The Queen of the Skies is fading away: My fond memories of the British Airways 747
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I cannot believe I’ll never get to fly on the British Airways 747 again.
Back in July, British Airways announced it was retiring all 28 of its 747s.
The airline had planned to retire the jumbo jets by 2024 anyway, but the coronavirus pandemic dramatically sped up the process. The plane’s four engines and relative age led to lots of maintenance. Poor fuel economy didn’t help matters.
The last flight of a BA 747 happened back in December. Aviation blogger Sam Chui documented the final flight.
Over the years, I’ve gotten to see the planes many times at London Heathrow Airport (LHR), and I’ve always documented it when I’ve spotted the plane.
While I can no longer fly the giant bird, I do look back on the rare times I got to fly the plane with fondness.
I flew coach on the 747-400 in September of 2018. I told the crew how excited I was for my first-ever 747 trip, and they let me take lots of pictures and even chat with the pilots for a few minutes. I loved the kick of the engines on takeoff. Four engines are better than two for takeoffs in my opinion. The massive plane had plenty of room. In fact, I had a whole row on that flight to myself. Poor man’s business class.
Twice I got to sit on the upper deck of the jet in business class. Though the cabins were a bit dated, there was nothing quite like it. My favorite thing was the giant lockers for all your carry-ons and other junk.
I flew the 747-400 in business class on Feb. 28, 2019, from London to New York-JFK. Check out the pictures of those side lockers and all that legroom. The staggered front/back seating was always a little awkward, but on this flight, I didn’t have anyone next to me so I wasn’t looking into someone’s face the whole time.
What turned out to be my final 747 flight was on Aug. 14 of 2019.
All three journeys were memorable. I wish I had been able to experience the plane on even longer flights, but I’m happy I got to experience it at all. Service was good on all three legs — very efficient and very British. I was actually treated most warmly on that first flight in coach.
If you still want to fly the 747 before they all “fly away,” there are still some being operated. In fact, we wrote about the last double-deckers you can fly in the world.
I never got to fly on any U.S. carrier’s 747s (they’ve been gone several years now), but my colleague Zach Honig did. In fact, he and TPG’s Nick Ellis were on the last 747 operated by United Airlines back in 2017.
Delta ditched their 747 back in 2017 as well. TPG was on the last revenue flight.
Featured image from British Airways.
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