As many of the world’s airlines continue to retire Boeing 747-400s from their fleets, British Airways is flying in the face of their opponents, by giving an extended life to these much-beloved birds. Just over a year after announcing plans to upgrade a set of 747-400 interiors, BA rolled out the first of the planes this week, serving the Heathrow to JFK route.
Other updated 747s will fly from Heathrow to Chicago, Lagos, Dubai, Boston, Riyadh and Kuwait, with other routres to be announced by next summer. What’s new with these old planes? They have received some of the modern accoutrements that are found on their newer siblings in the fleet, the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787. An updated in-flight entertainment system will now feature Panasonic’s Android-based eX3 platform, allowing passengers to operate the system as they would with a familiar tablet device. Entertainment selections will include 1,300 hours of entertainment from which to choose, including over 130 movies, plus 400 TV shows. The modern system will weigh less than its predecessor, which will bring fuel savings.
“We know that in-flight entertainment is really important to our customers – being able to relax and watch a film or listen to music helps customers to pass the time enjoyably – so by installing this state-of-the-art equipment we will be able to deliver even more programming on board,” said Richard D’Cruze, British Airways’ in-flight entertainment and technology manager.
Why spend a bunch of money to upgrade the same planes that many airline are sending to the scrapyard? “Our customers love our new aircraft, but the 747s hold a special place in their heart, so we’re 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.
Keeping the planes flying allows BA to strategically route aircraft of just the right size to match a route. For example, BA began service to Austin, Texas last year with the 787-8, but will be upgrading to the larger 777-200 next month. In Denver, BA switched from the 777-200 to the (non-upgraded) 747-400. On Tuesday, BA announced that in San Diego, the 777-200 will soon be replaced by the four class 777-300.
The 747 first entered service in 1970, with Pan American Airways, making international flights affordable to the masses, by dramatically lowering operating costs. British Airways website says the airline currently has 42 747-400s in the fleet, which makes it reasonable to draw the conclusion that the 24 non-updated 747s will be retired sooner than later.