EVERETT — Boeing just lost 7 percent of its unfilled 747 orders.
A Nigerian carrier, Arik Air, swapped its order for two 747-8s for two 787-9 Dreamliners. That drops the number of unfilled orders for the 747-8 passenger version to seven. Boeing also has 19 orders for the more popular 747-8 freighter.
The cancelled 747s came as no surprise. Indeed, that Arik Air even ordered the jumbo jets was far more surprising.
It’s a small carrier with two long-haul routes: Lagos-London and Lagos-New York. It also flies to Johannesburg, South Africa.
Most of its flights are short-haul hops to its West African neighbors or domestic flights in Nigeria.
The U.S. Air Force likely will place the next — and last — order for a 747 passenger version when it goes ahead with replacing its aging Air Force One presidential jets, said Scott Hamilton, an aerospace industry analyst based on Bainbridge Island.
Boeing’s delivered 41 747-8 Intercontinentals — the name for the passenger version — and has seven unfilled orders. So, there just aren’t many passenger versions in the air. The 747-8 freighter has been far more popular, with 88 orders placed, including 19 unfilled ones.
The low numbers make it harder to get spare parts and to service the aircraft, which means higher maintenance and operational costs. Those costs go up for passenger airlines, because freighters and jetliners often fly different routes, Hamilton said.
“Anywhere you fly a 737, you can walk across the tarmac and get a spare if you have a good relationship with other airlines,” he said.
For 747-8 International operators, it’s a much longer walk for spares.