In Depth

End of the runway: British Airways drops the Boeing 747

The ‘queen of the skies’ has been superseded by smaller, more efficient jets

British Airways has announced “with great sadness” that its remaining Boeing 747 jumbo jets will be retired with immediate effect, as the airline’s fleet is reshaped for the era of post-coronavirus travel.

“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,” the flagship carrier said.  

1162554832

2019 Getty Images

The Boeing 747 entered service with BA’s forerunner, the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), in April 1971. The plane’s first commercial flight for the airline carried passengers from a primitive-looking London Heathrow to New York.

At the front of the plane, passengers in first class travelled in luxury - but without lie-flat beds and personal entertainment systems.

Economy cabins were a little less spacious, but still surprisingly airy by today’s standards.  

Until the advent of the Airbus A380, in 2005, the Boeing 747 was unique among modern aircraft in having a second passenger deck - accessed via a spiral staircase on early models.

Passengers in the first few rows sat in front of the pilots, and could see straight ahead through the windows due to the curvature of the nose. This photo shows a BA 747 caught in a sand storm at Riyadh Airport in Saudi Arabia.

137969474

2012 AFP

Seen here coming in to land at Hong Kong’s Kai Tak Airport, which closed in 1998, the 747 has four engines, making it less efficient than the twin-engined jets which are replacing it.

SCA-Official-20190720-585

2019 Crown Copyright

To celebrate the airline’s centenary last year, British Airways revived the BOAC livery on one of its younger jumbos. BA took delivery of its final 747-400 in 1999.

Recommended

What is the 1922 Committee - and will it oust Boris Johnson?
Tory MP Graham Brady
In Depth

What is the 1922 Committee - and will it oust Boris Johnson?

Sue Gray: the Whitehall ‘sleazebuster’ investigating No. 10 lockdown parties
Boris Johnson leaves the Houses of Parliament after Prime Minister’s Questions
Profile

Sue Gray: the Whitehall ‘sleazebuster’ investigating No. 10 lockdown parties

‘Partygate’ and the dark art of political whipping
Conservative Chief Whip Mark Spencer
Why we’re talking about . . .

‘Partygate’ and the dark art of political whipping

Quiz of The Week: 15 - 21 January
A woman silhouetted against the Palace of Westminster
Quizzes and puzzles

Quiz of The Week: 15 - 21 January

Popular articles

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022
Hidden Assets BBC
In Depth

Best new TV crime dramas of 2022

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams
Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer have all won 20 grand slam singles titles
Profile

Djokovic vs. Nadal vs. Federer: career records and grand slams

The Week Footer Banner