Although expected in the face of the circumstances caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, the retirement of the Boeing 747 at British Airways has always been a subject avoided by the company. But on Thursday, the carrier sent an internal statement confirming that it should not fly with the “Queen of the Skies” anymore.
“The bulk of our fleet is large, wide-bodied, long haul aircraft with many premium seats, intended to carry high volumes of customers. The unofficial flagship of our fleet, the 747-400 has a very special place in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts and many of us,” says the statement sent to its staff.
“Their early retirement would be accelerated over the coming months, and we would not expect any more commercial flights to be flown,” adds the note that explains that the decision will still be submitted to the airline’s controllers.
British Airways received its first 747 in 1971 and has never stopped flying with the Jumbo since, even when it received its first A380s. The current fleet of 28 747-400 jets started to be delivered in 1989 and had the last unit received in April 1999.
Despite being withdrawn from service by many airlines, the 747 was considered by BA to be an important asset and therefore its retirement was scheduled only for 2024. To replace the aircraft, the IAG group ordered the Boeing 777-9, an advanced variant of the twin-engine and is in the certification phase.
End of production near
Icon of commercial aviation, the 747 completed 50 years of its first flight in 2019. Boeing guarantees that it will still produce the four-engine aircraft until 2022 when it is due to complete the current deliveries of cargo versions. After that, the US airframer has declined to comment, but there is consensus that the end is near.
With the pessimistic prospects for the return of pre-pandemic levels in world air traffic, the trend is for large widebodies to be taken out of service quickly. For Jumbo, however, the role of cargo plane will remain.