British Airways retires 747 fleet due to pandemic

British Airways has retired its fleet of Boeing 747s with immediate effect.

The airline was the world's biggest operator of the 747-400 model.

It was planning to ground its fleet of 31 jumbo jets in 2024 but the end has been hastened by coronavirus.

The company said: "It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.

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747 Queen of the Skies
British Airways Boeing 747 jet comes in to land at Heathrow Airport, London, England, photo
(Original Caption) Lancaster, California: The space shuttle orbiter Columbia ties up traffic as it noses into a Lancaster intersection early 3/8. The shuttle is being towed to Edwards Air Force Base where it will be placed atop a Boeing 747 for the flight to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a scheduled 11.79 orbital launch.
(Original Caption) 2/9/69-Everett, Washington: The world's larget commercial jetliner, the Boeing 747, a 231 foot mammoth of the skies, makes the F-86 chase plane look like a flea 2/9 during the 747's maiden flight over Puget Sound. The huge jet took off and landed smoothly, and flew for more than an hour on its first flight. This first flight begins testing aimed to put the plane in commercial service by the end of the year.
1968: A full sized mock-up of Boeing's 747 aircraft complete with passengers. (Photo by Alan Band/Keystone/Getty Images)
The first Boeing 747 jumbo jet, christened the City of Everett and largest transport plane in the world, departs on its first flight on February 09, 1969 in Everett. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
A Boeing 747 airplane that serves as Air Force One is seen on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, February 7, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE - In this April 20, 2020 file photo, Lufthansa airline, Boeing 747 aircrafts are parked at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. Boeing says it will cut about 10% of its work force and slow production of planes as it deals with the ongoing grounding of its best-selling plane and the coronavirus pandemic. With air travel falling sharply because of the virus, airlines have delayed orders and deliveries of new planes, reducing Boeing’s revenue. (AP Photo/Michael Probst, File)
Jet carrying evacuees from the virus zone in China lands at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, San Diego, California, graphic element on gray
Arrival of Cathay Pacific Airways' first Boeing 747 plane (B747-200B) from the United States at the Kai Tak Airport. 31JUL79 (Photo by P. Y. Tang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)
A Union flag flies above a hangar as a British Airways operated Airbus A747 passenger jet is moved by an aircraft tractor at Heathrow Airport, west of London on April 2, 2020, as life in Britain continues during the nationwide lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Flagship airline British Airways will temporarily lay off 28,000 employees, or 60 percent of its workforce, due to the coronavirus crisis which is paralysing the sector, trade union Unite announced Thursday. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
British Airways Boeing 747-400 with nickname Queen of the Skies commercial aircraft as seen on final approach with landing gear down landing at New York JFK John F. Kennedy International Airport in USA on 23 January 2020. The jumbo jet wide-body long haul airplane has the registration G-CIVR with 4x RR engines. BA is connecting capital of UK London LHR to New York City via Transatlantic flight. BAW Speedbird is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom member of Oneworld aviation alliance. NY, USA (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
This picture shows a British Airways Boeing 747 and other grounded planes at Heathrow's airport terminal 5, in west London, on March 16, 2020. - IAG, the owner of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, said Monday it would slash the group's flight capacity by 75 percent during April and May owing to the coronavirus outbreak. "For April and May, the Group plans to reduce capacity by at least 75 percent compared to the same period in 2019," it said in a statement. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Five planes from British Airways' centenary fleet, (left to right) a Boeing 747 in British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) livery, an Airbus 319 in British European Airways (BEA) livery, a Boeing 747 in British Airways Negus livery, a current British Airways Airbus A319-131 and a Boeing 747 in British Airways Landor livery, at London's Heathrow Airport. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 29: Pan Am's new 747 jet arrives at Logan Airport in Boston on Dec. 29, 1969. (Photo by Tom Landers/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
The first Boeing 747 aircraft delivered to Air France company rolls off the production line on October, 14 1969 in Seattle. (Photo by - / AFP) (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
Stewardesses pose in their uniforms on stairwell aboard the new Boeing Pan Am 747 jet transport.
Passengers relax aboard the new Boeing Pan Am 747 jet transport.
BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 30: Passangers wait to board the Pan American 747 Jumbo Jet at Logan International Airport in Boston on Dec. 30, 1969. (Photo by Joyce Dopkeen/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Jamaica, N.Y.: Passengers disembark from the giant Pan American Boeing 747 airplane after it arrived at Hangar 17 at JFK Airport in Jamaica, New York on December 2, 1969. (Photo by Dick Kraus/Newsday RM via Getty Images)
Keith Granville, Managing Director of BOAC, holding up a model of the Boeing 747 jet, with the new aircraft hangars under construction in the background, Heathrow Airport, London, March 17th 1969. (Photo by Jim Gray/Keystone/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 2/9/69-Everett, Washington: The world's largest commercial jetliner, the Boeing 747 makes its first takeoff 2/9. The 231 ft. jet used abut 4500 feet of runway and became airborne at a speed of about 170 MPH. The 747 cut its maiden flight short by about an hour due to some minor problem when the wing flaps were lowered to a 30 degree angle.
A large crowd gathers to take a look at the new Boeing 747-100 Jumbo Jet during rollout at Paine Field in Everett, Washington on September 30, 1968. | Located in: Museum of Flight. (Photo by © Museum of Flight/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED : The prototype of the 'Jumbo' being rolled out of its purpose-built factory - the largest building ever built - at Everett, Washington, USA. The world's largest passenger aeroplane, the Boeing 747 carries up to 400 people. The aircraft first entered service in 1970. (Photo by SSPL/Getty Images)
Qantas latest Boeing 747, arrives in Sydney today, from it's delivery flight, from the U.S.A."City of Bunbury." is fitted with the latest rolls Royce engines.Qantas chairman Sir Lenox Hewitt, personally took delivery of the aircraft in Seattle. December 13, 1979. (Photo by Antony Matheus Linsen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 02: Boeing 747 commercial airliner and cargo transport aircraft, 1970, United States of America, drawing. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Qantas latest Boeing 747, arrives in Sydney today, from it's delivery flight, from the U.S.A."City of Bunbury." is fitted with the latest rolls Royce engines.Qantas chairman Sir Lenox Hewitt, personally took delivery of the aircraft in Seattle. December 13, 1979. (Photo by Antony Matheus Linsen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
Scotland: Two Boeing 747 Planes In Near Miss
Arrival of Cathay Pacific Airways' first Boeing 747 plane (B747-200B) from the United States at the Kai Tak Airport. 31JUL79 (Photo by P. Y. Tang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)
Cockpit of a Boeing 747 plane (B747-200B), the first of the Cathay Pacific Airways, newly arrived at Kai Tak Airport from the United States. 31JUL79 (Photo by P. Y. Tang/South China Morning Post via Getty Images)
Work in progress at the Engine Overhaul Centre, Qantas Jet Base, where equipped with the latest technical facilities to support the overhaul of modern aircraft engines, engineers work on the 747 engines of the Qantas fleet. June 14, 1979. (Photo by Trevor James Robert Dallen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
Press Conference with a difference" - Mr. John Fordham, Qantas Marketing Promotions Manager Australia, serves the President of the Australian Rugby Union Mr. Bill McLaughlin and Australian player Greg Cornelsen on the "flight".Qantas today announced a major sponsorship of tye Australian Rugby Union. The conference held on a mock-up of a Boeing 747, used for training purposes, included full in-flight by trainee stewards. April 19, 1979. (Photo by Paul Stephen Pearson/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
(Original Caption) Kennedy Space Center, Florida: Arrival of the space shuttle Columbia, at the center.
One of three abandoned Boeing 747-200F planes is seen parked on the tarmac at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, December 10, 2015. Malaysia's airport operator took out newspaper adverts to find the owners of three Boeing 747 that have been sitting idle for more than a year. REUTERS/Olivia Harris
(Original Caption) Palmdale, California: As dawn broke the space shuttle orbiter Columbia was already moving down the road toward Edwards Air Force Base, a 40 mile journey requiring nine hours to negotiate. When Columbia is launched into orbit next November, the spacecraft will be able to circle the Earth in 90 minutes. The shuttle is being taken to Edwards AFB where it will be mounted on a Boeing 747 for the flight to Kennedy Space Center in Florida for the orbital launch.
(FILES) Photo taken 01 February 1979 at Tehran airport of the Air France Boeing 747 jumbo that flew revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini back from exile in France to Tehran. Iran is set to buy the plane, a government newspaper said 29 January 2006. Although Iran's US-backed shah had already fled the country when Khomeini returned from exile in the small French town of Neauphle-le-Chateau, the 747's landing is seen as the true start of the Islamic revolution. AFP PHOTO GABRIEL DUVAL (Photo by GABRIEL DUVAL / AFP) (Photo credit should read GABRIEL DUVAL/AFP via Getty Images)
(FILES) Photo taken 01 February 1979 at Tehran airport of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (C) leaving the Air France Boeing 747 jumbo that flew him back from exile in France to Tehran. Iran is set to buy the plane, a government newspaper said 29 January 2006. Although Iran's US-backed shah had already fled the country when Khomeini returned from exile in the small French town of Neauphle-le-Chateau, the 747's landing is seen as the true start of the Islamic revolution. AFP PHOTO GABRIEL DUVAL (Photo by GABRIEL DUVAL / AFP) (Photo credit should read GABRIEL DUVAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Parramatta 1st grade R/L player 18 yr old Tony Melrose pictured at the controls of a Qantas 747 jet. Also beside the jet. April 20, 1978. (Photo by Trevor James Robert Dallen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
Parramatta 1st grade R/L player 18 year old Tony Melrose pictured at the controls of a Qantas 747 jet. Tony Melrose, Sydney's teenage Rugby five-eighth, might just as well take the wheel for all the jetting about he does these days. That's Melrose yesterday, at the controls of a Qantas 747. Today he takes off for Auckland as the controversial successor to Ken Wright in the Sydney team for the annual Trans-Tasman Cup match. April 20, 1978. (Photo by Trevor James Robert Dallen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) is offloaded from a Boeing 747 at Redstone Arsenal Airfield near Huntsville, Alabama, for Mated Vertical Ground Vibration tests (MVGVT) at the Marshall Space Flight Center, 13th March 1978. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) arrives at Redstone Arsenal Airfield near Huntsville, Alabama, riding 'piggyback' on a Boeing 747, 13th March 1978. It is on its way to the Marshall Space Flight Center for Mated Vertical Ground Vibration tests (MVGVT). (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
The prototype Space Shuttle Enterprise separates from the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft during the first free flight of the Shuttle Apporach and Landing Tests (ALTs) at Dryden Flight Research Center in Southern California, 12tth August 1977. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
View of the luxury cabin of flight 747 for the film 'Airport'77', 1977. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images)
The space shuttle 'Enterprise' (NASA Orbiter Vehicle 101) rides 'piggyback' atop a NASA Boeing 747 during the first of six Approach and Landing Test (ALT) unmanned inert flights at the Dryden Flight Research Center, on the Edwards Air Force Base in Los Angeles County, 18th February 1977. This picture was taken from a T-38 chase plane at an altitude of 16,000 feet over the Southern California desert. Another T-38 is visible at the bottom right. (Photo by Space Frontiers/Getty Images)
Entretien des Boeing 747 d'Air France à Roissy en juin 1977, France. (Photo by Gilbert UZAN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
Jumbo Jet: Sleeping: First Class: Bedroom in the Sky: 23 year old model Jenny Clare, demonstrates the way in which it is possible to relax and sleep if the need arises, above the first class compartment of Singapore International Airline's Jumbo 747 plane. The first class lounge leads up from the first class compartment by 13 stairs and they hope to turn this into a dormitory. April 1975 75-1950-005 (Photo by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)
It's a knockout job. Former Australian featherweight champion, Lucky Gattellari begins a new career from today (Friday ) as a Qantas flight steward. He is Pictured in the Qantas 747 Flight Simulator at Sydney Airport. February 20, 1975. (Photo by Trevor James Robert Dallen/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
Qantas will provide one of the major attractions during Christmas this year in the Centrepoint shopping complex. The airlines impressive "de Vinci to Sputnik" exhibition is a 60,000 dollar display portraying man's breakthrough in flight.Eve Chatze, 16, of Marrickville have a close look at a cut away model of a Qantas Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. December 26, 1974. (Photo by George Lipman/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).
The first flight of this Boeing 747 version E-4A on June 13, 1973 at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The specially equipped jumbo jet was designed to be used as an advanced airborne command post in case of national emergency. | Location: Paine Field, Everett, Washington, USA. (Photo by © Museum of Flight/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
An Air India Boeing 747 seen at Rome Airport (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
A Pan Am Boeing 747 is seen at Orly's airport, in May 1970. On September 30, 1968, the first 747 was rolled out of the Everett assembly building before the world's press and representatives of the 26 airlines that had ordered the plane, and first flight took place on February 09, 1969. The Boeing 747, called also "Jumbo Jet", entered service on January 21, 1970, on Pan Am's New York�London route. (Photo credit should read -/AFP via Getty Images)
First class passengers in a BOAC Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet are served lunch. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
A steward and stewardess serving first-class passengers with drinks and refreshments on board a Boeing 747. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
22nd January 1970: Lunch is served to passengers on board a BOAC Boeing 747. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
The heavily modified Boeing 747 airplane that serves as Air Force One when US President Donald Trump is aboard, sits on the tarmac at sunset at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
AIRPORT MUNICH, MUNICH, GERMANY - 2019/02/16: An United States US Air Force USAF Boeing E-4B bringing the American delegation back home after the Munich Security Conference. (Photo by Fabrizio Gandolfo/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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"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.

"While the aircraft will always have a special place in our heart, as we head into the future we will be operating more flights on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as our new A350s and 787s, to help us achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050."

British Airways' predecessor BOAC first used the jumbo jets in 1971.

The 747 was the world's first wide-bodied jet.

More than 1,500 have been produced by Boeing, and it has historically been a commercial success for the manufacturer and the airlines.

But Bloomberg reported earlier this month that, after more than 50 years of service, Boeing plans to end production of the jumbo jets in around two years due to airlines turning to smaller planes that burn less fuel for long-haul flights.

Just 30 of the planes were in service as of Tuesday with a further 132 in storage, according to aviation data firm Cirium.

British Airways' 747-400s have a capacity of 345 passengers and can reach a top speed of 614mph.

Air Force One
Air Force One (Andrew Milligan/PA)

It used them for flights to destinations in China, the US, Canada and Africa.

The US's presidential aircraft fleet includes two identical jets which are modified versions of the 747.

The planes – known as Air Force One when the president is flying on them – are being replaced by two new aircraft, which will also be variants of the jumbo jet.

UK airlines have struggled to cope with the collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus crisis, with British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic all announcing job cuts and reduced operations.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is among more than 100 MPs supporting a campaign by union Unite for British Airways to lose some of its lucrative slots at Heathrow due to the treatment of its workforce.

Unite has accused the company of planning a "fire and rehire" system which will involve remaining employees having their terms and conditions downgraded.

The airline has insisted its proposals have been put forward with a view to consultation, adding that no decisions have been taken with regard to actual redundancies.

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