UK flag carrier British Airways has confirmed that it intends to withdraw the Boeing 747 from its fleet effective immediately.
In a statement to Key.Aero, a BA spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.”
The spokesperson added that was “unlikely” the type would operate commercial services with the airline again “due to the downturn in travel caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic.”
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ chairman and CEO, added: “This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heart-breaking 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."
The retirement ends the Heathrow-based carrier’s 46-year relationship with the type. Since 1974, the airline has flown a total of 101 airframes. At its height, BA had 57 Boeing 747-400s in operation, the second biggest operator in the world behind Japan Air Lines.
Prior this announcement, British Airways still had nine examples in service and was originally due to retire the last in 2024.
“While the aircraft will always have a special place in our heart, as we head into the future, we will be operating more flights on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as our new A350s and 787s,” the spokesperson added.
British Airways’ decision follows that of other airlines who have chosen similar action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Carriers such as KLM, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic have all phased out the older four-engine widebody in favour of twin-engine options.
It is not currently known what the airline plans to do with the crews assigned to the type.
According to aviation analytics firm Cirium, as of July 14, globally there were 502 747s in service, in storage or on order with airlines. Of these, only 30 were currently operating passenger services while 308 were carrying cargo. The remaining 164 airframes are in storage or on order.
As of today, British Airways owned 31 Boeing 747s the average age of which, was 23-years-old.
The company took delivery of its last Boeing 747-400, G-BYGG (c/n 28859) in April 1999.
The type's retirement coincides well with the recent delivery of the airline's first Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners. Last month, the carrier accepted two airframes, G-ZBLA (c/n 60637) and G-ZBLB (c/n 60638).
This year the operator has also expanded its Airbus A350 fleet, taking two airframes in February and May, on top of an existing roster of four.
The move to more fuel-efficient twin engine widebodies will seem sensible to most, especially at a time when demand is at an all-time low because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Monday, Key.Aero spoke to a retired British Airways 747 Training Captain, watch the video here: https://www.key.aero/article/celebrating-747-ba-captain-flying-jumbo