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End of a jet era: British Airways to retire entire fleet of Boeing 747s after half-century of service

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Workhorse: The Boeing 747 was first introduced on BOAC's London to New York route in 1971. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Workhorse: The Boeing 747 was first introduced on BOAC's London to New York route in 1971. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

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Workhorse: The Boeing 747 was first introduced on BOAC's London to New York route in 1971. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

British Airways (BA), the world's largest operator of Boeing 747s, will retire its entire jumbo jet fleet with immediate effect after the Covid-19 pandemic sent air travel into freefall.

BA had been planning to retire the aircraft in 2024, but with passenger numbers decimated this year, and experts forecasting it will be years before they recover, the airline said it was unlikely its 747s would operate commercially again.

"It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect," BA said in a statement on Thursday.

The 747 democratised global air travel in the 1970s, but fell behind modern twin-engine aircraft and now trails newer planes in fuel efficiency, making it expensive to run.

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A line up of British Airways 747s. Photo: British Airways/PA Wire

A line up of British Airways 747s. Photo: British Airways/PA Wire

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A line up of British Airways 747s. Photo: British Airways/PA Wire

BA's predecessor BOAC first introduced the 747 on the London-New York route in 1971.

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A vintage view of passengers on a British Airways 747. Photo: British Airways/PA Wire

A vintage view of passengers on a British Airways 747. Photo: British Airways/PA Wire

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A vintage view of passengers on a British Airways 747. Photo: British Airways/PA Wire

Reuters