AP Photo/Frank Augstein
British Airways (BA) announced on Thursday that it is retiring its entire fleet of Boeing 747s as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forces the company into further cost-cutting measures.
“It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” BA said in a statement.
“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 pandemic,” it added.
The Boeing 747 aircraft was launched in the 1970s, revolutionising air travel thanks to its 400-seat capacity.
The British carrier was the airline with the fleet of the jumbo jets in the world, with 31 of the aircraft. These were used for long-haul flights to a dozen destinations including Beijing, Cape Town, Lagos, Mexico, and multiple US destinations.
BA had been planning to retire the aircraft in 2024 and replace them with more fuel-efficient models but the COVID-19-induced freefall in the travel sector has hastened the company’s plans.
“While the aircraft will always have a special place in our heart, as we head into the future we will be operating more flights on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as our new A350s and 787s,” BA said.
The company, which has been hit hard by the pandemic, has already announced that it will cut some 12,000 jobs — over a quarter of its workforce — in order to survive the downturn.
Most airlines have been severely impacted by the deadly virus and the lockdown measures imposed to contain its spread.
Air France announced earlier this month that it plans to cut 7,500 jobs, while Lufthansa said 22,000 jobs will have to be cut.