The first 747-100 from Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) was put into service in 1970, and those first planes sold at a list price of $24 million. Adjusting for inflation, that same 747 would sell today for $146.6 million. So why does Boeing list the passenger version of a new 747-8 for $356.9 million and the freight-hauling version at $357.5 million?
Since that first delivery to Pan Am in 1970, Boeing has delivered 1,487 747s. And it has 51 orders for new planes on its books, 30 for the 747-8 passenger plane and 21 for the 747-8F freighter. Boeing delivered a total of 250 of the original 747-100s, the last in 1986. The follow-on model, the 747-200, was first put into commercial service in 1971, and Boeing delivered 393 of this model before production was stopped in 1991. The 747-300 followed in 1983, and 81 were delivered before production was halted in 1990.
The first 747s were available only with engines from Pratt & Whitney, now part of United Technologies Inc. (NYSE: UTX). By 1975 both General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE) and Rolls-Royce were also making engines for the aircraft.
Boeing’s 400 series 747s were the only aircraft on the market with 400 seats, and they became the best-selling 747s in the company’s history, with 694 sold since becoming available in 1989. The 747-400 has a range of approximately 8,400 miles and weighs about 5,000 pounds less than its predecessor. The 400 series also improved the 747’s fuel economy by about 3% by adding winglets.
While the 747-400 and the 747-400ER are still available, Boeing is trying to steer customers to the 747-8, which the company announced in 2005, delivering the first plane in 2008. The 747-8 is longer than the 747-400 and uses the same engines and cockpit technology as the 787 Dreamliner. The passenger version, often referred to as the 747-8I, is designed to carry 467 passengers at a cruising speed of 650 miles per hour. The plane carries 64,055 gallons of fuel.
The price of the 747-8 includes four engines, compared with two on the 787 Dreamliner and on the $320 million 777-300. Boeing claims the new plane will be 10% lighter per seat and consume 11% less fuel than the A380 from its chief rival Airbus, which is designed to carry 555 passengers. The Airbus A380 carries a list price of $414 million.
The more advanced engines, the more sophisticated cockpit technology, the larger carrying capacity — all these add up to a new 747-8 that costs more than double the original’s inflation adjusted price.