Tomorrow, British Airways will bid adieu to the first of its 31 retiring Boeing-747 jumbo jets. British Airways flight 9170E, with registration number G-CIVD, will leave London’s Heathrow airport at 9 a.m. local time on its last commercial flight. After 25 years of service, the jet will figuratively fly off into the sunset.

The iconic spiral staircase made the 747 easy to identify from inside the aircraft.  Photo from British Airways Media Centre

Sigh. It’s truly the end of an era. I still remember the first flights. I’d never seen such a huge aircraft. And I was totally fascinated with the spiral staircase that took lucky passengers to the upper level. Back in the early days, you could even get a glimpse of — or a visit into — the upper level cockpit with its dizzying array of dials and buttons. It was truly the “Queen of the Skies”

Retirement Plan

The fuel-guzzling 747s were being phased out slowly by British Airways as they reached the end of their working life. The plan was part of the goal to help the airline meet its commitment to net zero by 2050. The airline has invested heavily in new, modern, long-haul aircraft, including six A350s and 32 787s, which are around 25% more fuel-efficient than the 747.

Sadly, British Airways announced last month that it would retire its Boeing-747 jumbo jets at an accelerated rate. The decision was made because of the “devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on the airline and the aviation sector, which is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2024.” While it may be sad news for passengers who loved the jumbo jet, it’s good for the environment. Today, there are jets with much better fuel efficiency.

So Long, Farewell

“All of us at British Airways and so many of our customers will have fond memories and special moments from our travels on the iconic jumbo jet,” said Al Bridger, Director of Flight Operations for British Airways.

“As a pilot who was lucky enough to fly the aircraft, the sheer scale of it was unforgettable, you literally looked down on other aircraft. It changed aviation forever when it arrived in the skies and I know I speak for our customers and the global aviation community when I say, despite rightly moving to more sustainable ways of flying, we will still miss the 747 dearly.”

British Airways Boeing 747’s at London Heathrow airport showing the new Chatham Dockyard tailfin design
Credit: NewsCast

A 50-Year History

The Boeing 747 jumbo jet has been an iconic part of the British Airways’ fleet for nearly 50 years. The first flight travelled from London to New York City’s John F. Kennedy Airport back in 1971.

If you travelled into London’s Heathrow Airport, you could see a long line of the jumbo jets on arrival or departure. And, boy, was it impressive! At one point, the airline actually operated 57 747s jumbo jets!

Boeing-747 Jumbo Jet Fun Facts

The aircraft with registration number G-CIVD, which is making its final commercial flight tomorrow, entered service in December 1994.  The aircraft has flown:

  • More than 50 million miles
  • 13,364 flights
  • 115,276.8 hours

Cruising Speed: 565 miles per hour

Last flight before tomorrow

  • To Lagos on April 18, 2020
  • Part of the repatriation effort