British Airways, currently the world’s largest operator of Boeing 747 aircraft, has announced that it will retire all 31 of its 747s from its fleet with immediate effect, four years ahead of schedule.
The planes were initially planned to be retired by the carrier in 2024, however this date has been brought forward in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and subsequent global aviation downturn.
As such, the BA 747s will be retired “with immediate effect”, with no plans for a final or official send-off. In fact, British Airways anticipates its ‘queen of the skies’ will never operate a commercial service again.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” a BA spokesman told the media on Friday.
The spokesperson continued: “It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.
The 747s currently make up around 10 per cent of British Airways’ total fleet, with BA’s predecessor, BOAC, taking possession of its first 747 in the early 1970s.
The airline intends to streamline its fleet, and utilise smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft including its new Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
British Airways joins a slew of other airlines around the globe to retire their four-engine jumbo jets, in favour of more fuel-efficient alternatives.
The first 747 was delivered by Boeing in 1969, with the Seattle-based company delivering more than 1,500 of the type in the more than 50 years since.
Affectionately dubbed the ‘Queen of the Skies’, the 747 provided luxurious and affordable air travel at an unprecedented scale, sitting up to 500 seats on board, on a plane as tall as a six-storey building.
The aircraft was unrivalled in terms of scale and capacity until the delivery of the first Airbus A380 in 2007.
According to recent travel data, there are about 500 747s still in service around the world, 30 of which continue to actively fly passengers.
Meanwhile, more than 300 of these 747s are utilised for cargo flight, while the remainder are currently in storage.