British Airways announced the permanent and immediate withdrawal of all 31 of its 747-400’s, the worlds largest remaining 744 fleet, early Friday morning, bringing a sad but inevitable end to an aviation era.
The original plan had been to withdraw them by 2023-4 and 18 had only recently been refurbished with new/updated seating and full wi-fi.
The economies of running the aircraft despite the fact their purchase costs having been written off a decade or more ago, just don’t make sense, when passenger numbers are likely to remain low for another two years.
The loss in human terms is substantial, with around 50 pilots and support crew per aircraft likely to loose their jobs.
BA operated as many as 54 744’s at peak, and had operated the 747 over its entire history since BOAC and BEA merged in the early 70’s.
Personal memories for many are associated with the aircraft, I flew on my honeymoon on G-CIVY for example, millions have travelled globally on the type.
BA also operated the 748F for a while but that ended back in 2013. Many expected BA to be the leader in 748i ownership but they saw no future in four engined aircraft in the numbers needed, when the 777 and 787 were available.
The future of the A380’s is now said to be hanging in the balance. The airline owns them all, but hasn’t really had the use out of them to justify scrapping them so soon. At the same time it sees itself as a smaller more manageable airline working the smaller aircraft harder.
It’s order of 777-9’s is still alive, but again, the questions over so many large and less “destination agile” aircraft remain.
For many the end of the BA 744 era is the lid on the coffin of the type. Only a handful now remain, at Lufthansa, Thai, Air India, indeed I struggle to think who else now operates them. It’s unlikely Thai or Air India will ever fly theirs commercially again.
Covid-19 has wiped the 744 out faster than anyone could have imagined, and it was already in steep decline.
It’s the end of an era and no mistake, this is a genuinely historic day in aviation.
BA’s first 747-100 Operation routes from July 1971
By way of interest, this is BA’s original 747-100 routes, what a very different world it was then…
The carrier’s predecessor BOAC took delivery of first Boeing 747-100 in 22APR70, but the aircraft did not enter service until April 1971. The following is BOAC’s Boeing 747 operation in September / October 1972, taken from Official Airline Guide, International Edition, September 1972. Between 1970 and 1972, BOAC took delivery of 12 Boeing 747-100, with another 6 aircraft delivered between 1973 and 1976. BOAC took delivery of Boeing 747-200B from June 1977, followed by 747-400 in June 1989.
Outbound from London, Sep/Oct 1972 (1 weekly each per flight number, unless otherwise stated):
London Heathrow – Boston – Detroit BA561 (1 daily until 14OCT72)
London Heathrow – Chicago O’Hare BA569 (1 daily)
London Heathrow – Frankfurt – Bahrain – Bangkok – Hong Kong – Darwin – Sydney BA808
London Heathrow – Frankfurt – Beirut – Tehran – Bangkok – Hong Kong – Darwin – Sydney BA812
London Heathrow – Frankfurt – Nairobi – Johannesburg BA033
London Heathrow – Frankfurt – Tel Aviv – Tehran – Delhi – Hong Kong – Darwin – Sydney BA804
London Heathrow – Miami BA661 (4 weekly)
London Heathrow – Montreal BA609 (3 weekly until 13OCT72)
London Heathrow – Nairobi – Johannesburg BA025 / BA027 / BA029 / BA031
London Heathrow – New York JFK BA501 (1 daily) / BA509 (1 daily)
London Heathrow – Rome – Bahrain – Bangkok – Hong Kong – Darwin – Melbourne BA802
London Heathrow – Toronto BA601 (3 weekly until 14OCT72)
London Heathrow – Zurich – Bahrain – Bombay – Singapore – Perth – Sydney BA716
London Heathrow – Zurich – Nairobi – Johannesburg BA021 / BA023
London Heathrow – Zurich – Tehran – Bombay – Singapore – Perth – Sydney BA720
Inbound to London, Sep/Oct 1972 (1 weekly each per flight number, unless otherwise stated)
Chicago O’Hare – London Heathrow BA570 (1 daily)
Detroit – Boston – London Heathrow BA562 (1 daily until 14OCT72)
Johannesburg – Nairobi – Frankfurt – London Heathrow BA026
Johannesburg – Nairobi – London Heathrow BA024 / BA028
Johannesburg – Nairobi – Rome – London Heathrow BA030 / BA034
Johannesburg – Nairobi – Zurich – London Heathrow BA022 / BA032
Melbourne – Darwin – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Tehran – Tel Aviv – Zurich – London Heathrow BA803
Miami – London Heathrow BA664 (4 weekly)
Montreal – London Heathrow BA610 (3 weekly until 13OCT72)
New York JFK – London Heathrow BA500 (1 daily) / BA506 (1 daily)
Sydney – Darwin – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Bahrain – Rome – London Heathrow BA813
Sydney – Darwin – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Tehran – Frankfurt – London Heathrow BA805
Sydney – Darwin – Singapore – Bombay – Bahrain – Zurich – London Heathrow BA725
Sydney – Darwin – Hong Kong – Delhi – Bahrain – Beirut – Frankfurt – London Heathrow BA811
Sydney – Perth – Singapore – Bangkok – Tehran – Tel Aviv – Frankfurt – London Heathrow BA717
Toronto – London Heathrow BA600 (3 weekly until 14OCT72)