British Airways CEO: Retiring The 747 Was The Right Thing To Do

Today, British Airways’ CEO Sean Doyle said that retiring the Boeing 747 was the right thing to do. Doyle made the comments while defending the airline’s decision to hang onto its fleet of Airbus A380s, in contrast to many of the type’s operators.

British Airways, Boeing 747, Retirement
British Airways’ CEO has defended the airline’s decision to retire the Boeing 747. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

Airlines worldwide have been phasing the Boeing 747-400 out of operation for quite some time now. However, the global pandemic expedited the situation for many of the airlines. British Airways, for example, decided to retire its remaining fleet of 747-400 aircraft in mid-July 2020. However, this wasn’t a small number of aircraft. 31 747s were retired, comprising a decent chunk of the airline’s long-haul fleet.

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The right thing to do

Speaking to Eurocontrol’s Aviation Straight Talk, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said that retiring the Boeing 747 had been the right thing to do for the British flag carrier. Doyle said,

“We retired 31 747s, which is a significant part of our fleet, but it was the right thing to do, considering what we were facing into, and also considering the opportunity to modernize our fleet and to bring more modern sustainable aircraft in.”

Some of the airline’s aircraft had already been sent to storage, such as the five that flew to Teruel in Spain. However, many still had to be ferried to their final resting place. The last British Airways Boeing 747 departed from London Heathrow on October 8th. Meanwhile, the airline’s final ever Boeing 747 flight took place some two months later, on December 11th.

British Airways, Boeing 747, Retirement
31 747s were left in the British Airways fleet when the carrier pulled the plug on the type. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

What’s replacing the Boeing 747s?

It was always envisioned that the Boeing 777X would replace the Boeing 747-400s in British Airways’ fleet. It was thought that the capacity of the Boeing 747s wouldn’t be needed until the 777Xs arrived. However, since British Airways announced the retirement of the 747-400 fleet, Boeing has revealed delays to the 777X project. In February, IAG revealed that it now won’t take its first Boeing 777X until 2024.

British Airways does have an interim plan, though. Doyle revealed that the Boeing 747s would be replaced by the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 aircraft. However, there have also been delays to the Boeing 787 delivery schedule. British Airways aimed to take its first 787-10 in early 2020, with six delivered across the year. Instead, just two aircraft were delivered within a week of each other in late June 2020.

British Airways, Boeing 747, Retirement
The airline is facing delays in the delivery of two aircraft types from Boeing. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

A home for the Airbus A380

While many airlines are shunning the Airbus A380, including BA’s part-owner Qatar Airways, this isn’t the case at the British Flag carrier. Doyle commented that there is a home for the Airbus A380 in the British Airways network. Doyle said,

“We use [the A380] for multiple missions. We can fly it to Asia to places like Hong Kong and Singapore. We’ve also deployed into places like Boston and Dulles and Miami, so it works on the East Coast of the US and it can work on longer-range missions into the bigger Asian markets. I think when you’re looking at the efficiency of a hub like Heathrow, we certainly see the A380 as having a future in those plans.”

Do you think retiring the Boeing 747 was the right thing for British Airways to do? Let us know what you think and why in the comments below!