Galley FM News

Goodbye ‘Queen of the Skies’ British Airways Announces Plans To Retire Entire 747 Fleet.

British Airways last night sent an email to its employees confirming what many had already feared – that it is to retire its entire fleet of iconic Boeing 747s due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite much speculation the airline itself has been pretty tight-lipped in regards to the future of the Queen of the Skies, of which it is currently the world’s biggest operator, but has now confirmed:

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

Originally the all 31 jets in the fleet were due to leave by 2024, but the carrier now wants to have the type gone in the next few months after long-haul air travel almost ground too a halt.

In the email it stated:

“We would not expect any more commercial flights to be flown.”

Retiring the Boeing 747 doesn’t come as a surprise. In its statement, British Airways called the model “true icons” but an “airliner from another era.”

A BA crew member poses in front of the freshly painted BOAC retro livery 747.

The decision marks the end of an era for the double-decker jumbo within UK airlines, given that Virgin Atlantic had already announced it was to scrap its remaining 747s.

Aircraft technology has come a long way since 1999, when BA received its last 747. Both the A350 and Boeing 787 offer substantially better fuel efficiency. According to a study of aircraft efficiency on transatlantic routes by the International Council on Clean Transportation, latest generation aircraft are around 50% more efficient than the 747-400 on a passenger-kilometre basis.

This is compounded by the fact that older aircraft need increasingly extensive maintenance programs to keep them flying safely. Whilst the economics made sense during years of passenger growth, air traffic isn’t expected to return to 2019 levels until 2023 at the earliest, at which point the majority of the fleet would already have been scrapped.

BA has operated the iconic super-jumbos since 1971 with the 747-100. Its first 747-400, registered G-BNLC, arrived in July 1989 and in total British Airways would have operated the -100, -200 and -400 versions. All in all, 105 hulls of the 747 was used by the airline. In relation to the -400 that will now disappear from the skies above Britian, Boeing delivered its last 747 for the airline, G-BYGG, in April 1999.

The iconic ‘Landor’ livery seen on a pair of BA 747-400s.

“The unofficial flagship of our fleet, the 747-400 has a very special place in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts and of many of us. We know how many memories of this extra-special aircraft are shared across the BA family and our proposal to retire the fleet early has only been taken in response to the crisis we find ourselves in”

Continued the letter.

The airline remains locked in a bitter battle with cabin crew and pilot unions over proposed job losses and changes to terms and conditions and it is understood that any potential impact on jobs from the retiring of the 747 would be subject to consultation and discussions with the union.

As well as the ‘Negus’ colour scheme used between 1974-1984 following the merger between BOAC and BEA.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a real impact on the Boeing 747. Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and KLM all announced that they would also be retiring her from their fleets early, much to the dismay of the crews who flew on the iconic plane. Check out our ‘Tribute to the Queen of the Skies’. And this month Boeing quietly pulled the plug on production of the 747 with the final 747 rolling out of Everett in approximately two years’ time, according to various changes in financial statements. You can read more here.

Check out our BA gallery below and if you’d like your crewfie to be included then please send it to us.

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