Wind and rain didn’t stop avid plane spotters descending on Heathrow Airport on Thursday morning to say goodbye to the last two Boeing 747’s in the British Airways fleet before they were retired for good. Already earmarked for retirement by 2024, the COVID-19 pandemic hastened the so-called ‘Queen of the Skies’ demise and in July BA announced it planned to scrap the remaining 31 Boeing 747’s in its fleet with little fanfare.
With Coronavirus restrictions still very much in place and environmental concerns ever-present, British Airways couldn’t afford a lavish farewell tour for one of the most iconic planes to have ever graced the skies. The airline did, however, eventually decide to mark the occasion with a special sendoff.
A rare sight at Heathrow Airport, the airline arranged for a unique synchronised dual take off on parallel runways, as G-CIVB and G-CIVY took their final flights before being scrapped. One of the planes was painted in a retro ‘Negus’ livery, while the other sported BA’s current ‘Chatham Dockyard’ livery.
Once a key part of BA’s fleet, the airline was once the largest operator of the Boeing 747 with around 57 in its fleet at one point. Today’s retirement will bring a nearly 50-year era to an end.
Replacing the “fuel-hungry” 747’s, British Airways has taken delivery of six Airbus A350’s and 32 Boeing 787 Dreamliners – both of which are around 25 per cent more fuel-efficient than the four-engined Queen of the Skies. It remains unclear whether the Airbus A380 still has a future at British Airways and the airline has so far not made a long-term decision on the double-deck aircraft.
Other airlines, though, have already decided the economics just don’t work for the A380. Bringing forward retirement by two years, Air France has already disposed of its nine-strong A380 fleet, while Lufthansa doesn’t see the A380 returning unless travel demand experiences an unexpectedly strong recovery.
Both Etihad and Qatar Airways haven’t yet made final decisions on their respective A380 fleets, although the planes are likely to remain grounded for at least another 12-months.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.