British Airways to Celebrate Final Flight of its Two Remaining 747s on Thursday

By Kurt Stolz on 7 October 2020
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A British Airways 747 taking off

British Airways said it would celebrate the retirement of its last two remaining Boeing 747-400 aircraft the following day on October 8.

“Tomorrow will be a difficult day for everybody at British Airways as the aircraft leaves our home at Heathrow for the very last time,” said the airline’s CEO, Alex Cruz, in a statement.

The two Queens of the Sky will take off simultaneously at 8:30 a.m. local time on parallel runways, departing London Heathrow Airport for the last time.  One of the jumbo jets will fly past the airport along the southerly runway, “as it bids its home a final farewell,” the airline said.

Neither of the aircraft has operated a passenger flight since the spring, as BA grounded the fleet amidst the coronavirus pandemic-induced downturn in air travel.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” the airline said in a statement in July when the plans for an early retirement were first announced.

The airline is also encouraging 747 fans to share memories of their experiences with the aircraft by posting memories to social media at 7:47 a.m. and 7:47 p.m. using the hashtag #BA747farewell.

The aircraft entered service on January 22, 1970, with launch customer Pan American World Airways on a flight from New York to London.  The aircraft had the lowest operating cost per seat at the time of its introduction, but only when it was fully loaded.  Nonetheless, many flag carriers purchased the 747 for the sheer prestige of being able to say they had the Queen of the Skies in their fleets.

British Airways predecessor BOAC operated its first 747 flight, flying from London to New York,  in 1971.

U.S. carriers retired the Boeing 747 in 2017.  Delta Air Lines and United Airlines were the last two U.S. carriers to operate the type.  British Airways was originally slated to make redundant its 747s in 2023, before the outbreak of the pandemic, but the coronavirus-induced drop in travel resulted in the early retirement.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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