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British Airways Set to Mothball its Iconic Boeing 747 ‘Queen of the Skies’ According to Sources

British Airways Set to Mothball its Iconic Boeing 747 ‘Queen of the Skies’ According to Sources

British Airways is the world's largest operator of the iconic Boeing 747 but the airline has finally announced a retirement plan for the ageing fleet. The last 747 will leave British Airways in February 2022. Photo Credit: British Airways

The Corona crisis is set to hasten the retirement of British Airways’ iconic fleet of Boeing 747 ‘Queens of the Skies’ according to sources who are said to be familiar with the matter. The airline has grounded most of its 30-strong fleet of Jumbo’s in response to the massive slump in travel demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and now any hope of them flying commercially again is looking increasingly uncertain.

Sources claim British Airways has now formally suspended all training and recency courses for roughly 600 of the airline’s 747 pilots, dashing hopes that the fleet would survive an industry-wide cull of inefficient aircraft.

British Airways Staff Are Being Gifted a Piece of Aviation History Which is Sure to Make Boeing 747 Lovers Very Jealous
Photo Credit: British Airways

The Heathrow-based airline had already been planning to retire its ageing fleet of jumbos by 2024, with half of the current fleet set to be decommissioned by late next year. The vast majority of BA’s 747’s have been put into longterm storage at facilities in Wales, London Heathrow and France but several are still being using on repatriation and cargo-only flights between the UK and Cape Town, South Africa.

The four-engined aircraft are inefficient gas-guzzlers but with oil prices still deeply depressed, the economics of continuing to run the 747 might work out for British Airways if they can be used on routes with enough demand. In the short to medium-term, however, many analysts believe smaller, highly efficient twin-engined jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 will better suit the needs of many airlines.

German rival, Lufthansa has already announced the early retirement of five of its Boeing 747-400’s due to the Coronavirus while quad-engined Airbus jets face an even more uncertain future. Lufthansa and Qatar Airways may never fly their fleets of Airbus A380’s again, while Air France has already permanently decommissioned their superjumbos.

The A340 is also quickly being dumped from airline fleets with Iberia joining the likes of Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic to announce plans to retire their A340’s because of the “economic disadvantages” the jets create.

There’s still no word, however, on what British Airways plans to do with its 12-strong fleet of Airbus A380’s. The airline’s chief executive Alex Cruz has repeatedly warned British Airways will be a significantly smaller airline in a post-COVID era. As a mainly international airline, he has warned, British Airways won’t see passenger demand return to levels seen in 2019 for years to come.

After hoping for a “meaningful” return to service in July, Cruz has since warned a 14-day self-quarantine rule introduced by the UK government has been a “hammer blow” to restart plans and could seriously set back the airline’s recovery. A legal challenge against the quarantine rules won’t now be heard in court until July.

British Airways has proposed firing as many as 12,000 employees as it fights for “survival” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruz rejected a finding from an influential committee of lawmakers who labelled the airline a “national disgrace” over plans to fire and rehire workers on substantially reduced terms and conditions.

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