British Airways is retiring its ‘Queen of the Skies’ fleet of Boeing 747s with immediate effect due to a drop in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the company said on Friday.
The airline has used the aircraft since July 1989 and is currently the world’s biggest operator of the 747-400 model, reports the Metro newspaper.
The UK flag carrier was planning to retire the fleet of 31 craft in 2024 but its end has been hastened by the ongoing global pandemic.
In a statement, the airline said: “It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect.
“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 operated the model, powered to a top speed of 614mph by four Rolls Royce engines, to destinations in China, the US, Canada and Africa, the Metro newspaper reported.
Friday’s development comes after figures for June showed an increase in air travel following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
Passenger traffic across European airports last month was down 93 per cent compared to June 2019.