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Downturn hastens scrappage

British Airways scraps entire fleet of 747 jumbo jets


The downturn in travel has led to the early demise of the 747

British Airways is to retire its entire fleet of 747 jumbo jets which helped bring foreign travel to the masses.

The airline had planned to take the 31 planes out of service by 2024 and phase in a fleet of newer, more fuel-efficient jets such as the 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350.

But the slump in air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic has forced the company to bring forward its plans. 

Boeing’s 747 – known as the “queen of the skies” – was credited with broadening global air travel in the 1970s, and chalked up its 50th anniversary in February 2019. US-based Boeing signalled the end of the plane’s production a year ago.

BA, which is owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), currently has 31 747s in its fleet and all be retired with immediate effect.

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The four-engine jets will be broken up and scrapped over the next few months.

The company expects the new jets to help it achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

In an internal memo the company admits there will not be a “return to 2019 levels until 2023 at the soonest.”

Hundreds of BA ground staff and more than 600 BA pilots specifically trained to fly the 747-400 face redundancy as the airline slashes costs.

BA suspended training on the aircraft last month, sparking rumours that it was planning to withdraw them from service.

The first jumbo was flown by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in April 1970, six years before the company was restructured as BA.

In 2008, the company had 57 747s in service, all delivered between 1989 and 1999. This was reduced to 31 in 2018.

The last BA 747 flew on 2 June to bring Britons home from Cape Town to Heathrow.

News of the scrappage plan comes days after Virgin Atlantic said it would stop using its small fleet of jumbo jets and means no British carrier now operates them. 

BA is by no means the only airline to be withdrawing the 747. It has become one of the few still operating them. Singapore Airlines withdrew passenger 747s from service in 2012.

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