British Airways’ iconic 747 jumbo jet will no longer be operated by the airline after it decided to retire its entire fleet with immediate effect.
BA has used the famous Boeing plane since 1989 and is currently the world’s biggest operator of the 747-400 model.
It was planning to retire the fleet of 31 aircraft in 2024 but its end has been hastened by the coronavirus lockdown, which has forced long-haul air travel to almost grind to a halt.
The decision marks the end of an era for the double-decker jumbo within UK airlines, given that Virgin Atlantic had already announced it was to scrap its remaining 747s.
BA operated the plane, powered to a top speed of 614mph by four Rolls-Royce engines, to destinations in China, the US, Canada and Africa.
The company said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.
“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.”
Sky News revealed earlier this month how pilots’ union, BALPA, had reached a deal with BA over proposed job cuts and changes to pay and conditions in the wake of the airline’s warning that 12,000 jobs across were at risk.
The airline told Sky News that any potential impact on jobs from the retiring of the 747s would be subject to consultation and discussions with the union.
BA does not foresee 2019 levels of travel demand returning until 2023.
Figures for June show the increase in air travel following the easing of coronavirus restrictions has been slower than anticipated.
Passenger traffic across European airports last month was down 93% compared with June 2019.
This was an improvement on the 98% year-on-year decline recorded in May, but highlights how far the industry has to go to recover from the pandemic.