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.

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.

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.

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.