COVID Could Speed Up British Airways’ Boeing 747 Retirement

Coronavirus is having global effects. As a result of plummeting demand, British Airways could speed up the retirement of its fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft.

British Airways 747
British Airways could speed up the retirement of its Boeing 747 fleet. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines around the world are looking to ground unnecessary capacity. For many, this has meant the largest and least efficient aircraft including Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s.

It’s no secret that British Airways is in the process of retiring the “Queen of the Skies”. While it has been the backbone of the airline’s long-haul fleet for decades, all things must come to an end. However, could the sudden coronavirus crisis mean an expedited retirement for the queen? KLM is already accelerating the retirement of its Boeing 747s, and British Airways could, theoretically, follow.

Half a century of operation

Undoubtedly, Concorde is the aircraft most symbolic of British Airways, after all, the British Airways crest even features hidden Concordes. However, behind that, the Boeing 747 has to be the airline’s second most iconic aircraft. British Airways has been operating the aircraft for just under 50 years. This equates to roughly half of the life of the airline.

However, all good things must come to an end, and the time is coming soon for the Queen of the Skies. The last Boeing 747 is due to leave the British Airways fleet in 2024 as of the last International Airlines Group (IAG) Capital Market Day presentation. However, could COVID change this?

British Airways, Boeing 747, Retirement
British Airways has been operating the Boeing 747 for almost 50 years. Photo: British Airways

An earlier departure

Rob from Head For Points mentioned the possibility of the Boeing 747 facing an accelerated departure from the British Airways fleet. In his words: “On Wednesday I spoke to a friend who works at BA and he outlined the current thinking to me. This is NOT hearsay – I have seen written confirmation of what is outlined below.”

He went on to add: “The 747 retirement plan has been accelerated and many of these aircraft will never fly again for BA.”

Of course, this hasn’t been confirmed by British Airways, however, I view Rob as a trustworthy source of information, and as such, believe that there is some substance behind the report. A British Airways spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.

British Airways, Team GB, Tokyo Olympics
In 2016, British Airways flew Team GB back from the Rio Olympic Games onboard a Boeing 747. Photo: Getty Images

Others accelerating the Queen’s departure

If British Airways does accelerate the retirement of the Boeing 747, it won’t have been the first airline to take such action. In fact, the Dutch flag carrier KLM has already taken such action itself.

KLM had originally planned to retire its final Boeing 747 in 2021. However, it looks as though this will now take place as soon as the end of the month. In fact, some speculated that the final aircraft would be retired in as soon as six days from today, in other words, the 26th of March.

Do you think British Airways will indeed speed up the retirement of the Queen of the Skies? If so, will you miss the aircraft? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!