BRITISH Airways (BA) retiring its entire fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft as part of a major restructuring exercise brought about in response to the economic impact of the disruption to international air travel caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Like most international and domestic airlines, BA has suffered huge losses as a result of the shutdown as air travel was brought to a complete halt. Although the embargo has now been lifted, air travel is subject to several stringent conditions to ensure that it does not lead to renewed outbreak of the pandemic.
BA has resumed flying from Heathrow and Gatwick airports to numerous destinations worldwide but the scale of its operations have been reduced. In addition, the airline has to abide by guidelines which limit the number of passengers it can carry per plane, thus limiting ticket sales.
A BA spokesman said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect. It is unlikely our magnificent queen of the skies will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again due to the downturn in travel caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic.”
Now 50 years old, the 400-passenger 747 was launched by Boeing in 1970 and dominated international air travel and cargo over the following decades. With 31 jumbo 747s in its fleet, BA currently flies more of the planes than any other airline.
BA’s last 747 had been due to retire in 2024 as the carrier turns to more modern and fuel-efficient models like Boeing’s 787 and the Airbus A350. However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought that process forward.
Unprecedented in its economic impact, the pandemic has battered the air transport sector, with the latest casualty United Airlines, warning last week it could lay off as many as 36,000 workers. Virgin Australia has also collapsed and is being bought by an American company.
In May, BA’s parent company IAG reported a net loss of €1.68bn ($1.8bn) in the three months to the end of March. BA announced plans to lay off 12,000 staff and last month was reported to be selling off artworks by Damien Hirst, Bridget Riley and Peter Doig thought to be worth millions of pounds to raise funds.
Boeing itself has announced 16,000 layoffs as the aviation industry is still reeling from the effects of limited travel. It is not yet clear who BA will sell its fleet of 32 Boeing 747s too yet.