This is a big shift in British Airways fleet planning, as the Boeing 747 made up just under 30% of its longhaul fleet before the pandemic. The original plan was for the 747 was to be phased out gradually by 2024. As new aircraft arrived faster than old ones were retired this would have allowed for capacity growth at British Airways.
Whilst new aircraft such as the A350 and 787-10 continue to join BA’s fleet, retiring the 747 fleet now will mean a capacity reduction for the next few years. With new aircraft arrivals also hit by deferrals and cancellations, it means that British Airways will have to use existing aircraft in its fleet to fly some of the 747 routes. These often flew to some of BA’s key premium destinations such as New York thanks to their large number of premium seats.
Under the original retirement plan, most of the super-premium 747s would have been replaced by brand new Boeing 777-9 aircraft, an improved (and larger) version of the Boeing 777 already in BA’s fleet. However, with the first not arriving until 2022 at the earliest British Airways will have to re-arrange its plans.
British Airways has two variants of the 747. The high premium version has 14 First class seats, 86 in Club World (business class), 30 in World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and 145 in World Traveller (economy). Only the A380 beats it for premium seats.
Newer aircraft, such as the A350 and 787-10 have 56 and 48 Club World seats respectively – almost half of what the 747 had! Of course, with business travel massively down, British Airways appears to be ‘right sizing’ its fleet.
What aircraft have replaced BA’s 747s?
We recently published BA’s preliminary September schedule. Whilst this is clearly subject to change, it does give us an indication of what aircraft British Airways intends to use in place of the 747s that were originally scheduled.
The following is based on information from RoutesOnline from the schedules as filed for later this year. Remember that these schedules are not set in stone and likely to change significantly over the coming months.
Accra – Boeing 777-200ER, A350
Austin – A350, Boeing 777-300ER
Bahrain – Boeing 777-200ER
Boston – Boeing 777-200ER, A350, Boeing 787-9
Cape Town – Boeing 777-300ER
Chicago – Boeing 777-200ER, Boeing 787-9, A350
Dallas Fort Worth – Boeing 787-9, 787-10
Denver – Boeing 777-200ER, Boeing 787-9
Dubai – A350
Houston – Boeing 777-200ER
Johannesburg – Boeing 777-300ER
Kuwait City – Boeing 777-200ER
Lagos – Boeing 777-200ER
Las Vegas – Boeing 777-200ER, A380
Los Angeles – Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-300ER, A380
Miami – Boeing 787-9, Boeing 777-200ER, A380
Nairobi – Boeing 777-200ER
New York JFK – Boeing 777-200ER
Philadelphia – Boeing 787-9, A350
Phoenix – Boeing 787-9
Riyadh – Boeing 777-200ER
San Diego – Boeing 787-9
San Francisco – 777-300ER
Seattle – Boeing 787-10
Vancouver – Boeing 777-200ER, Boeing 787-10
Washington Dulles – Boeing 787-9, A350
What if I paid for seat reservations?
If you had a Boeing 747 flight booked in Club World and paid for a seat reservation, you should think about whether you should request a refund instead of changing your seats.
With the Boeing 747 fleet gone and the A380 fleet grounded for a good while yet, your chances of getting the new Club Suite are much improved. You will find it on all A350 and Boeing 787-10 aircraft as well as some refurbished Boeing 777. As we say in our guide to British Airways Club Suite, there are no bad seats, if we’re honest, and you are better off saving your money.
If you paid for an Upper Deck seat reservation on a 747, purely for the novelty, then you may also want to request a refund.
If your only reason for paying for seat reservations was to guarantee that you were next to your partner then you may want to keep them. However, you would feel a little foolish if you paid up to £500 for seat reservations on a return flight (which is what it can cost in Club World) just to find that there were only a handful of other people in the cabin. I’d be tempted to take the opportunity to get a refund and take my chances of getting a pair together at check-in.