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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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18 Comments

    1. It may mean that they realise they have to deliver on their marketing and start treating their customers with respect. Either way, going bust, being partially renationalised, losing LHR slots, having to offer a competitive service that’s closer to the marketing would all be positive outcomes for the UK based passenger!
      For me, I I’ll continue to avoid where possible as I can’t forgive their treatment of staff and have lost out financially BOTH before and during Covid crisis. BA has been run by sharks and fraudsters for the last few years, and as time passes it seems there is less and less chance of a revival of “the world’s favourite airline” rather than the current hyperpriced Ryanair service with added contempt.

    2. Did you feel that way 20 years ago, when it was the only Flat Bed seat across The Atlantic and most other Long Haul Routes. It helped kill off Pan Am and TWA plus possibly SABENA and Swissair.

  1. If they wanted to they could have sold tickets to plane enthusiasts for a 1-hour farewell flight and I am sure they would be sold out, even with social distancing seating they would be able to recoup the cost of the farewell flight. But of course not, Cruz couldn’t care less.

  2. Same as they’ve done to their long service staff who have become “to expensive and cumbersome” to retain. No fond farewells with BA.

  3. I flew regularly to the Caribbean and switched to Virgin from BA because of the poor service and attitude of the staff. I ha e no feelings for BA but sad to see the 747 retired. I would fly anywhere on those 747 aircraft. A fantastic aeroplane. Sad to see it go.

  4. I have no time for BA management they are treating their staff so badly. I’m sure a formal goodbye to the747 with flights similar to Quantas would have generated some well needed income. I have a feeling that this decision to get rid of the Quuen of the Skies is too hasty and may well be regretted.

  5. Why don’t they put the 3 Retro colours in museums? Or keep them at British airports? Come on ba please don’t scrap them 3 747s. You got a concorde at Heathrow so keep them at airports. You made your money out of them now keep them so people can see them thou the ages. Don’t forget about them. See if you can get in duxford with the BOAC. It look great next to the VC-10. And the lavender would look great next to the BAC 1-11. And the 1970s keep at Heathrow or Gatwick? Please think about it ba, don’t let the British down. Thank you.

  6. I once walked up to the BA ticket desk at Heathrow dressed casually wishing to buy a ticket to Manchester and the ticket clerk looked me up and down like I was something on her shoe and looked at me like you can’t afford our tickets, so after been told the price and me placing my gold card down on the counter I was suddenly a sir. Strange that. Sorry to see the 747s go especially without fanfare but the staff and management I have no sympathy for in these dire times.

  7. Well, that’s the private sector for you. BA gave the impression they carried the Flag fir the UK. Like all private companies they eventually fall by the wayside. AIG are the owners and should fly under their own colours not that of the United Kingdom

  8. So very sad to see the demise of such a wonderful aircraft. From the very first time of going in one in 1970. To as recent as last year. There will never be another quite like her. Rip. By the way it’s Speedbird and not speedmaque! From an employee of 40 years

  9. End of a great golden age of wonderful classic aircraft like the dc10 tristar 111 707 vc10 etc etc the 747 was unveiled at the start of the golden age.So sad to see it go nevet forget 1969 and i was at primary school seeing a boac 741 performing touch and goes
    Will we ever get another era of the golden age…doubtful as airlines have found a way of managing with two engined aircraft

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