The 16th of July. A day a lot of people were hoping wouldn’t be coming so soon. But the COVID-19 pandemic was unfortunately the final nail in the coffin for British Airway’s 747 fleet when staff were sent an email detailing the ‘immediate retirement’ of the type from service.
The company 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.”
Shortly before the UK was locked down on 23rd March 2020, British Airways had already started putting aircraft in to storage – keeping a dozen flying for emergency cargo runs for NHS PPE (Protective masks and gowns etc). Placing aircraft in storage kept the running costs down and were stored in a way they could quickly be put back into service. A few 747s even had recently had their interiors refitted.
At the time of writing, the current 747 fleet status were as follows:
Stored at Heathrow: 9 (G-BYGF, G-CIVB, G-CIVD, G-CIVE, G-CIVH, G-CIVI, G-CIVK, G-CIVP, G-CIVY)
Stored at Cardiff: 14 (G-BNLY, G-BYGA, G-BYGB, G-BYGC, G-BYGD, G-BYGE, G-BYGG, G-CIVC, G-CIVF, G-CIVO, G-CIVU, G-CIVV, G-CIVW, G-CIVZ)
Stored at Teruel: 5 (G-CIVA, G-CIVR, G-CIVS, G-CIVT, G-CIVX)
Stored at Kemble:3 (G-CIVJ, G-CIVL, G-CIVN)
Affectionately known as ‘The Queen of the skies’ by crews and enthusiasts alike, the Boeing 747 has been around since 29th April 1988, entering service with BA a year later.
The aircraft was the center of attention last year when BA painted 3 B747’s in past liveries to celebrate BA100: 100 Years of British Airways.
G-BYGC: BOAC livery
‘Golf Charlie’ was the first 747 to roll out of the Dublin paint shed on the 19h February 2019 revealing its glamorous BOAC livery which the type wore between 1964 and 1974. It was flown back to Heathrow using flight number ‘BA100’ and callsign SPEEDBIRD 100 before going back into service to New York a day later.
G-CIVB: Negus livery
21st March 2019 saw the final heritage livery delivered to heathrow, this time representing the Negus livery which was in use across the BA fleet from the merge of BEA and BOAC in 1974 until the later Landor scheme was brought In as seen above.
The type only represents 10% of the BA fleet and with the 12 A380s slowly coming out of storage and the cutting edge, fuel efficient A350s and B787s being delivered, it should not come as too much of a surprise.