Why was the 747SP not very successful with sales and longevity in service with the airlines that did purchase it?

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    $\begingroup$ Not quite sure, but downsizing a design tends to de-optimize the airframe from a weight perspective (much easier to add structure when upsizing than to pare away structure when downsizing) and the seat-mile operating cost numbers may have been inferior as a result, which is the main reason operators would move on from it in time. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 2:06
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    $\begingroup$ What are you asking? Your question title is asking whether it was a success or not, then your body asks why it wasn't successful. Which is your question? If it's the first it's possibly opinion based, the second is more answerable. In any case there seems to be a decent amount of information online which explains it, what's missing from that? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 9:01
  • $\begingroup$ It’s quite a simple question for you to understand! Why did the SP not sell very well. Did Boeing underestimate the market for such a aircraft type? $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ @keithjackson If you are asking why, then please amend your question title. If you are asking whether, then please amend your question text. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 11:43

1 Answer 1


It just was not a great fit for the use case it was built for at the time it was released:

The Boeing 747SP was hit by the same problem that many airlines have suffered from throughout history… rising fuel costs. The aircraft was heavy, didn’t carry as many passengers as a normal 747 and was expensive to run (four engines after all). Boeing had expected to build up to 200 of these aircraft, but their dreams were never realized.

Additionally, by the early 1980’s, other aircraft started to arrive that could easily perform the same route and provide a better passenger experience. The last commercial flight of the Boeing 747SP flew in 2006 for Iran Air. As the country is currently under embargo and spare parts cannot be flown in from Boeing, it is likely that they retired them out of necessity, rather than just replacing them with something better.

It was a clunky 4 engine fuel hog, which was not great with rising oil prices

The aircraft, despite its long range, was not popular with airlines, and only 45 were built. This was mainly due to its four-engine configuration, which meant high fuel usage and higher costs for airlines, making it difficult to break even on ultra-long-haul flights. Shorter flights weren’t profitable either, as the 747SP’s high fuel capacity added weight and increased fuel burn on short hops. The aircraft’s failure was not due to a lack of effort on the part of airlines.


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