British Airways retires “Queen of the skies” Boeing 747s from its fleet

British Airways has said it will retire all of its Boeing 747s as it suffers from the sharp travel downturn. The airline is the world’s largest operator of the jumbo jets, with 31 of them in the fleet.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” a British Airways (BA) spokesman told the BBC. “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 spokesman added.

BA, which is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), said the planes will all be retired with immediate effect. The 747s represent about 10% of BA’s total fleet. It had planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date due to the downturn, BBC reported.

BA is currently the world’s biggest operator of 747-400s and first took delivery of them in July 1989. Originally, the upper deck contained a lounge which was known as the “club in the sky”.

BA joins Virgin Atlantic who recently announced it was also grounding its 747-400s. But a number of major airlines are still flying the iconic 747 planes including: Air China, Air France, Lufthansa, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

The British carrier added it will operate more flights on modern, more fuel-efficient planes such as its new Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners. It expects them to help it achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, BBC said in its report.

Boeing’s 747 helped democratise global air travel in the 1970s, and marked its 50-year flying anniversary in February 2019. US-based Boeing signalled the end of the plane’s production a year ago.

  • The first Boeing 747 flight took place in February 1969
  • It was the first aeroplane dubbed a “jumbo jet”
  • BOAC, British Airways’ predecessor, operated its first 747 flight, flying from London to New York, in 1971
  • At its height, BA had a fleet of 57 747-400s, second only to Japan Airlines (more than 100)
  • The wings of a 747-400 span 213ft and are big enough to accommodate 50 parked cars