BA to retire B747s immediately
At the time of going to press, BA had just emailed staff to say that their 30 B747s would be retired immediately with no more passenger flights. This is subject to consultation with unions due to the impact on type rates pilots and cabin crew (although cabin crew work across several types usually)
The email said
“With much regret, we are proposing, subject to consultation, the immediate retirement of our Queen of the Skies, the 747-400.”
British Airways has operated the B747 since 1971. The writing was already on the wall when we recently reported that they were no longer rostering any pilots to do recurrent training on the B747s but I still hoped it would be a gradual phasing out.
The B747s had been due to be retired by 2024 but with 2019 levels of traffic not forecast again until 2023, it makes commercial sense to use more modern and efficient aircraft. The only plus point is that they were not due to ever get the Club Suite so the rollout is likely to be completed more quickly depending on whether they continue at the original planned rate.
I do not have any more details currently, but will update when I hear more. I am hoping they will give it a proper send off like Qantas but either way it is a sad day for British aviation.
Emirates return A380 to skies
It is an iconic (and, to many, a very welcome) sight; that of the enormous Emirates A380 taking off from the tarmac at London Heathrow. Grounded since March due to the pandemic, flight EK001 departed Dubai for London on Wednesday, making it the first commercial flight on the A380 that Emirates has flown since the pandemic began. This was followed by another significant A380 takeoff; EK73, headed for Paris, received a warm welcome as the first A380 flight to arrive at Charles de Gaulle since the pandemic began. Many other European destinations were also back on the departures board for the 15th July (though not serviced by A380’s), such as Athens, Barcelona, Munich and Rome – check here to see which other borders are currently open to UK visitors.
There have been concerns that the use of the A380 jumbo jets (the largest passenger jet in the sky) would decline in the wake of Covid-19, as many expect a drop in demand for international travel, as well as tighter restrictions on passenger numbers and changes to distancing measures by airlines. However, Emirates have sworn they stand by the aircraft, with the CEO of Emirates, Tim Clarke, saying that the ‘superjumbo’ A380 planes ‘have defined’ the Emirates brand, and that although future aircraft may be faster, have new features or provide technological advances, none will measure up to the comfort and passenger experience of the roomy A380.
Emirates have announced a second A380 flight between Dubai and London starting as of 1 August, as well as A380 flights from Dubai to Amsterdam. With a significant increase in tourism already since Dubai opened its borders last week, more services will be added as demand increases, and as other borders open for tourists across the world.
Boeing falls short of deadline for B777X
Emirates CEO, Mr Clarke says he hopes that the A380’s will continue to represent the Emirates brand and be in the air for at least another 10 years. However, as Airbus have announced they are halting production of the aircraft in 2021, and have only delivered 251 of the craft to date (Emirates own 115 of those), airlines must now look to other options. Currently, Emirates have an order for 115 of Boeing’s ‘777X’, touted as the next generation of wide-body commercial aircraft, including some of the longer 777-9X (which are still currently in the testing stage). The 777X will feature an updated first-class suite (which Emirates previewed last year), as well as an updated Business Class cabin, and (perhaps most importantly) some form of walk-up bar, which was a popular feature of the A380.
Although delivery of the 777X aircraft was originally set to begin in 2021, due to a shutdown of facilities during the pandemic, engine issues and failed pressure tests, as well as increased scrutiny from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, it is highly unlikely that this deadline will be met.
Adel Al Redha, Emirates Chief Operating Officer, has said he now expects that delivery date to slide into 2022, but also mentioned that Emirates may reduce the number of larger aircraft in the original order, and instead include more of the smaller B787 Dreamliners which may be better suited to the lower demand expected.
Qatar remove A380 from schedule for foreseeable future
Interestingly, as Emirates return their A380’s to the sky, other airlines have removed them completely. Qatar, who usually utilise their A380 aircraft on several long-haul routes between the capital Doha and several European cities (such as London and Frankfurt), as well as for flights to Australia, have now replaced the larger jets with smaller Boeing 777’s or Airbus A350’s. Currently, the change in aircraft is indefinite. The smaller aircraft appear in the schedule for the foreseeable future, which is a shame because Qatar A380’s feature probably the best onboard bar in the industry.
Qatar get a small win in Gulf border dispute
In other Qatar news, the Gulf airline has managed a small victory in the long-running battle between itself and the other Gulf states (including Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain) which implemented a ‘blockade’ over three years ago. This restricted Qatar from entering the bordering countries’ airspace, severely impairing the airline’s operations.
The International Court of Justice, from their headquarters in the Netherlands, ruled on the 14 July in favour of Qatar, essentially confirming that the blockade imposed by the other Gulf nations contradicts the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation, for those playing at home) statutes which give aircraft the right to utilise all available Gulf airspace, despite strained diplomatic relations. ICO has now decreed that the next step will be for the case to be heard by ICAO (which may take more than a year to occur), who will then – hopefully – make some type of final ruling or decision on the matter.