When Will British Airways Retire Its Last 747 Now The Boeing 777X Is On Order?

After speculation that British Airways would order the Boeing 777X amid the 747 retirement, today the news broke that it had gone ahead. The airline has placed an exceptional order of 18 B777-9 aircraft, with 24 more options. The list price per aircraft of the order is US$442.2 million. This equates to a list price of US$7.96bn for the entire 18 aircraft in the firm order.

The B777x order comes at a time when British Airways is looking to retired its fleet of B747 aircraft. The four-engined aircraft are seen as inefficient by many in a market where two-engined aircraft are thriving. In fact, the oldest of BA’s B747s, G-BNLN, was delivered to the airline 29 years ago back in 1990.

B747 Retirement
14 B747s will be replaced by the new B777-9s. Photo: British Airways

B747 Replacement

Simple Flying had previously reported that British Airways was due to replace its 35 Boeing 747 aircraft with new widebody aircraft. This was set to be made of 18 Airbus A350 aircraft, 12 Boeing 787-10 aircraft, and new B777-300 aircraft. This has, however, now changed such that the B777X order is predominately replacing the B747 fleet.

IAG, the owners of British Airways, told Simple Flying that 14 B777-9s will replace 14 B747s. The remaining 4 B777-9s in the firm order will replace four of the airline’s ageing B777-200 aircraft. The parent group confirmed that deliveries would take place between 2022 and 2025.

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B747 Retirement
The B777-9s are due to be delivered between 2022 and 2025. Photo: IAG

Aircraft Surplus

With 14 of the new B777-9 order directly set to replace the B747 fleet, there will be a surplus of long haul aircraft in the British Airways fleet. Simple Flying was unable to confirm which of the 30 aircraft previously slated to replace the B747 will still be used to directly replace the remaining 21 aircraft in the fleet. IAG told us this would comprise of a mix of A350 and B787 aircraft, but declined to mention the exact ratio.

Amended Retirement Date?

Today’s B777-9 order came after the retirement plan for the B747 was previously announced. This was supposed to take place over the next 5 years, finishing in 2024. However, Today’s announcement from the IAG group mentioned that the B777-9s would be delivered between 2022 and 2025. As such, it is possible that one or two B747s could be kept around for slightly longer than originally planned.

B747 retirement
BA’s retro painted B747s will keep their livery until they are retired. Photo: Stuart Bailey/British Airways

Additionally, the last B777-9s to be delivered could be the ones allocated to replacing the four B777-200 aircraft. Finally, the surplus of widebody aircraft could fill any gap between the currently scheduled retirement of the B747 and the delivery of the new B777s.

Speaking of the new order IAG Cheif Executive, Willie Walsh, said: “The new B777-9 is the world’s most fuel efficient longhaul aircraft and will bring many benefits to British Airways’ fleet. It’s the ideal
replacement for the Boeing 747 and its size and range will be an excellent fit for the
airline’s existing network.”

Do you think the retirement of the B747 will be affected? Let us know in the comments down below!

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Richard Arnold

Thank you very much for a job well done.

RAP

James Strange

I find it interesting that the 777-9 will replace some older 777-200s given the substantial difference in size. It seems a more appropriate role for incoming A350s or 787s. Perhaps the pilot training issue is coming into play, or the “replacement” is temporary while other similar-sized aircraft become available.

Tb

This is an all-in kind of commitment to the 777-9. Maybe BA is trying to simplify their fleet. Maybe Boeing really needed to sell some 777-9s and offered compelling pricing.

I wonder if cargo had a lot to do with it. Lay people tend to focus on passengers but cargo is such a big revenue driver, and the 777-9 carries a LOT of cargo — 18 pallets, and it doesn’t have to be lightweight packages.

Given BA’s route network serving the former British empire, cargo has always been a bigger part of their business than other airlines.