More than half the British Airways 747 fleet is parked, with little reason to believe that it will return to the skies soon. But late on Friday another bit of news leaked out that could see the fleet fully grounded indefinitely. According to one pilot all flight crew training related to the type was formally suspended. And without that training the pilots will very soon no longer be licensed to operate the Queen of the Skies for BA.
Limited recent operations
The 747 fleet was already seeing much more limited service for British Airways in recent days. Of the 28 planes in the fleet 17 are in storage. Of the remaining 11, 10 flew at least once in April 2020. That number dropped to five in May and only four thus far in June. Further reducing the operations would not be too surprising.
Even with the spike in cargo demand from passenger aircraft BA has kept its 747s on the ground. The carrier is addressing that demand with other types. Some 100 different aircraft have flown for the company this month. Roughly half are twin-aisle planes, with the 787 Dreamliner fleet pulling the bulk of action. Some 29 of those frames registered a flight so far in June, nearly double the 15 777s that flew. Only six of the A350s have been logged in the skies this month. A single A380 turn to Johannesburg and back was also recorded at the beginning of the month.
Joining others in retiring the Queen
Should the retirement prove to be true it would be an abrupt, but not entirely unexpected end to the reign of the Queen of the Skies over the United Kingdom. BA would be joining Virgin Atlantic in retiring the type; the smaller British carrier made that official earlier this Spring.
Other quad-jets have also fared poorly in terms of remaining in service. A handful of Lufthansa‘s older 747-400s will not return to service. The German carrier also does not anticipate its A340-600s returning to service and the future of its A380 fleet remains hazy. Iberia also announced this week its A340-600s will be retired from operations. Other A380 operators are similarly planning to store those planes longer term while waiting to see if demand returns. The twin-jets are just too efficient these days for the quads to compete, especially when demand is somewhat depressed.
Negotiating with the union?
It is also possible this is a negotiation tactic given the current state of contracts and planned layoffs/redundancies. Once the dust settles from that BA could presumably reopen training, in hopes that more senior, more expensive pilots have moved on. But the drop in demand, the cost to keep the aging fleet in the air and the general inefficiency of the planes does leave that something more of an outside possibility.
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