British Airways, the world's largest operator of Boeing 747, said late Thursday it would retire its entire jumbo jet fleet with immediate effect due to the downturn in travel industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Global curbs imposed to stem the spread of the virus led to a turbulence in air travel, placing the future of many airline companies in doubt.
"It is unlikely our magnificent 'queen of the skies' will ever operate commercial services for British Airways again," the company said in a statement. British Airways, which is owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group, added that it will operate more flights on modern, fuel-efficient aircraft such as its new A350s and 787s and expects such aircraft to help in achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
A wave of restructuring triggered by the virus outbreak is hitting airlines and industrial firms across the world. The Sun reported last month that British Airways had reached an agreement with its pilots to sack 350 and another 300 in 'pool' for rehiring when needed.
The majority of pilots being 'pooled' were expected to be the jumbo jet first officers, according to the report. Boeing Co's 747, a plane that democratized global air travel in the 1970s but fell behind modern twin-engine aircraft, marked its 50-year flying anniversary in February 2019.
The US-based aerospace company and its suppliers signalled the end of the plane, when they set the final number of parts it would need for the 747 jumbo jet program at least a year ago. However, the decision was left in limbo for years amid falling orders and pricing pressure.