British Airways to Retire All Boeing 747s 'With Immediate Effect'

Boeing's (NYSE: BA) stable of iconic plane brands has taken yet another hit from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Two months ago, Delta Air Lines made headlines when it announced plans to "permanently retire" all 18 Boeing 777 airplanes in its fleet. One month later, the news came down from north of the border that Air Canada is retiring its last Boeing 767.  

Now, it's the 747's turn.

A Boeing 747 airplane in flight

Image source: Boeing.

As the BBC reports this morning, U.K. flag carrier British Airways has confirmed that it will retire all 31 of its Boeing 747 jumbo jets "with immediate effect" -- 10% of the BA fleet. (BA's 747 fleet is the largest in the airline industry. Globally, about 500 747s remain in service today.)

The announcement marks the end of a nearly six-decade-long history of BA flying the 747, with the move depriving the airline of its fastest flyer. As the BBC points out, the 747 is the "fastest operating commercial plane, with a top speed of just over 650 mph."  

Coronavirus, of course, bears the blame. With air traffic down, airlines are feeling pressure to cut costs -- and the four-engine 747 is more expensive to operate than a twin-engine 787 or 777. Thus, as a British Airways spokesman explained, "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."

That being said, the blow isn't as heavy as it might sound for Boeing. The airplane maker has for some time been rumored to be winding down 747 production, and earlier this month, Bloomberg named 2022 the final year of the 747's production. British Airways itself was already planning to retire its fleet of 747s in 2024.

Today's announcement just moves up that date by four years.

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Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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