Its entire fleet of the iconic Boeing 747 airplanes is being retired earlier than expected by British Airways primarily because of the novel coronavirus pandemic induced slump in the global airline industry. British Airways is the largest operator of Boeing 747 in the world currently.
The original plan of the British Airways, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group, was to slowly phase out the jumbo jet by 2024 from its fleet of aircrafts. However the travel restrictions imposed because of the pandemic has forced the airlines to pre-pone the plan of the phasing out of the aircraft.
“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 an emailed statement to the media. “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 airline said.
Instead of the Boeing 747 planes, British Airways would be operating more flights on “modern, fuel-efficient aircraft”, including the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787, the airline said.
Boeing’s jumbo jet was first started used by British Airways in the 1970s. The current fleet of the 747-400s form Boeing was delivered to the airlines between 1989 and 1999. The airlines had 57 of the 747s at its height second only to Japan Airlines. Currently the iconic planes account for about 10 per cent of its total fleet. It currently owns 31 of the four-engine aircraft, with an average age of 23 years.
This announcement from British Airways came after an announcement in June by Qantas Airways about retiring its six Boeing 747 planes immediately, six months prior to the original planned retirement.
The Boeing 747 planes are known for their large size – 231 feet long and with a wingspan of 213 feet. It is big enough to accommodate 50 parked cars. The original design of the planes was made to hold 27 first class and 292 economy class passengers and was known for a lounge in the upper deck called the “club in the sky”. The later versions of the aircraft have three different seating layouts.
In a recent announcement, British Airways warned that the pandemic related slump in the airline industry would result in the company slashing 12,000 jobs. IAG’s stock is down 65% so far this year.
The global airline industry was set to lose $84 billion this year, the International Air Transport Association forecast last month. It also forecast that the loss next year would be $15 billion. According to IATA, there was a 90 per cent drop year on year in air travel globally in April and the organization expects the current year to be the worst ever in the history of the industry.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)