After Qantas & Virgin Atlantic, British Airways retires the Boeing 747 (immediately)

I’ve heard of this since the morning but I’ve just been having a hard time digesting the news. British Airways is retiring its Boeing 747-400 fleet with immediate effect. The airline had 28 of these aircraft in the fleet at last count, and is was the largest operator of the Boeing 747-400s.

The airline had inducted the Boeing 747 into its fleet in 1970, and since then it has been the unofficial flagship aircraft of British Airways. The -400 variant was brought into the fleet in 1989. I’ve flown this aircraft numerous times in my time of flying BA. Yesterday, British Airways announced the retirement of the aircraft in a letter to the employees. It said,

With much regret, we are proposing, subject to consultation, the immediate retirement of our Queen of the Skies, the 747-400

The airline had plans to retire the 747s completely, but by 2024, not so suddenly. This determination was made as the aircraft was determined to not be able to eke out a profit operating in the post-Corona travel scenario.

Just a year ago, British Airways lovingly re-painted three of its jumbo jets in heritage colours to mark the company’s centenary. The BOAC jet put in a guest appearance with the Red Arrows much to the delight of spectators at the Royal International Air Tattoo, and sadly the aircraft will shortly be heading towards its final resting place alongside 30 others.

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said:

This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heart-breaking decision to have to make. So many people, including many thousands of our colleagues past and present, have spent countless hours on and with these wonderful planes – they have been at the centre of so many memories, including my very first long-haul flight. They will always hold a special place in our hearts at British Airways.

We have committed to making our fleet more environmentally friendly as we look to reduce the size of our business to reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on aviation.  As painful as it is, this is the most logical thing for us to propose. The retirement of the jumbo jet will be felt by many people across Britain, as well as by all of us at British Airways.  It is sadly another difficult but necessary step as we prepare for a very different future.

The airline’s jumbo jets are currently grounded at various locations in the UK and are now only expected to reach heights of 35,000 feet as they make their final journeys.

While it will be disheartening to have the Boeing 747-400 out of the fleet, I guess their time had come. It was a special joy to travel in the nose of this royale aircraft, and it is unfortunate that we won’t get to say a final goodbye to this one. Another one bites the dust after Virgin Atlantic and Qantas. The vintage is sure to vanish as the pandemic hits us hard. With this, one of the biggest operators of the -400s will now be Lufthansa only.

Do you have any special stories to share about the British Airways Boeing 747s?


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