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Coronavirus Economy Slump Sees British Airways Retiring Entire Boeing 747 Fleet

By Casey Q. , Jul 18, 2020 12:14 AM EDT

Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Due to the coronavirus pandemic that has affected not only the lives of millions but also the economy, it is with great sadness that we announce the Boeing 747 fleet's retirement effective immediately. Thank you for flying with us and we hope to see you again on our future flights. 

This move has come from none other than British Airways as the company noted the travel downturn and the pricey operating costs for the Boeing 747 aircraft in a report from The New York Times

British Airways Boeing 747
(Photo : Conde Nest Traveller)

Although there were plans to retire the remaining Boeing 747 fleet by 2024, the COVID-19 pandemic made the company accelerate the timetable.

"It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect," British Airways said in a statement. "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." 

But this does not mean that British Airways will be closing down as some parts of the British Airways fleet may fly again with engine components and metal from the fuselage often stripped for other uses. Specialist companies are hired to dismantle and scrap planes that airlines no longer fly. 

Even before the pandemic began, British Airways was in a jam. Plans have been made since April by the parent organization, International Airlines Group, to restructure British Airways that could result in up to 12,000 people losing their jobs.  

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The Boeing 747's Legacy in British Airways

For travellers who usually explore the world on a budget, they may not realize that the UK airline is the world's largest operator of the jumbo jets, with 31 in their fleet. 

Here are some fun facts provided by the BBC about the Boeing 747's contribution over the years:

  • The first Boeing 747 flight took place in February 1969 and the first plane to fly from London to Sydney non-stop in 1989  
  • This was the very first airplane that was called a "jumbo jet"
  • Before British Airways, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) operated its first 747 flight, flying from London to New York in 1971
  • This is by far the fastest operating commercial plane, with a top speed of just over 650mph
  • 3.5 billion passengers transported in 50 years

In a report from USA Today, they reported that British Airways' 747-400s have a capacity of 345 passengers and can reach a top speed of 614 mph (988 kph).

"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," said a statement from the airline. 

Qantas Airways is among the other carriers to recently retire the 747, offering farewell "joy flights" above Australian cities earlier this week. 

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