British Airways Immediately Retiring its Entire Fleet of Boeing 747 Aircraft ‘Queen of the Skies’

British Airways will retire all their remaining Boeing 747s following the global pandemic and drop off in travel demand (Dj’s Aviation).

British Airways is immediately retiring its fleet of 31 Boeing 747s four years ahead of schedule as a result of a sustained downturn in global air travel on passenger jets due to the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. British Airways had originally planned to retire the last Boeing 747-400 in 2024. Recently, Qantas suspended all international flights until at least March 2021, and announced the retirement of six Boeing 747s to adjust to the downturn in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

British Airways took its first delivery of the Boeing 747-400 in 1989, and subsequently increased its 747 fleet to 57 and referred to the aircraft as the ‘Queen of the Skies.’ British Airways, along with Cathay Pacific, KLM, Lufthansa, Northwest, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines, had formed a consultative group to advise Boeing on the 747-400’s design process.

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

— British Airways statement

Boeing hasn’t built a passenger version of the 747 since its final passenger version delivery to Korean Airlines in 2017. Airbus also stopped A380 production in 2019 as airlines have favored smaller, more efficient planes that burn less fuel volume per passenger.

With the pandemic, airlines are under extreme pressure to cut costs by reducing the size of their fleets and retiring older, less fuel-efficient aircraft. Lufthansa, which is cutting 100 aircraft from its fleet, grounded all 14 of its A380s in March 2020, and has no immediate plans to return them to service.

“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. 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, to help us achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

— British Airways statement

The first Boeing 747 passenger jets were delivered to Pan Am in December 1969. A decrease in Boeing 747 passenger flights goes back to fuel efficiency requirements for aircraft following the 1973 oil crisis and the reduction of passenger demand to fill the large Boeing 747 aircraft. If there is any optimism for the Boeing 747, Delta Air Lines once removed 747s from service, and acquired 747s again in 2008 as part of a merger with Northwest Airlines. However, the last Boeing 747 was retired from Delta Air Lines in 2017. Lufthansa is still flying 747-8 with its stretched upper deck.

Currently Boeing 747s are in service predominantly as jet freighters. Atlas Air, a US cargo airline, is now the biggest single operator of 747s. Polar Air Cargo and Southern Air operate under Atlas Air Worldwide.

Cargo Boeing 747 and 777 Takeoff and Landings at O’Hare beginning with the takeoff of an Atlas Air Boeing 747F: Atlas Air, Cargo, Nippon Cargo, China Cargo on Monday afternoon July 6, 2020.

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