There’s hardly a more iconic plane than the Boeing 747, and of all the airlines to operate the Queen of the Skies, few, if any were as recognizable as British Airways. The flag on the tail, the big bold logo and signature airline “speedmarque” have turned heads around the globe for decades, but those days are over. Unfortunately, there won’t be any last hurrah’s going, either.
In a letter to employees, British Airways Chairman & CEO delivered somber news for employees and travel enthusiasts alike. The Boeing 747 retirement will go ahead as planned, and though the airline would’ve loved to celebrate its history with a “a great deal of noise”, no goodbyes will be forthcoming.
The letter from Alex Cruz to BA employees states..
We are starting the early retirement of our beautiful 747-400s as part of the reshaping of our airline. This is a necessary move reflecting the cliff-edge drop in premium long-haul travel, which may never recover to the levels we saw in 2019. If these were normal times, we would be celebrating the retirement of the Queens of the Skies with a great deal of noise including special commemorative flights and colleague events. Sadly, given the difficulty of operating during the pandemic, the farewell will be less lavish, but still heartfelt.
As G-CIVD leads our remaining 747 fleet into the sunset, I know many of you will join me in fond remembrance of these remarkable aircraft that have served us and our customers so well. There will never again be anything quite like them.
According to sources within the airline, “less lavish” means the planes will simply go away. No party flights, no “one last dance” opportunities.
Of equal, if not much greater bad news, the demand for long haul travel, where BA makes a majority of its money, was equated to a “cliff-edge drop”. British Airways was an airline built on lucrative corporate banking contracts in the US and Asia, and without them, everything down to the cabins will be different.
In recent years, British Airways went with “J heavy” – mostly business class – setups on new aircraft deliveries, such as the beautiful, new generation Airbus A350 and Boeing 787’s which modernized the BA fleet.
“J” heavy refers to larger business class cabins designed to be filled with corporate travellers, and is derived from the airline fare code “J” which signifies a business class ticket. If you want to dive deeper into the world of nerdy airline coined terms, the “Y cabin” refers to economy.
But for the old generation Boeing 747-400, it’s now the end of an era, and one without proper fanfare to say goodbye.
Though there may be opportunities to spot the glorious Boeing 747 aircraft departing to their retirement homes, no celebratory flights, such as the Qantas flight which drew a Kangaroo around the Australian coast will be on offer.
Challenges around unnecessary travel, costs, environmental concerns and other issues have ruled any celebratory goodbyes, or “one last ride” opportunities for old regulars too much to undertake. It’s the end of an era for British Airways.