British Airways Jumbos In Decline: What Will Replace Its Boeing 747s?

Around the world, Boeing 747 aircraft are being retired left, right, and centre. The reason behind the retirements is largely due to the increasing efficiency of two-engined aircraft, as the world’s Boeing 747 fleet begins to age. However, what will British Airways use to replace its 747 fleet?

British Airways, Boeing 747, Replacement
British Airways is on course to retire its last Boeing 747 in 2024. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

British Airways currently has 32 Boeing 747s remaining in its fleet. Most recently, G-CIVG was retired in November with a final flight just four miles long. However, the airline is faced with replacing these aircraft, and it looks as though the replacement hasn’t even flown yet. When British Airways ordered up to 42 Boeing 777-9s in February Willie Walsh said: “it’s the ideal replacement for the 747”.

British Airways and the Boeing 747

In some ways, British Airways has become synonymous with the Boeing 747 in much the same way as Concorde. The British flag carrier has operated the Boeing 747 for decades.

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In fact, earlier this year the airline repainted three Boeing 747s with old liveries to celebrate the carrier’s 100th anniversary. This included the BOAC livery first worn on the Boeing 747-100, and the Negus livery. Additionally, the Landor livery, which has previously been worn by the aircraft it was painted onto, was included.

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British Airways, Boeing 747, Replacement
Sights like this will become much rarer at Heathrow. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

747 retirement

British Airways is currently in the process of retiring its fleet of 747 aircraft. As a result of the looming retirement, British Airways will not be retrofitting its new Club Suite cabin to its fleet of 747 aircraft. According to the IAG capital market day presentation, it looks as though new Boeing 777-300 aircraft are currently replacing the Boeing 747 fleet. Indeed, the first 747 was retired in 2013.

However, British Airways is also set to start retiring its older Boeing 777 aircraft in 2020, with the last new Boeing 777-300 also set to be delivered next year. British Airways is still due to receive many new widebody aircraft past 2020. This includes the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, in addition to an order for the Boeing 777X.

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British Airways, Boeing 747, Replacement
IAG’s long-haul aircraft replacement plan. Image: IAG Capital Market Day

777X Replacement

At the time of placing the 777-9 order with Boeing, IAG chief Willie Walsh told how the new Boeing 777-9 is the “ideal replacement for the 747”. A Boeing press release added:

The new 777-9 will replace British Airways’ larger widebody airplanes, mainly the four-engine 747 jumbo jet.

British Airways, Boeing 747, Replacement
Willie Walsh previously told how the 777X was supposed to replace the Boeing 747. Photo: Boeing

However, at present, the British Airline only has placed 18 firm orders for the aircraft with 24 further options. This accounts for just over half of the remaining Boeing 747 fleet. This surplus could be covered by the airline’s remaining 777X options. However, by keeping the remaining 777X as options, the airline has some flexibility over its future fleet.

Will you be sad to see the final British Airways Boeing 747 retired? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Matt

The 787 seems to be the most common 747 replacement, which is sad. If you look at capacities, a BA 747and BA 787 are very close. Poor for the passenger when you’re crammed into the 787. I remember when British Airways represented the pride of Britain. Now it’s almost a LCC.

Henning

BA’s 747 are between 20-25 years old and they have an outdated cabin layout, newer aircrafts are just much more comfortable in every way. Can’t be sad when your airliner offers you a much better product.

Kaden

Depending on what type of aircraft is used to replace it of course. Example: A350 vs 787. Or 777x.

ABDULAI Kamara

747 changes travel there is nothing to replace them

BOB MORRIS

Tom you are mistaken, BA has not opperated all types of 747’S because they never operated the 747 300. I fully recognise the need for economy and hence the influx of twin engined aircraft, however for my money, being a regular passenger you cannot beat the sheer studyness of the 747. Its a far stronger ( less flexing ) than the A380, better with cargo capabilities too. The A380 only wins on noise levels particular inside. Watch the galleys move around on landing on a A380.

Bob

Jon nicholson

They also never flew the 747SP

Jenny

Newer Boeings may be more efficient but nothing beats the First Class experience on a 747. That unique cabin in the nose where no one can walk through! These new planes are all the boring same.

Les

I reckon they should continue with the Jumbo. A mighty and reliable plane. You might never see the 777X yet. It’s testing is a failure. Boeing are becoming very ordinary aircraft builders. It’s a shame!

Aman

The new 77w configuration (8 F 76 J 40 W 130 Y) seems to be a direct replacement for the 299 seat high j 747 (14 F 70 J 30 W and 185 Y). Given the superior operating costs, I dont see BA being too fussed about losing 6 F seats and 55 Y seats- rumored to be their least profitable cabins. Given the high proportion of upgrades on BA first, they can easily be accommodated in the 6 additional CW suites although the thought of anyone willingly paying extra to fly on BAs relatively outdated first product over the… Read more »

Td.

To be even more of a pedant ba world cargo wet leased the 747-8 so it’s actually only the 300 that’s not flown in ba colours.

If you look it’s pretty clear that the super hi-j 747s are being replaced by the new config 777-300s (see your article this week- capacity pretty similar in all classes); my guess is the a350 is the cover for the mid J ones. There will be 15 300s by the time the 74 finishes which will plug the gap left by the 18 super hi j retirements.

Ron Graham

Also do not recall BA utilising the B747SP which was built in smaller numbers.

Steve mellor

Will miss our 747,s when the time comes to say goodbye to them. One things for the 747 has become part of many lives. The 747 looks as good now as did when they first flew. Greatest aircraft ever in my personal view.

Dan

What is going to replace the 747F and its front loading through the raised nose? Secondly, isn’t there too many trees near the approach lights in the picture above? The approach lights are made to collapse upon impact whereas the trees are not.

John Standley

Seems to me that BA’s long haul fleet is a complete bugger’s muddle! They have A380’s, 747’s,
777-200’s, 777-300’s, all 3 787 types already or on order, and the A350-1000. Surely they have to narrow it down to fewer types. How about small, medium, large? My suggestion, since they already have a predominately Boeing fleet, they should stick with the 787-8 and the 787-9 and go for the 777X as the largest. Personally I would prefer the A330 neo, the A350-900 and the A350-1000. Big decisions but surely all down to economics.

Howard Miller

Absolutely will be sad when the last Queen leaves BA’s fleet. Actually “wish” the airline would airline ordered the -8i since, let’s face it, when we’re being honest, a 10-abreast 777 (& 9-abreast 787) pretty much sucks in comparison. And quite frankly, for the type of premium market BA targets, it’s hard to replicate the exclusivity offered by the nose section of the 747 for BA First, or of course, the clubby feel that only the upper deck of Her Majesty the Queen offers. But, be things as they may, in an era where airline managements now only cater to… Read more »

Howard Miller

Correcting the editing error in the above, as follows:

Actually “wish” (since of course, so NOT gonna happen 😢) BA would order the -8i since, let’s face it, when we’re being honest, a 10-abreast 777 (& 9-abreast 787) pretty much sucks in comparison.

With apologies for the error in the original version; tried to use edit function, but that did not work!

Armand2REP

With the 777X suffering “catastrophic failure” after its stress testing let us hope British Airways has the foresight to avoid another disaster.

Junty

The 747 is without doubt a fantastic aircraft. I am a MASSIVE fan of them. Sadly the figures rarely work for them any more. I do wonder if they could be re-engined? I don’t think there is a direct replacement. 787 and A350 are way smaller. 777 is a possibility and A380 is just silly (amazing but still silly).

Bartosz

I’ve never actually flown on a Boeing 747, but I have to say, I’m not that sad that these 747-400s are being retired. When I think of a 747-400, I, unfortunately, don’t have any magnificent memories of it like others do, all I can think of is this old, fuel-inefficient, loud and just… not very good aircraft. I prefer the Boeing 747-8I, which just seems better in all those categories to me. It’s kind of sad to think that only 3 airlines every ordered it… I think that it would be a pretty good replacement since it has a similar… Read more »

Joseph Weiss

What is the age limit on 747’s

BOB MORRIS

TOM THKS FOR COTRECTING ABOUT THE 747 300. I WORKED FOR BOAC AND BA FOR 40 YEARS.

BOB

Floyd R Kenderdine

Like the DC8’s and B707’s they have had their day in the sun. Even though they will be around for awhile for airfreight service, a 777 is not quite the same w,

David Turner

I think British airways should donate the 3 747s in the retro liverys to the air museum, the BOAC 747 would fit into place next to the BOAC VC10 at duxford and I’m sure other air museums would take the other 2 retro livery 747s ,it would be very sad to see these 3 747s scrapped. I just hope this happens thank you

Brian Lloyd

My favourite aircraft. The smoothest plane in the sky. Haven’t been on one in a very long time and I miss them.

Joseph Neethling

I fully agree. Still think a fuel efficient re-engined 747 is the answer to long haul routes

Sarin

I think British Airways should consider buying the used A380’s if they get it at a bargain price & overhaul it if its worth the price. Considering the space constraints at the airports a380 seems a good choice

Senos Oliveira

I feel sad with the 747 retirement. Of course, performance reasons rule the option : two engines spend less than four engines… However it’s the landmark .I felt the same with the retirement of the Phantom F4’s… It’ the end of an era and I’m getting old…

Chris Rouse

When I was 5 years old my Grand Father, Captain (Continental) Norm F. Meyer, took our family to Stapleton International Airport for a welcome reception and tour of the first Continental Airlines 747 to come into Denver. This was about 1970. Being a child and seeing this aircraft for the very first time was just incredibly awesome and inspiring so much so that led me to become a airline pilot myself. It is something that I will never forget. Some years later I remember talking to my Grandfather about his time Flying the 747. He said of all the planes… Read more »

Brody Cyr

I’ll miss seeing the BA 747s fly into KDEN. Between them and Lufthansa there are only two Jumbo Jets regularly flying there. I am however anxious to see what will replace them on the flight to Denver.

Bash

BIG MISTAKE BA!!! It was my first on a 747 and I should say It was my most comfortable leg from Los Angeles to London on the jumbo . The entertainment system worked flawlessly and the keg room space for enough for me to make sure I get good rest . In flight Service of course was also good . The second leg from London to Chennai on the dream liner was so so so uncomfy that I developed cramps at the end of the flight to Chennai . Both the journeys were on cattle class btw :-p They should… Read more »

Johnno

There was always something special about going upstairs knowing that the noise would be downstairs out of earshot ,!

Howard Miller

Absolutely will be sad when the last Queen 747 leaves BA’s fleet – and hope to be on the final flight. And here’s hoping British Airways donates a “Queen” to New York City’s Intrepid Air & Space Museum to park beside its awesome and incredible supersonic Concorde that’s already there! Too bad the airline fell for Boeing’s falsehoods that 777s are comparable to 747-8s since, when we’re being honest, those “Bloody Awful” 10-abreast 777s & 9-abreast 787s are NO MATCH when compared to HRH – aka the one and only Majestic “Queen of the Skies”! And quite frankly, for the… Read more »

Howard Miller

Oh, that’s LINING – not “mining” their own and their greedy paymasters’ pockets in the above.

Predictive text gremlins strike again! 😢

For any other minor typos or sentences/segue ways that appear just a little “off”, chances are either those pesky predictive text gremlins made mischief that wasn’t spotted before uploading comments, or minor editing errors went undetected until seeing the entire body of text posted where errors seem to be much easier to see than when in the composing “box” while writing where portions of the copy disappears and it’s harder to see errors even when scrolling up/down before posting! 😉