LONDON — Information from Manchester Airport (MAN) notes that the second-to-last Virgin Atlantic (VS) Boeing 747-400 will be retired tomorrow. G-VROS (MSN 30885 • LN 1268), named ‘Forever Young’, will depart MAN at 1200L on September 8.
This particular airframe is around 19.6 years old, having performed its maiden flight on Feb 22, 2001, according to Planespotters.net. The 747-400 was delivered to the British carrier exactly one month after its first flight.
Interestingly, this airframe was originally assigned to go to Alitalia (AZ), which in the end decided not to operate the Queen of The Skies in favor of the more fuel-efficient and technological Boeing 777-200(ER). The Italian carrier then took delivery of 10 777s, all of which are still flying today.
Virgin Atlantic also took over the other four 747-400s that were destined to fly with Alitalia: G-VLIP, G-VGAL, G-VROM, G-VROS, and G-VROY, all of which have been phased out from the British carrier’s fleet.
The 747-400 is on a lease agreement from GECAS. Virgin Atlantic had named it ‘English Rose’ until February 2019 when it was changed to ‘Forever Young’. G-VROS was withdrawn from use on March 31 and stayed in London-Heathrow (LHR) until it was ferried to MAN.
What looms ahead?
According to Planespotters.net, it appears as if this airframe will not be retiring just yet. GECAS will be sending the aircraft over to the U.S with Atlas Air.
No registration has been given for the new airframe, but the website lists the delivery date as Due.
Why The Retirements?
Back in May, VS had announced it would be retiring the 747-400s out of the fleet early in an effort to raise additional funding and to keep the costs down.
Shai Weiss, the airline’s CEO, explained at the time that “to safeguard our future and emerge a sustainably profitable business, now is the time for further action to reduce our costs, preserve cash, and to protect as many jobs as possible.”
“It is crucial that we return to profitability in 2021. This will mean taking steps to reshape and resize Virgin Atlantic in line with demand, while always keeping our people and customers at the heart of all we do,” Weiss added.
In addition to retiring the Queen of the Skies, Virgin Atlantic also announced plans to axe its operations out of London-Gatwick (LGW) and cut 3,150 jobs. Since then, the airline has managed to get the green-light for restructuring plans, as well as cutting another 1,150 jobs on top.
The Boeing 747: Victim of COVID-19
For enthusiasts alike, it is clear that the Boeing 747 has become the victim of COVID-19. Back in July, British Airways (BA) retired its first of 31 Boeing 747-400s in the fleet.
Although some 747s will survive, there might be plenty of them being converted into freighters and some may go to other airlines in the future.
However, it remains clear that looking ahead, the future of long-haul travel in that respect goes to the Airbus A350, A380 as well as the Boeing 787 family and 777X in the next few years.
It will be interesting to see how many jumbo-jets will survive, but one thing we do know, is that it won’t be that many.
Featured Image: G-VROS, the Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400 that will be retired September 8, 2020. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.