British Airways has announced that they will retire all of their Boeing 747-400 aircraft, effective immediately. The British flag-carrier has attributed the retirement to an unsustainable future for the Queen of the Skies, due to COVID-19.

In a letter to staff, British Airways warned of a “bleak outlook” for the aviation industry; resulting in a need to retire aircraft that use excessive fuel and will not be able to turn a profit.

“With much regret, we are proposing, subject to consultation, the immediate retirement of our Queen of the Skies, the 747-400. We know there is speculation on social media and aviation websites, so we wanted to make our position clear…

Long haul travel will take years to recover, with the major industry bodies agreeing that we will not see a return to 2019 levels until 2023 at the soonest.”British Airways internal message (Source: UK Aviation News)

All of BA’s 28 B747-400 aircraft have been grounded amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline always intended to retire the B747 entirely, albeit by 2024 originally. For many aviation enthusiasts, this early retirement will come as a surprise.

The B747 has become British Airways‘ unofficial flagship aircraft, defined by luxury and a high standard of travel. Over a period of 49 years, British Airways has operated the B747-100, -200 and -400 on numerous routes around the world.

BA has operated the B747-400 variant since 1989, resulting in 60 total airframes entering service (32 have already been retired). The remaining B747’s will be replaced with Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.

Article Sources: UK Aviation News and BA Fleet Data

Video of British Airways B747-400