At the time of its introduction, the Boeing 747 was a radically different from anything that had previously been offered to the travelling public. Yes, Boeing had previously offered a twin deck aircraft in the propeller driven Stratocruiser, but the 747s upper deck was not originally designed to boost passenger seating so much as being a by-product of the elevated flight deck.
The 747 was the first wide body commercial aircraft. Where the standard set by the incumbent intercontinental jets; the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC8, was to have an economy (coach) cabin lay out of 3 seats either side of a single aisle, the 747 boasted twin aisles with 3 seats on each window side and 4 seats in the centre.
Initially many airlines opted to use the upstairs bubble behind the flight deck as a first class lounge. The area typically featured casual seating with a bar as shown in the Continental Airlines pictures above. As a result of the oil crises in the early 1970s, many airlines looked for ways to maximise revenue to cover the increased fuel costs. The upstairs bubble was converted to paid seating. Business class was also introduced as a compromise between First and Economy (Coach) class, and often airlines would offer the bubble as their Business Class cabin.
As technology has improved along with changes in styles and fashions, so too the aircraft cabin selections of most airlines have. Gone now are the single large movie screens which adorned the front of each cabin. These have been replaced by most mainstream airlines by individual seat back screens or screens that can be stowed away into a seat arm. Passengers are now able to make selections from a suite of entertainment options brought to their own individual screens.
Many airlines are still heavily committed to the classic 747s in their fleets which still serve them very well. In an effort to maintain their attractiveness to the travelling public, airlines, like QANTAS in Australia, are having their 747 400s refurbished in styles influenced by Boeings new Dreamliner concept. Benefits include a single beam seat design allowing more leg space in economy. Carbon fiber seat backs reduce weight and allow for a thinner seat. Soft lighting and contoured panels make for a more spacious feeling cabin and offer a competitive comparison to newer jet being produced today.
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