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In an email sent out to employees a few hours ago, British Airways effectively announced the end of the road for its Boeing 747s. With the travel world still in turmoil and with recovery not expected for a number of years, the viability of BA’s least efficient aircraft was always going to be called into question, so it’s not altogether surprising to read that the 747 has flown its last commercial flight for British Airways.
The line in the email sent out to employees that signaled the end of the 747’s life as part of BA’s everyday operations was short and to the point…
“With much regret, we are proposing, subject to consultation, the immediate retirement of our Queen of the Skies, the 747-400.”
…and a spokesman’s comment to the BBC confirmed the airline’s reasoning:
“It is unlikely our magnificent ‘queen of the skies’ will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic”
The 31 Boeing 747s that were officially part of the British Airways fleet up until today were not scheduled for retirement until 2024, and the airline had recently been updating a number of its 747 interiors to see the aircraft through their final years. Sadly, that expenditure wasn’t enough to save the ‘Queen of the skies’ from early retirement as the aircraft’s obvious inefficiencies made it the clear favorite for the ax now that British Airways’ passenger numbers are down and the airline no longer needs the capacity its current fleet offers.
The future of the British Airways fleet lies with the Airbus A350s and the Boeing 787 Dreamliners whose twin-engine configurations offer significant fuel savings over the four-engined 747, and whose maintenance costs are considerably lower too – once the travel world took a nose-dive it was only a matter of time before British Airways called time on its 747s.
Considering the pain, anguish, and suffering the current pandemic has caused, it seems a little wrong to admit to being sad about the passing of an aircraft…but that’s just how I feel. I can’t help that.
To me, the 747 has always been the ultimate symbol of the travel world opening up to “the masses” and it was the aircraft that I remember being most excited to fly in as a child. To see the largest operator of commercial 747s now retiring its entire fleet in one fell swoop stirs emotions that, while possibly a little irrational, are also understandable.
I was meant to fly in a BA 747 earlier this year but an aircraft swap saw me relegated to a 777, and I was meant to have another chance to fly on the upper deck at the beginning of this month before Covid-19 put an end to that trip. Now, following today’s news, my appointment with seat 64K in October has been cancelled too so it’s hard not to feel a little cheated knowing that I’ll never get to fly in a BA 747 again. Considering how rare the aircraft is rapidly becoming, I may never fly in any 747 again.
The 747 has always been (and will always be) the most iconic of all commercial aircraft because of its unique looks and because of how it helped revolutionize the world of travel. Its place in the annals of aviation history is assured but it would have been nice to be able to say one final and proper goodbye.