MIAMI— While several carriers such as Air New Zealand, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines and Japan Airlines have put to an end the operations with the Boeing 747, and others such as Delta Air Lines are phasing them out, British Airways has stayed loyal and begun an upgrade of 18 747-400’s with refreshed interiors and an updated in-flight entertainment system.
Upgrading part of its 747 fleet in times when competitors retire their jumbos at a fast pace seems to make sense to British Airways. The ability of the model to make up for the limited slots at its London Heathrow hub, combined with the slump in oil prices without a foreseeable increase in the years to come, make keeping this aging aircraft an option. Interestingly, the new cabin configuration will hold 16 additional Club World business class seats, which would improve capacity in key premium routes such as New York JFK, Chicago, Lagos, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh and Kuwait. The revamped jumbos will operate further routes to be added in summer.
The cabin refit will include a cabin interior refresh in terms of colors, seats and in-flight entertainment systems to match those on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, both the newest aircraft of its fleet.
While British Airways has operated the Boeing 747 since its first -100 series received by BOAC in April 1970, the airline has parked or scrapped 15 of its oldest 747s. Even so, the fleet number stands at 42, and remains as the largest passenger 747-400 fleet in service With an age average of 19.8 years, the fleet is below the mid-20s retirement age.
The arrival of the Boeing 777 in 1995, just six years after the rollout of the 747-400 marked the onset of the slow yet progressive decline of the 747, as the new triple seven would do nearly the same job as the 747 but with two engines. The arrival of the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350, and the Extended Operations (ETOPS) have also been a factor in the retirement of older 747s and the slow sales of the new variant, the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental.
“Our customers love our new aircraft, but the 747s hold a special place in their heart, so we are delighted to have been able to revamp these aircraft. They’ll look and feel like new now, with enhanced comfort, technology and design” said Kathryn Doyle, British Airways’ aircraft cabin interiors manager.