell the plane. Announcing the end of production In 2019.