Remembering The Queen: Where Did British Airways Fly The 747?

Despite no longer being in British Airways’ fleet, the memory of its iconic Boeing 747s will live on. The 747-400 played a vital role for BA, and between 2011 and 2020, had scheduled service to 45 airports, with up to 39 departures each day from Heathrow.

BA B747-400
New York JFK all-important for BA’s B747-400s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

45 airports saw BA’s Boeing 747s

If 2011 to 2020 is combined, BA used its iconic B747-400s to 45 airports on a scheduled basis from Heathrow. This includes both non-stops and one-stops, with one-stops to Sydney (via Bangkok and then via Singapore), Buenos Aires (via Sao Paulo), and Doha (via Bahrain). The latter was operated until early 2012 and involved a 92-mile hop across the water, with a block time as low as 45 minutes.

BA's B747 route map
All of these routes were operated by BA’s 747s at some point between 2011 and 2020. Image: OAG

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What were the core routes?

It’ll come as no surprise that New York JFK was overwhelmingly BA’s most important B747-400 route, with over 11 million seats when all these years are combined. That’s seven million more than second-placed Miami.

Some 26 non-stop routes had over one million 747 seats, although not all fall into the top-15 route list, shown below. Others with one million or more include Hong Kong, Beijing, Delhi, Mexico City, Houston, and Denver. And, with just shy of one million, Riyadh.

At the other extreme are the likes of Newark, which saw minimal B747-400 service in 2014, Luanda (2014-2015), Tokyo Narita (until 2011), Abuja (2015), and Cairo (until 2012). The author vividly remembers flying a BA 747-400 to the Egyptian capital and the captain commenting on the flight’s short duration.

BA's top 747 routes
The US was absolutely vital for BA’s 744s, with over 38 of its 64 million seats between 2011-2020. In 2017 and 2018, 15 US airports were served, with Austin starting in 2018. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

Moscow was shortest from Heathrow

At just 1,586 miles, Moscow Domodedovo was by far BA’s shortest scheduled B747-400 route from Heathrow. Operating from 2012 to 2015, its use to Moscow was to increase premium capacity, with even a four-class product used. At its peak in 2013, BA had over 213,000 seats by the Boeing 747, with a once-daily service.

BA B747-400Los Angeles, where this aircraft was landing, was BA’s eighth-most-served B747-400 destination. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Up to 39 BA Boeing 747 departures a day

Since 2011, BA has had up to 39 scheduled 747 departures a day, analyzing OAG data shows. On a randomly chosen day in May 2013, it had the following departures, with JFK having seven, Los Angeles three, and Boston, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Miami, and San Francisco two each.

Heathrow to…Scheduled departure time
New York JFK0830
Moscow Domodedovo0850
Los Angeles0940
New York JFK0955
New York JFK1125
San Francisco1145
Los Angeles1205
New York JFK1305
San Francisco1400
New York JFK1440
New York JFK1600
Los Angeles1615
Las Vegas1640
Hong Kong1830
Cape Town1930
New York JFK2000
Sao Paulo2150
Hong Kong2155

A vital role in BA’s fleet

BA’s widebody seat capacity barely changed between 2011 and 2019, but its fleet mix has – and is continuing to do so. The B747-400 played a vital role in the carrier’s widebody fleet, with over eight million seats in each year between 2011 and 2013.

British Airways widebody fleet
BA’s B747-400s had some 40% of its total widebody capacity between 2011 and 2013, although this declined almost annually as B777-300ERs and A380s were increasingly delivered. Source: OAG Schedules Analyzer.

And while BA’s 747s are no more, the carrier has no plans to retire its remaining four-engine aircraft, the A380, anytime soon. Quads presently have just 8% of BA’s expected widebody capacity in 2021, as the drive for much more efficient and modern twins, with lower fuel burn and less maintenance requirement, rightly grows.

What is your best memory of BA’s B747s? Comment below!