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There are a lot of things that Covid-19 is responsible for but the one thing that the pandemic has brought about and that most AvGeeks will remember for years is the early retirement of the Boeing 747.
Airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were set to operate their 747s for a few more years before the coronavirus rolled into town. Then, with schedules pared to the bones and with passenger numbers going through the floor, there was suddenly no viable reason to keep the uneconomical 747s in the skies. The virus saw to it that the British Airways aircraft didn’t get the farewell they deserved, but now Virgin Atlantic is giving a few lucky fans the chance for one last moment in time with the Queen of the Skies.
From 09:00 on Monday 7 December, Virgin Atlantic will be selling tickets to a 747 farewell event that will take place in a Heathrow hangar just 5 days later. Tickets for the event will cost £50 each (~$67) and will be allocated on a first come first serve basis with all proceeds going to the Trussell Trust.
Anyone fortunate enough to be able to get a ticket (the airline says that only a limited number of tickets will go on sale) will get to experience a full aircraft tour where, according to the airline “they can delve below deck to explore areas of the plane the public rarely see, as well as a enjoy a sumptuous three-course onboard meal“.
Here’s the full list of what participants can expect:
- Champagne served on the aircraft’s upper deck
- A “luxurious, three-course a-la-carte meal”, inspired by Virgin Atlantic’s onboard cuisine, from the comfort of an Upper Class suite.
- First-hand accounts of what life was like at the controls of the Queen of the skies from the airline’s pilots, including Yvonne Kershaw, the first female pilot to Captain the 747.
- Tour parts of the aircraft that the public doesn’t usually see. Visit where the cabin crew and pilots sleep, delve into the aircraft’s underbelly, explore the cargo hold, and take a seat in the cockpit.
- Have a photo taken in one of the aircraft’s iconic red engines, as a souvenir from the day.
Corneel Koster, Virgin Atlantic’s Chief Customer and Operating Officer had this to say:
“The much-loved Boeing 747 has played an important role in Virgin Atlantic’s story. It carried our first passengers to New York 36 years ago on our inaugural flight and over the years has transported countless millions of holiday-makers and business travellers safely around the world.” As we close this chapter and continue the transformation towards a cleaner, greener fleet, what better tribute than to showcase the Queen of the Skies one last time. I’m delighted we’re able to offer this opportunity to a lucky few to be part of aviation history before we say our fond farewells to this iconic plane.”
Virgin Atlantic’s fleet is now dominated by considerably newer and more economical aircraft like the 787-9 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350-1000, but it’s unlikely that either of these aircraft will ever come close to having the same impact on commercial aviation as the magnificent 747.
The last Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747 (registration G-VROY) is expected to depart London Heathrow for the final time on 16 of December, so it’s nice that a lucky few will get to say one final goodbye. It’s the least that this amazing aircraft deserves.
Featured image: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt via Wikimedia Commons