British Airways has announced that it will retire all of its Boeing 747s following a sharp downturn in global travel due to COVID-19 disruption.
The airline, owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), said the planes will all be retired with immediate effect.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” a BA spokesperson told the BBC at the weekend.
“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,” the spokesperson added.
The 747s represent about 10 per cent of BA’s total fleet.
Although the Boeing 747 is considered beautiful and distinctive, as a passenger plane, it is also considered outdated because it is less efficient than modern twin-engine models, such as the Airbus A350, the 787 Dreamliner, or the older Boeing 777.
The UK airline is the world’s largest operator of the jumbo jets, with 31 in the fleet.
BA planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date due to the downturn.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic crippled global travel, different airlines such as Air France, Delta and United had retired their fleets.
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Reports said BA had planned to use them for another few years, but the crisis in the industry signals uncertainty in passenger traffic, necessitating austerity measures in operation and maintenance of aircraft.
The British carrier added it would operate more flights on modern, more fuel-efficient planes such as its new Airbus A350s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with expectations that they would help it achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The coronavirus outbreak is hitting airlines across the world, along with plane-makers and their suppliers.
Thousands of job losses and furloughs have been announced since the first quarter of the year.
At least 12,000 staff of British Airways are facing redundancy as the airline slashes costs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. They include pilots, cabin crew, engineers and ground staff.