British Airways' last Boeing 747 jets fly into retirement

BA's 'Queen of the Skies' takes off for the last time after coronavirus hastens the demise of the gas-guzzling plane

The last of British Airways’ jumbo jets took to the skies for the final time on Thursday, but cloud and heavy rain prevented a dual take-off of the airline’s last two Boeing 747s.

BA, once the operator of one of the world’s largest fleets of 747s, officially retired its last two jumbo jets after coronavirus brought air travel to a standstill in the face of international travel bans.

The jets taxied for take-off one after the other for the last time at Heathrow, but a planned synchronised take-off on dual runways fell foul of the bad weather.

BA chief executive Alex Cruz called the spectacle an “emotional milestone” in BA’s history, after the 747 helped bring commercial air travel to the masses in the 1970s.

“The 747s have played a huge role in our 100-year history, forming the backbone of our fleet for over 50 years,” he said.

“I know I speak for our customers and the many thousands of colleagues who have spent much of their careers alongside them when I say we will miss seeing them grace our skies.”

BA staff and engineers lined up alongside the runways to witness the planes’ final flights after their 47 years’ of service, in which they clocked up a collective 104m air miles.

Grounded: one of the last BA 747s comes in to land for the last time at Kemble Airfield in Gloucestershire Credit: Stephen Shepherd/LNP

Dubbed the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747’s humped fuselage has made it one of the world’s most distinctive commercial aircraft since its maiden flight in 1969.

The plane made affordable air travel a reality due to its large capacity and vast range.

However, BA announced in July that it planned to retire the fleet in favour of more fuel-efficient aircraft.

The 747 has flown illustrious passengers including Pope John Paul II, who travelled to Ireland on an Aer Lingus 747 in 1979.