A commercial aviation and travel blog.

Classic Aircraft Still in Commercial Passenger Service

There are many aviation fans out there that would love to fly on a classic airliner, but most don’t realize that it is still a possibility. The truth is that many historic commercial aircraft are still in passenger service today and grabbing a ticket on one of these old birds is not as hard as some might think. However, with technology constantly improving and becoming more affordable, you better fly on these while you have the chance, as they are sure to be phased out before too long. The a300, the first aircraft produced by Airbus Industrie of France, entered service in 1974 with Air France. The aircraft was the first twin-engine widebody airliner ever created. Today, Air Transat of Canada flies the a300, as well as the shortened version, the a310, to destinations in Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. You can’t wait too long if you want to fly on one of these heavy classics though, as they are going to be phased out of Air Transat’s fleet between 2013 and 2016. A few other carriers operate the a300 and a310 around the world but they are very few and far between.

Air Transat a310 on Approach Into Toronto-Pearson (Photo by Kyle Dunst)

Although it is only 22 years old, some people still consider the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 a Classic, as it is based off the DC-10 which was was introduced into service in 1971.  The MD-11 is one of the most iconic aircraft of all time, with its 3 engines and massive size. In addition to the many cargo carriers that still operate the type, the MD-11 is still in use with a few commercial carriers. The main operator is KLM, which operates a few out of it’s Amsterdam hub to long haul destinations around the world. Saudi Arabian Airlines, Martinair, and few others also operate the MD-11 on commercial passenger routes. The Boeing 747 is not a rare aircraft to see at airports around the world, as there are literally thousands in service. However, the 747 Classics are a little more rare, but not impossible to find in commercial operation. The 747 “Classic” Family, which includes the 747-100, 747-200, 747-300, and 747SP, are the aircraft made famous by airlines like TWA, Pan-Am, and Braniff. Saudi Arabian Airlines still operates about 5 of the type, including a 747SP, on regularly scheduled passenger routes. A few other operators around the world operate a couple, mostly 747-200’s. These are getting very hard to find in passenger service, as most have been converted to Cargo Freighters. Air North, of the Yukon in Canada, operates Hawker-Siddeley HS-748 on various scheduled and chartered passenger routes throughout North America. The HS-748, a small twin turboprop, has been in service since 1960. Know of any others out there? I know the DC-3 is still being used for passenger operations out there somewhere.


  1. John John
    July 1, 2012    

    Buffalo Air/Yellowknife
    DC 3 and 4 Curtis C46 and Electra’s still in the mix

  2. Justin Justin
    July 2, 2012    

    How could you guys have not mentioned Delta’s remaining DC-9-51s? Those birds remain the oldest commercial jets still operating in the United States regularly! The oldest one in the fleet is 34 years old!

    • thirtythousand thirtythousand
      July 2, 2012    

      Flew on one from CLT-ATL last month and it was in great shape. I guess because of that and the fact that there are so many out there, I forgot how old they really are!

  3. Cedarglen Cedarglen
    July 2, 2012    

    Nice post. I guess we must be of very different generations; I thought you were going to tell me where I could find a ‘regularly scheduled’ flight on a DC-6. My first flight was on a DC-6, SEA-PDX-Disneyland (skipped LAX and went right to Disneyland if I recall correctly , about six months after the place opened. I may have missed LAX, but I do remember visiting the cockpit. Wow! The Captain asked me to reach up and push a little red button on the overhead panel “… and please push it three times…” I have no idea what signal he was sending or to whom, but that little red button Honked The Horn! Who wudda thunk it? Nice post just the same.

    • thirtythousand thirtythousand
      July 2, 2012    

      That sounds awesome. Really wish I had the chance to fly on aircraft like that. Not sure if there are any out there flying still, but I’d buy a flight on one in a heartbeat. Thanks for reading!

  4. Sabrina Sabrina
    July 2, 2012    

    If I hit the Lottery, there is a Martin 202-A that I know of. The owner knows that I would have it totally restored, in Allegheny Airlines colors, and have it giving rides at airshows. He said I can have it for 70,000 dollars. He flew it to where it is parked, and it is all there. THEN it would just around 5 or 6 million of my lottery winnings to get it restored to like mid 1950’s condition. Wish me luck guys.

  5. Lanny Lanny
    July 30, 2012    

    Did no one think of the old L-1011? Delta was the last US carrier to fly them. I always made a point to pick my flights from ATL to LGW just so I could get a few more rides on ’em. They belched out black smoke and sounded like the engines were going to blow on start up. The sounds and shakes didn’t get any better on take off. The overhead bins would sway, rattle and squeak like they were going to drop right off on your head. The wings flapped like a real bird trying to take off. All of this making you think you were going to die then and there but then… those wheels lifted up and it was like flying on a cloud. I have flown over a million miles, on a lot of aircraft, and the L-1011 still has my heart!

  6. December 21, 2013    

    My favourite classic aircraft is the DC-8-62. Air Jamaica had 1 and two of the series dc8-61 Very graceful and steady in the air . A bit loud in the cabin just after take off but once up to 35000 ft the noise fades Air Jamaica also flew the dc8- 50 series those were really loud in the cabin and the ride was not as smooth. These aircraft were purchased from Air Canda which retired them….Also the Boeing-727-200 which gave a smooth ride. American also operated the Boeing 727-100 which I found uncomfortable which I beleive was as a result of the seat pitch

  7. Capt Billy Capt Billy
    October 27, 2014    

    There have been a total of 1500 747s built. While that is certainly a lot of them I wouldn’t call that “literally thousands”. There are still DC-3s, Convair 580s, and similarly “classic” aircraft flying regular commercial passenger service. These aircraft were built from the 1940s to late 1950s, so are much older than the Airbus.

No Pings Yet

  1. How to tell if your plan is an old plane on March 6, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About Kyle

I am a recent college graduate with a degree in Aviation Management. I spend my time as an airline industry professional, private pilot, blogger and world traveler. I have visited 36 countries to date and don't plan on slowing down. This blog is my way of sharing the latest developments in the airline industry as well as experiences from my world travels. All views and opinions are strictly my own.

Follow me on Twitter

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 82 other subscribers


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: