Yesterday’s news was sad, but not entirely unexpected: British Airways will be retiring their 747-400 fleet. The Queen was supposed to grace the skies for another three years, being gradually phased out through 2023. But given the current pandemic situation, they are being retired, effective immediately.

I’m bummed. The British Airways 747 was supposed to be my ride to Europe in March for a quick trip to Copenhagen, but obviously I had to cancel that trip. It had been years since I’d set foot on one, and I was looking forward to this flight, even in economy. Now I’ll almost certainly never get the chance. I still see a couple routes showing a 747-400 as the operating equipment in September, but my guess is British Airways will pull these imminently.

All I can do now is fondly (and not so fondly) remember my one round-trip aboard the Queen of the Skies back in 2008.

“Grandma Only Flies British Airways”

Back in 2008 I had the wonderful opportunity to visit London and Scotland. One of my good friends has family who live in Great Britain (his dad immigrated here to the U.S. as a child). They’ve traveled back occasionally, and I was given the chance to tag along. We were both one year into junior college, and an international adventure was the perfect way to start the summer break.

A flight to Great Britain must be aboard British Airways, right? That’s at least what the takeaway was from my friend’s grandmother who was leading the trip. Never mind that we bumped into our college math professor at SFO the very same day; he was flying nonstop to London with Virgin Atlantic!

I knew nothing about commercial aviation at the time. I remember marveling at the large aircraft in front of us when we finally got to the gate. Sure, I knew what it was, iconic hump and all. But I’d already been aboard a Boeing 747 the previous year on a Delta flight to Moscow. The giddiness that I experience now when I see the Queen (the plane, not Elizabeth II) in person definitely wasn’t there.

I don’t know what United was operating nonstop from SFO to London in 2008. But now I’m glad we flew nonstop on BA. I would have missed my chance to ever enjoy one of their 747-400s.

British Airways 747 flight

Our British Airways 747 parked at SFO.

My British Airways 747 Flight Long Ago

I only recall the outbound flight, as I was so utterly exhausted on the return that all I remember is sleeping on the floor of Heathrow Terminal 5 and arriving at SFO. The flight itself? A giant blank spot.

The flight to England, however, was far more enjoyable. It is a blast from the past reading fellow Travel Update blogger Trent’s experience on a British Airways 747-400 the same year. I sadly don’t have any photos from my flight. Just the one at the gate, taken by a friend. I recall enjoying the in-flight entertainment, talking about what we were going to see once we got there, and attempting to get some sleep. Even then at 18 years old I had trouble sleeping on airplanes.

I don’t recall what the food was like. It obviously wasn’t memorable.

The most eventful part of the trip was our descent into Heathrow. My good friend woke up from a nap and felt sick, eventually filling an airsick bag. This continued for quite some time, and the flight attendants cheerily took each bag away and brought him another. Soon enough, though, we were on our own as the plane had to land. The heaving continued until sometime after we’d boarded the tube.

Final Thoughts

With this experience in my mind, I’d hoped for a moment of nostalgia flying a British Airways 747 this spring. Now it looks like that chance will never materialize. The memo sent out by the airline makes it sound like there is a slim chance that the 747-400 may be put into service in the future. If this is the case, I’ll surely jump at the chance.

I may even book one of the routes that still shows a 747 operating the flight. Worst case scenario is that I cancel for free when they swap equipment.

How about you…did you ever get a chance to fly a British Airways 747? What was your experience like?