Another British Airways 747 was retired yesterday.

Monday 24th June 2019 saw yet another British Airways Boeing 747-400, G-BNLN retired from service. This particular frame was delivered to BA on 27th July 1990, so at just shy of its 29th birthday, it’s a well deserved retirement. This leaves just one of the original BNL (standing for Boeing New Longhaul) registered aircraft in the fleet. The one leftover just happens to be G-BNLY which is in the Landor livery, which will be in service until 2023.

The next 747 the airline will retire is scheduled to be G-CIVG in November. Once the backbone of the airlines’ fleet with 59 in service at their peak, this number has reduced to 33 with the latest retirement. The main reason being is simply the age of the aircraft. The most recent 747 delivery to the airline was G-BYGG in 1999. Since the turn of the century, flying four engined aircraft simply hasn’t been cost effective. Although BA was one of the first customers for the now market leading Boeing 777 aircraft, the type was only really used on secondary routes, as the 747 remained the pride of the fleet. It was only when the airline started taking delivery of the Boeing 777-300ER did things within the airline start to shift. Between 2010 and 2013, the airline became less reliant on the 747 for the lions share of their long haul work – instead focusing on the newer A380 and 787 models, and in the case of the London to Sydney route, the 777-300ER. In fact rumour has it, the only way the kangaroo route could remain economically viable was by not using the 747 on it. These days, the airline doesn’t use any of its 747’s on sectors of over 10 hours, with the one notable exception being Cape Town, due to the fact the airport is unable to accept the larger A380. Instead the Jumbo is used on the shorter sectors such as Dubai, New York, Boston and Accra. Despite this, the airline still just about has has the largest fleet of 747’s, although only by a single aircraft over Lufthansa who operates 32 of the type, including the newer -8i variant.
From a passenger perspective, the 747’s arent the strongest in the fleet. Whilst the members of the fleet that will be staying on for the next few years have been given a refresh that includes new seat covers, mood lighting and updated IFE, the members of the fleet that are due to be going shortly have been neglected somewhat. In the case of the economy cabin, the last time they were refreshed was in the year 2000. I flew on three BA 747’s in 2018, and each time a refurbished bird evaded me. In the case of G-BNLK, it was clear this one was due to go to the scrap heap soon. Even the flight I took in First Class wasn’t trouble free, as the IFE needed to be reset a couple of times before it fired into life – meaning no safety demonstration for me!
But I’ve digressed – the final commercial flight of G-BNLN was one of the longer sectors BA still uses their 747’s on. The airframe made its final voyage forming the BA58 from Cape Town to London Heathrow on Thursday 20th June 2019, completing the flight in 11 hours and 27 minutes, arriving into London at just before 06:20am. Its next flight between Heathrow to its final resting place in St Athan, near Cardiff, was somewhat shorter – completing the flight in Just 33 minutes. This wasn’t without issues though, as the Welsh airfield was surrounded by bad weather for most of the day, meaning the specially trained crew (due to St Athan having a short runway) had to wait until 16:45 before the weather cleared and heading off.
The fleet listing of the British Airways 747-400 fleet with delivery dates as of 25 June 2019:
  • 10/02/1993 G-BNLY
  • 22/03/1993 G-CIVA
  • 15/02/1994 G-CIVB
  • 26/02/1994 G-CIVC
  • 14/12/1994 G-CIVD
  • 20/12/1994 G-CIVE
  • 29/03/1995 G-CIVF
  • 20/04/1995 G-CIVG
  • 23/04/1996 G-CIVH
  • 02/05/1996 G-CIVI
  • 11/02/1997 G-CIVJ
  • 28/02/1997 G-CIVK
  • 28/03/1997 G-CIVL
  • 05/06/1997 G-CIVM
  • 29/09/1997 G-CIVN
  • 05/12/1997 G-CIVO
  • 17/02/1998 G-CIVP
  • 02/03/1998 G-CIVR
  • 13/03/1998 G-CIVS
  • 20/03/1998 G-CIVT
  • 24/04/1998 G-CIVU
  • 15/05/1998 G-CIVW
  • 22/05/1998 G-CIVV
  • 03/09/1998 G-CIVX
  • 29/09/1998 G-CIVY
  • 31/10/1998 G-CIVZ
  • 14/12/1998 G-BYGA
  • 17/01/1999 G-BYGB
  • 19/01/1999 G-BYGC
  • 26/01/1999 G-BYGD
  • 05/02/1999 G-BYGE
  • 17/02/1999 G-BYGF
  • 29/04/1999 G-BYGG

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