Final Flights: Virgin Atlantic Groups 747 Fleet In Manchester Before Retirement

Virgin Atlantic is gathering its Boeing 747 fleet in Manchester, before sending the aircraft off to their next life. Earlier this month, the British carrier announced that it would immediately retire its 747 aircraft amid the current pandemic.

Virgin atlantic 747
Virgin’s Boeing 747s are off to Manchester for one final hurrah. Photo: Getty

While many airlines have been announcing retirements, it came as a bit of a surprise when Virgin Atlantic suddenly announced the Boeing 747’s retirement. The airline’s fleet of seven 747s was already due to be retired in the coming years, with the end merely being sped up. Having also retired its A340 fleet, the future of Britain’s red carrier is a fuel-efficient twin-engined airline.

A full line up

Virgin Atlantic announced that it would retire its Boeing 747 fleet with immediate effect on May 5th. At the time, five of the airline’s jumbos were already in Manchester. G-VROY was at London Heathrow, and G-VXLG was at Glasgow.

As a result of the sudden retirement, many fans of the aircraft now won’t get a chance to say goodbye to the Virgin ‘Queen of the skies’ with one last flight. However, it seems as though Virgin may have one last trick up its sleeve to create a lasting memory.

Anthony Bryant, a Manager for Cabin Appearance & Cleaning at the airline, shared a post on LinkedIn that suggests the airline is lining up all seven aircraft before retirement. This could indicate that Virgin is perhaps preparing to get all of its 747s together for a photo shoot before they jet off to their new lives. Almost like this British Airways picture of its retrojet fleet (pictured below). It could also however, just be a mere coincidence.

British Airways, Boeing 747, San Jose
British Airways previously held an airplane photoshoot. Photo: British Airways

After they’ve lined up at Manchester, the aircraft will then likely move on to their next destination. Given the fact that there is a very low demand for four-engined jets right now, and the fate of earlier retired 747s, it is likely that Virgin’s queens will be sent for scrap.

What’s next for Virgin Atlantic?

As many are now aware, alongside the 747 announcements, Virgin mentioned that it would scrap its London Gatwick operations, focusing on Heathrow. The airline will operate with a smaller fleet, given the Boeing 747 retirements. This will be entirely twin-engine aircraft consisting of the Airbus A330, A350, and the Boeing 787.

In early 2022, Virgin Atlantic will finish retiring its Airbus A330-200 fleet. These four aircraft will become the oldest in the airline’s fleet following the 747s retirement with an average age of 19 years.

Virgin Atlantic, Boeing 747, Manchester
Next, Virgin will retire its A330-200s, before accepting new A330-900s. Photo: Virgin

In its future operations, the airline will focus on having a younger, more fuel-efficient fleet. At the 2019 Paris Air Show, the British carrier placed an order for up to 20 new A330-900 aircraft. At the time the airline’s CEO, Shai Weiss, said:

“We will be proud to operate the youngest, cleanest fleet yet, with an average age of just five years.”

Will you miss Virgin’s Boeing 747s? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!