British Airways Retiring Fleet of Boeing 747s Early Due to COVID-19

The airline had originally intended on retiring the fleet in 2024.

British Airways announced that its “Queen of the Skies” 747 aircraft have likely already flown their last flights.

The airline had originally intended on retiring the 747 in 2024, however, due to the financial burden COVID-19 has caused to the aviation industry, the double-decker aircraft is likely done flying.

British Airways plane
Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

“As painful as it is, this is the most logical thing for us to propose,” British Airways’ Chairman and CEO Alex Cruz said in a statement released Friday. “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.”

As the airline works towards net zero emissions by 2050, the “fuel-hungry” 747 planes have slowly been phased out in favor of newer aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 which are 25 percent more fuel-efficient than the 747.

“This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft,” Cruz said in the statement. “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.”

British Airways operated its first 747 flight from London to New York in 1971 and is the first aircraft to have been christened a “jumbo jet” and for years was a symbol of modern aviation. People used to visit airports just to watch the double-decker jet take off at 180 miles per hour.

It was the largest commercial airplane in the world until Airbus debuted its A380 in 2007.

The end of the jumbo jet era has been predicted for years. Even before the coronavirus, airlines were pivoting away from jumbo jets and towards more fuel-efficient narrowbody planes. Boeing will stop production of the 747 in 2022, Bloomberg reported, and Airbus’s equivalent, the double-decker A380, is due to stop production in 2021.

In 2017, United Airlines retired its last Boeing 747 aircraft with a royal send-off, recreating its first flight from 1970. It was one of the last 747s to fly for a U.S. airline.

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