British Airways plans to retire its complete jumbo jet fleet over the coming months, marking the end of an era for the world's largest operator of Boeing 747-400 passenger planes.
In an internal email sent to BA staff and sighted by Executive Traveller, the airline confirms that “we would not expect any more commercial flights to be flown” by the Boeing 747.
"They rely on high passenger load factors and high premium demand to make them commercially viable. In short, we do not believe that these beautiful aircraft are sustainable in a very different airline industry," the company justifies.
BA's current fleet of 28 Boeing 747s – previously 32 jumbo jets, before recent retirements – were originally set to continue flying until 2023-24, before the last was to be removed from service.
While the airline hadn't planned to install its latest-generation Club Suite business class experience onto these planes, some had been refreshed with updated interiors and improved inflight entertainment, expecting that they would remain flying for several more years.
BA's Boeing 747s were most often seen flying across the Atlantic to destinations in the United States, including between London Heathrow and New York JFK.
In fact, it was on this route that British Airways became the first airline in the world to offer a fully-flat bed in business class, in early 2000.
Until then, flat beds had been the exclusive domain of first class, and would replace what was previously offered in BA business class, the 'Club World Cradle':
"When many people think of BA today, they think of our Jumbos connecting Britain with the world, and the world with Britain," British Airways' email to staff continues.
"They are true icons ... but they burn far more fuel than the latest generation of planes ... and our proposal to retire the fleet early has only been taken in response to the crisis we find ourselves in."
A final timeline for the retirement of these jumbos is subject to consultation between British Airways, its staff and their union representatives, but it's expected to occur "over the coming months."
The news comes in the same week as BA's Oneworld alliance partner Qantas is preparing to farewell its own Boeing 747 fleet, operating a series of final joy flights before the last Qantas Boeing 747 departs Australia on July 22.