British Airways has retired its last two Boeing 747 airliners, marking the end of the line for one of the largest fleets of the iconic jumbos.
The planes took off from BA's London Heathrow hub on Thursday, with their departure live-streamed for aviation enthusiasts and the generations of long-haul travelers who have flown on the hump-backed behemoths.
Airlines across the globe have been phasing out older, thirstier aircraft models as they battle to cut costs in the face of the demand slump triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
While hundreds of four-engine 747s were retired well before the crisis, BA had largely held on to its planes to maximize passenger numbers at capacity-constrained Heathrow.
In a nod to plane geeks everywhere, the 747-400s departed with the flight numbers BA747 and BA400.
One of the jumbos, 22-year-old G-CIVY, flew for 51 minutes to BA's maintenance depot in St Athan, Wales, and faces being scrapped. The other, 26-year-old G-CIVB, took the even shorter trip to an aircraft boneyard at Kemble in England's Cotswold hills, though won't immediately be broken up.
BA's rival Virgin Atlantic retired its own Boeing 747s "with immediate effect" in May 2020.
British Airways had the largest fleet of 747-400s, with 28 planes as of July, all of them grounded.
Lufthansa still has 14 of what CEO Carsten Spohr described as "fairly aged 747-400s, which we will be retiring over the course of the middle of this decade," leaving the larger and more modern 747-8 as its flagship in the post-A380 era.
All told there are now only 35 Boeing 747s in passenger service and a further 122 in storage, according to aviation data provider Cirium.
The model is now predominantly a cargo plane, with 298 in service carrying freight. Boeing has said it will cease production of the latest model – the stretched 747-8 – in 2022.
Additional reporting by David Flynn
This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here