British Airways retires its entire fleet of Boeing 747 jets

A Boeing Company 747 passenger aircraft operated by British Airways takes off at Heathrow Airport in London, UK

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg Getty Images

British Airways, currently the largest operator of the Boeing 747, said it would retire its entire fleet of iconic aircraft earlier than expected due to the coronovirus slowdown.

The airline, owned by the International Consolidated Airlines Group, originally planned to phase out the “Jumbo Jet” by 2024. But due to travel restrictions due to Kovid-19 the company now took action.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm that we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect,” the airline said in an email statement to CNBC.

“It is unlikely that our illustrious ‘Queen of the Skies’ Kovid-19 will again operate commercial services for British Airways due to a slowdown in travel due to the global epidemic.”

It said it would operate more flights on “modern, fuel-efficient aircraft” including the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

BA began flying the jet back in the early 1970s, and took delivery of its current fleet of 747-400s between 1989 and 1999. At its height, the airline had 57 in the 747, surpassed only by Japan Airlines, and the aircraft are now evenly. Represent about 10% of its total fleet. It currently owns 31 of the four-engine craft with an average age of 23 years.

The news comes after it was announced by Kent Airways in June when it was initially taking off six of its Boeing 747 aircraft six months ago.

The massive jet is 231 feet long and has a wingspan of 213 feet – enough to accommodate 50 parked cars. They were originally designed to hold 27 first class and 292 economy class passengers and the upper deck had a lounge known as “Club in the Sky”, but now has three different seating layouts.

The BA recently warned that 12,000 jobs were threatened as a result of the epidemic and air travel. The stock of IAG is down 65% so far this year.

The International Air Transport Association last month estimated that airlines were on track to make a loss of $ 84 billion this year, and another $ 15 billion in 2021. In April, according to the IATA, air travel fell by more than 90% from the previous year, in what is expected to be the worst year in the history of the industry.

—CNBC’s Natasha Turak contributed to this article.