Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) formally retired its Boeing 747 aircraft, marking a key milestone in the type's gradual disappearance from the world's airliner fleet.

The widebody, which was a domestic variant of the 747-400, operated its last flight on the Tokyo Haneda-Okinawa route, says an ANA spokesman. The particular aircraft bears the registration JA8961.

The retirement marks the end of passenger service for the 747 in Japan, where the type was once widely used by both ANA and its competitor Japan Airlines, one of the 747's first customers.

The carrier also retired its Bombardier Dash 8 Q300s. With the retirement of the Q300s, it also ended its daily Tokyo Haneda-Miyakejima service, where Flightglobal’s FlightMaps Analytics shows that ANA was the sole operator on the route.

ANA Boeing 747 final flight

ANA Boeing 747 final flight

ANA Boeing 747 final flight

ANA Boeing 747 final flight

All Nippon Airways

Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database shows that ANA operated four variants of the 747: the -100 Short Range (SR), -200s, -400s and its domestic version -400D. It took delivery of its first 747s – two -100 Short Range models – in December 1978.

The spokesman says the airline ordered a total 47 Boeing 747s. It operated 39 aircraft of all four variants at the peak of its 747 usage in the late 1990s.

During the mid-2000s ANA started retiring the type, with the -100SRs and -200s being the first to go. By 2010, it had just three -400s. These were subsequently retired by the end of 2011. This left the carrier with eight -400Ds in service, which have been gradually phased out.

Responding to queries made by Flightglobal in September 2013, ANA had ruled out the possibility of acquiring very large widebodies such as the Airbus A380 or 747-8I for domestic operations, as a declining Japanese population and fiercer competition from high-speed rail have resulted in greater demand for mid-sized aircraft.

Instead, Boeing 777-300s with 514 seats have replaced the 747 on domestic services, the airline added.

Source: FlightGlobal.com