British Airways retiring all 31 Boeing 747s, becomes latest airline to say farewell to the Queen

Jul 16, 2020

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It feels like almost every week we learn of another airline retiring or parking a fleet type.

This time though, it’s big news for the largest operator of the Queen of the Skies, British Airways.

The London-based carrier is retiring all 31 of its Boeing 747s in the coming months, according to an internal companywide email viewed by TPG. BA writes that this proposition is “subject to consultation.”

But the news doesn’t come as much of a surprise, unfortunately. All of the carrier’s 31 jumbo jets are currently parked, according to fleet-tracking site Planespotters. Originally, the plan was to retire all 747s in 2024. Now, that’s being accelerated to “over the coming months.”

British Airways 747 (Photo by Patrick Fallon/The Points Guy)

BA blames the expected years-long recovery in demand as one of the primary reasons for the early, and abrupt, retirement. Additionally, the carrier cites the fact that these four-engine jets aren’t as fuel-efficient as their modern counterparts. Plus, with an average age of 20 plus years, these jets have required more-frequent maintenance than some of BA’s newer planes.

Nonetheless, this is a sad development for aviation enthusiasts. For many, the Boeing 747 is synonymous with British Airways. British Airways’ predecessor, BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corp.), put its first double-decker into service in 1971. More recently, BA’s 747s could still be spotted at airports across the world in the months leading up to the global pandemic.

Many 747 fans cherish the magic of a plane that revolutionized travel. Plus, it’s one of the few planes to offer a unique atmosphere on the exclusive upper deck. Though British Airways is the largest current operator of the Boeing 747-400, it’s not the first one to bid farewell to the Queen. Throughout the pandemic, KLM, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic said goodbye to their jumbos.

Related: These are the last Boeing 747s you can fly in the world

But not all hope is lost. There are still quite a few 747 operators left, for those who’d like some more time with the Queen. Many are of the newer 747-8 variety, which features an elongated upper deck, as well as a new wing structure. You’ll find 747s operated by Air China, Korean Air and Lufthansa, among others. Of course much could change depending on the trajectory of the recovery, but that’s the plan as of now. All U.S.-based carriers retired their 747s in the late 2010s.

British Airways 747 (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

Without the 747 in the fleet, fans of double-decker jets will want to fly BA’s Airbus A380s. These “whale jets” are the carrier’s largest plane. Many operators of the A380 have also parked or said goodbye to these 500 plus airliners during the pandemic. British Airways, however, hasn’t announced any retirement plans for this four-cabin aircraft.

Related: Where is British Airways parking its jets during the coronavirus

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation industry is far-reaching. When it’s time to travel again, flyers will find themselves on newer planes, with many of the trusted and beloved larger jets sent to the boneyard.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images

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