Opportunities to Fly on 747s Are Dwindling Fast
The world’s largest remaining operator of passenger Boeing 747s has announced that they will retire the type ‘with immediate effect’. In a leaked memo that was later confirmed by the airline itself, British Airways shared that all remaining Boeing 747-400s in their fleet will not return to service due to fallout of the COVID-19 virus.
It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect. Natalie M— British Airways (@British_Airways) July 17, 2020
British Airways was originally scheduled to operate the type until 2024. Earlier this year, they had announced an accelerated retirement plan due to COVID-19. However, it was expected that they type would continue to fly until 2021. Unfortunately, market conditions have not rapidly rebounded. International travel is still severely depressed with a patchwork of travel prohibitions, restrictions, and a general lack of demand due to the virus.
The Passenger 747 Was Already On Its Last Legs
Even before today’s announcement, the days of passengers flying on the Boeing 747 were limited. Airlines have been retiring the Queen en masse. Retirements have accelerated as the demand for travel collapsed due to COVID-19. Airlines like Virgin Atlantic, KLM, and Qantas have retired their 747 fleets this year. Remaining operators of the passenger version are likely to follow.
Lufthansa Now the Only Game in Town
With the announcement by British Airways today, now Lufthansa will become the largest operator of passenger 747s. They operate a mix of -400 and -8 versions of the venerable quad jet.
747 Freighters Will Continue to Ply the Airways
As disappointing as today’s news is for avgeeks, it is comforting to know that demand for the cargo version of the Boeing 747 remains high. Operators like UPS, Atlas, and CargoLux will continue to operate the type for years to come. New 747-8 cargo jets will continue to roll off the Boeing line for UPS until the final jet is delivered in 2022.