British Airways is immediately retiring all of its Boeing 747 aircraft.
After nearly five decades of service and millions of miles flown around the globe, the airline is retiring its fleet of 31 747-400 aircraft with immediate effect as a result of the Covid-19.
Just a year ago, British Airways re-painted four of its jumbo jets in heritage colours to mark the company’s claimed centenary.
The aircraft were being phased out by British Airways as they reached the end of their working life in order to help meet the company’s commitment to net zero by 2050. The airline has invested heavily in new, modern long-haul aircraft including six A350s and 32 787s which are around 25 per cent more fuel-efficient than the 747.
BOAC operated its first 747 London to New York service on 14th April 1971 and in July 1989 the first British Airways 747-400, the aircraft type the airline still flies today, took to the skies.
Plane spotters who lined Heathrow’s perimeter fences would watch as the magnificent 747-400 would typically take off at 180mph and reach cruising speeds in the sky of up to 565mph.
For the next decade the airline took delivery of 56 more of the aircraft, with its final plane delivered in April 1989. At the time, it was the largest commercial aircraft in the world, and it remained so until the Airbus A380 first took to the skies in 2007.
At one point British Airways operated 57 747-400 aircraft. The original aircraft featured 27 First Class seats and 292 Economy seats. Initially, the upper deck, widely described as the bubble, contained a lounge, with lounge chair seating. It was known as the ‘club in the sky’ and the aircraft also played host to the world’s very first flat bed seat which British Airways pioneered in 1999.
Today’s aircraft can seat up to 345 passengers in four classes – First, Club World (Business), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and World Traveller (Economy).
British Airways recently refreshed the interiors of a number of its 747 aircraft which were expected to remain in service for several years to come.
The airline’s 747 jets are currently grounded at various locations in the UK and are now only expected to reach heights of 35,000 feet as they make their final journeys.
Facts and stats:
- Boeing has been manufacturing 747 aircraft for more than 50 years
- BOAC flew its first 747 flight on 14th April 1971
- British Airways took delivery of its first 747-400 in July 1989 and its last in April 1999
- At its height, the airline had a fleet of 57 747-400s
- British Airways is currently the world’s biggest operator of 747-400 aircraft
- The average age of British Airways’ fleet is 23 years old
- The 747-400 has 6ft high winglets on the tips of its wings to improve efficiency
- It has 16 main wheels and two landing nose wheels
- The wings of a 747-400 span 213ft and are big enough to accommodate 50 parked cars
- The tail height of 64ft is equivalent to a six-storey building
- The 747-400 is 231ft long
N.B. Image credit: British Airways