British Airways to retire its 747 fleet immediately.

The covid-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the demand for aircraft meaning that airlines don’t particularly need their older fleets of aircraft such as the 747. This week Qantas completed its last commercial flight before the aircraft are scrapped. However, last night a memo was sent to British Airways staff with the news of the airline considering retiring the aircraft.

The Memo

Last night BA staff received a memo stating that the UK flag carrier was considering the immediate retirement of the aircraft. The memo reads as follows:

So long 747…

Dear colleague

With much regret, we are proposing, subject to consultation, the immediate retirement of our Queen of the Skies, the 747-400. We know there is speculation on social media and aviation websites, so we wanted to make our position clear. The whole airline community is reconciling itself to a bleak outlook for passenger demand. Long haul travel will take years to recover, with the major industry bodies agreeing that we will not see a return to 2019 levels until 2023 at the soonest. The bulk of our fleet is large, wide-bodied, long haul aircraft with many premium seats, intended to carry high volumes of customers. The unofficial flagship of our fleet, the 747-400 has a very special place in the hearts of aviation enthusiasts and of many of us. We know how many memories of this extra-special aircraft are shared across the BA family and our proposal to retire the fleet early has only been taken in response to the crisis we find ourselves in.When many people think of BA today, they think of our Jumbos connecting Britain with the world, and the world with Britain. They are true icons. We love the Queen of the Skies and have operated them since 1971. We took our first 747-400 (technically the 747-436) registration G-BNLC in July 1989, and our newest was delivered to us in April 1999. There’s a great archive video about the aircraft here. Most of our 747s are already due for retirement progressively by early 2024, and we recently refreshed the interiors of a number of them with the intention of a good few remaining years in service. They are an airliner of another era. They burn far more fuel than the latest generation of planes and, logically, require more frequent and detailed attention from our engineering team. They rely on high passenger load factors and high premium demand to make them commercially viable. In short, we do not believe that these beautiful aircraft are sustainable in a very different airline industry. Subject to proper consultation, their early retirement would be accelerated over the coming months, and we would not expect any more commercial flights to be flown. The proposal to retire the entire fleet of these iconic aircraft is nothing short of heart breaking for those of us that grew up watching them fly all over the world.

Credits for the memo and for information about the BA 747 fleet-Facebook-Londonheathrowspotters/twitter-M.Butt/Instagram-@zul_aviation

Since this memo has been sent, BA have confirmed to various news outlets in the UK that the retirement of the fleet will go ahead. As of the 16th of July 2020, all of British Airways’ 747 fleet are grounded, 14 of BA’s 747s are in Cardiff, two are at Kemble airfield, five in Teruel and the other nine remain at the airlines base; London Heathrow.

Retro Liveries

During 2019 BA painted three 747s in retro liveries to celebrate their 100th birthday.


The aircraft above, currently stored in Cardiff, was repainted in the Landor livery. It was delivered on the 10th of February 1993 and has been in the air for 121,178 hours.


The aircraft above, currently stored at Heathrow, was repainted in the Negus livery. It was delivered on the 15th of February 1994 and has been in the air for 118,473 hours.


The aircraft above, currently stored in Cardiff, was repainted in the BOAC livery. It was delivered on the 19th of January 1999 and it has been in the air for 91,080 hours.

Hopefully we see British Airways do some farewell flights on the aircraft for the public, much like its Oneworld partner Qantas has just completed. What do you think of this news? Let us know in the comments.

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