British Airways has announced plans to retire all its Boeing 747 with immediate effect as a result of huge downturn in international travel caused by the coronavirus virus pandemic.
The airline is the world’s largest operator of the 747 jumbo jets, with 31 of it in the fleet, and has used the aircraft since July 1989. The aircraft will be permanently grounded immediately after the announcement.
Initially the company was planning to retire the fleet of 31 craft in 2024, but has been forced to move it to an earlier date than previously scheduled as the scourge of the coronavirus pandemic hits harder on businesses across the globe.
The company said; “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.
“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.
“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, to help us achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
British Airways operated the plane, powered to a top speed of 614mph by four Rolls Royce engines, to destinations in China, the US, Canada and Africa.
UK airlines have struggled to cope with the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus crisis, with easyJet, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic all announcing job cuts and reduced operations.
Meanwhile, demand for air travel will take longer to return to pre-pandemic levels than initially expected, according to the latest industry forecast.
Trade body Airports Council International, ACI, Europe, which represents European airports, said it does not expect passenger numbers to recover until 2024, one year later than it predicted in May.
This comes after figures for June show the increase in air travel following the easing of coronavirus restrictions has been slower than anticipated.
BA has said it does not forsee 2019 levels of travel demand returning until 2023.