British Airways has told its staff that effective immediately it will retire its 28-strong Boeing 747 fleet due to the COVID-19 crisis.
All the airline’s 747-400s are stored and they will be sold for scrap.
The airline’s 747s were to be phased out by 2024 replaced by 787-10s.
Earlier this year in February a British Airways Boeing 747 lived up to the airline’s Speedbird call sign by breaking the record for the fastest ever subsonic flight between New York and London.
The feat, flagged on Twitter by flight tracking platform Flightradar24, saw the plane land almost two hours ahead of schedule after crossing the Atlantic in four hours and 56 minutes.
It beat a Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350 flight by a minute and was significantly ahead of the previous record of five hours and 13 minutes held by Norwegian.
Its top speed during the flight was reportedly clocked at 825mph (1,327kmh) as it was pushed by a powerful jetstream associated with Storm Ciara.
British Airways already held the record for the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing by a scheduled service after a Concorde flew from New York to London in two hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heartbreaking decision to have to make. So many people, including many thousands of our colleagues past and present, have spent countless hours on and with these wonderful planes – they have been at the centre of so many memories, including my very first long-haul flight. They will always hold a special place in our hearts at British Airways.
“We have committed to making our fleet more environmentally friendly as we look to reduce the size of our business to reflect the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on aviation. As painful as it is, this is the most logical thing for us to propose. The retirement of the jumbo jet will be felt by many people across Britain, as well as by all of us at British Airways. It is sadly another difficult but necessary step as we prepare for a very different future.”
BOAC operated its first 747 London to New York service on 14th April 1971 and in July 1989 the first British Airways 747-400, the aircraft type the airline still flies today, took to the skies.
At one point British Airways operated 57 747-400 aircraft. The original aircraft featured 27 First Class seats and 292 Economy seats. Initially, the upper deck, widely described as the bubble, contained a lounge, with lounge chair seating. It was known as the ‘club in the sky’ and the aircraft also played host to the world’s very first flat bed seat which British Airways pioneered in 1999.
Today’s aircraft can seat up to 345 customers in four classes – First, Club World (Business), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) and World Traveller (Economy). British Airways recently refreshed the interiors of a number of its 747 aircraft which were expected to remain in service for several years to come.