It may seem hard to believe, but it has now been an entire year since the last British Airways Boeing 747 left London Heathrow Airport. The airline decided to scrap its remaining fleet several years early in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has shaken up the aviation industry in a way that nothing else has. Now the dust finally seems to be settling. Just this week, British Airways revealed that the giant A380 would be returning to the skies. However, this won’t be the case for the Boeing 747, with many of BA’s -400s having already been turned into keyrings and spare parts.
A dreary morning to go down in history
October 8th, 2020, is a day that will go down in the British Airways history books. After around half a century of Boeing 747 flights in and out of London Heathrow, the Queen of the Skies left the airport in the Chatham Dockyard livery for the very last time.
To commemorate the occasion, British Airways had planned a double departure from Heathrow’s parallel runways. Unfortunately, the Great British weather did what it does best, and low visibility meant that this stunt couldn’t be completed safely.
In the end, both aircraft departed the airport from Runway 27R. G-CIVB was the first aircraft to take off with flight number BA400. This aircraft flew straight to Kemble, where it has been preserved in its retro Negus livery.
Shortly after, G-CIVY took to the skies with flight number BA747. In the standard British Airways livery, it looped back to Heathrow for a low flyby over Runway 27L before flying to St Athan in Wales, where it was scrapped.
Why did British Airways say goodbye to the Boeing 747?
The departure of the Boeing 747 from the British Airways flight wasn’t such a surprise. What was a surprise for many was the timing of the last flight. British Airways had intended to retire the Queen of the Skies by 2024.
The aircraft were intended to be replaced by the airline’s outstanding 777-9 order. At the time, British Airways wasn’t expecting demand to recover until around 2024 fully, and it didn’t make sense to pay to maintain the jumbo jet, to maybe bring some of them back for 6-12 months.
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British Airways did keep its fleet of Airbus A380 aircraft for its most high-demand destinations. These are still relatively young, while the 747s were reaching the end of their life with British Airways.
Interestingly, British Airways’ rival, German flag carrier Lufthansa, took the opposite approach. The airline has decided to wave goodbye to all of its Airbus A380s. Instead, it will keep eight 747-400s around until it receives its Boeing 777-9 aircraft. The difference is that Lufthansa also has a younger 747-8 fleet that it doesn’t intend to retire. As such, it is less hassle for the carrier to keep the -400s around for a couple more years.
When was your last flight on a Boeing 747? Let us know your experiences in the comments!