Yesterday British Airways officially announced the immediate withdrawal of the Boeing 747-400 fleet. With passenger figures unlikely to hit 2019 levels for at least another 3-4 years, and given the aircraft's large fuel consumption due to its 4 engines, this looked like it would be the right decision to ensure sustainability of the company.
There are currently 31 B747-400s in British Airways' fleet. But after nearly fifty years of service, this pandemic has brought forward their planned retirement date by a few years.
And just last year with three ‘Retro Jet' refreshed in iconic liveries of yesteryear, these will all be scrapped.
While the fuel consumption of these 4 engine aircraft was quite obviously going to be the main sticking point, BA has now taken delivery of the newest generation of fibre composite construction mid-size planes such as the A350-1000 and 787 Dreamliners in -8, -9 and -10 configurations. Being lighter yet stronger in its fuselage, these more modern planes would have higher efficiency and better passenger comfort. Not least because the most modern planes contain the new Club Suite product.
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said:
“This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heart-breaking decision to have to make. So many people, including many thousands of our colleagues past and present, have spent countless hours on and with these wonderful planes – they have been at the centre of so many memories, including my very first long-haul flight. They will always hold a special place in our hearts at British Airways.
“We have committed to making our fleet more environmentally friendly as we look to reduce the size of our business to reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on aviation. As painful as it is, this is the most logical thing for us to propose. The retirement of the jumbo jet will be felt by many people across Britain, as well as by all of us at British Airways. It is sadly another difficult but necessary step as we prepare for a very different future.”
I'm not really one to get emotional over machinery, but the 747 is quite a different thing. With the exception of the Concorde, the word ‘iconic' can hardly do this aeroplane any justice. From what I can gather this was also the first aircraft type I ever flew.
While I did not travel much around Europe, I made yearly Europe-Asia trips to see relatives and so the 747 became part of my travel routine. Even my first Mileage Run for the AAdvantage Platinum challenge was on a British Airways B747.
Virtually all Boeing 747-400s on the major airlines are now retired. This is not the end of the 747 production line though as there is the still the 747-8 fleet operated by just a handful of airlines around the world, Lufthansa being the only European one.
But we have to move on I suppose. We have a pandemic to see out and a climate emergency to see out. So I leave you with these nostalgic photos that were supplied as part of BA's press release.