CNN) — British Airway retired the last of its huge Boeing 747 airplanes on Thursday when the final two planes still in service departed from London Heathrow — a poignant event brought upon by the coronavirus pandemic.
BA said that the jumbo jets, one dressed in “Negus” design and the other bearing Chatham Dockyard livery, took to the skies “one after the other” from Heathrow’s 27R runway.
One of the airplanes, G-CIVY, circled back over the runway before flying to St. Athan, Wales, to be retired, while the other, G-CIVB, will be kept at Kemble, England.
Known as “Queen of the Skies” and popular among aviation fanatics, the Boeing airplane has fallen out of favor in recent years as airlines switch to more efficient smaller passenger jets
BA said it was already “slowly” phasing out the “fuel-hungry” aircraft in order to help meet a commitment to “net zero by 2050.”
But earlier this year, the company released a statement to say that the planes had likely flown their last scheduled commercial service — despite recently refreshing the interiors of the planes having expected them to remain in service for several years.
The British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), one of BA’s predecessors, operated its first 747 London to New York flights in 1971. In July 1989, BA took its first 747-400 — the same model as flies today — to the skies.
The original aircraft, which featured 27 First Class and 292 Economy seats, featured an upper deck containing a lounge. The plane was the largest commercial aircraft in the world, until the arrival of the Airbus A380 in 2007.
The aircraft was also home to BA’s’ very first flat bed seat, which it introduced in 1999.
“This is not how we wanted or expected to have to say goodbye to our incredible fleet of 747 aircraft. It is a heart-breaking decision to have to make,” Alex Cruz, BA chairman and CEO, said in July following the announcement that the planes would be retired.
“Today was an emotional milestone in the retirement of our 747 fleet as it was our last chance to see the Queen of the Skies depart from our home at Heathrow airport,” Cruz said Thursday.
“The 747s have played a huge role in our 100-year history, forming the backbone of our fleet for over 50 years. I know I speak for our customers and the many thousands of colleagues who have spent much of their careers alongside them when I say we will miss seeing them grace our skies,” he added.
By : Amy Woodyatt – CNN