The British Airways announced that its fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft, fondly known as “The Queen of the Skies,” is likely to have flown their last scheduled commercial service and is proposed to be retired with immediate effect due to the “devastating impact” of COVID-19 on the aviation sector.
“After nearly five decades of service and millions of miles flown around the globe, it is proposed that the airline’s remaining fleet of 31 747-400 aircraft will be retired with immediate effect as a result of the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the airline and the aviation sector, which is not predicted to recover to 2019 levels until 2023/24,” the airline said in a release on Friday.
It further said that the “fuel-hungry aircraft” were slowly being phased out by British Airways already as the airline has “invested heavily in new, modern long-haul aircraft including six A350s and 32 787s which are around 25 per cent more fuel-efficient than the 747.”
Speaking about the decision, Alex Cruz, Chairman, and CEO, British Airways, said, “This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heartbreaking 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,” he further said.
The airline operated its first 747 London to New York service on April 14, 1971, and in July 1989 the first British Airways 747-400, the aircraft type the airline still flies today, took to the skies.