The end of an era: Virgin’s final 747 departs from Heathrow

2020 has been a catastrophic year for airlines around the globe with major carriers being hit hard by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. This year has seen the Boeing’s 747 come to a close with many airlines retiring their fleets in the wake of the pandemic, as well as in a bid to fly greener aircraft. October 8th marked British Airway’s last Boeing 747 flight and today Virgin Atlantic’s last 747 flight took off yesterday at 1pm. After its final flight, Virgin’s 747 will be retired to the North of America where it will join Atlas Air just as two of its sisters already have.

Marking the end of an era, the Boeing 747 has been an iconic aircraft for many carriers but it has a special history with Virgin. The airline has flown the 747 for 36 years, making it the company’s main form of passenger travel for over a decade. Aptly nicknamed, “Pretty Woman,” the 747 was the first of Virgin’s fleet to make the trip from Heathrow to New York 36 years ago and continues to remain a symbol of the skies. Virgin’s final flight with the 747 will give passengers an up-close and personal experience with a tour of the cabin, photos beside its iconic red engines and stories from some of the first 747 pilots. Though its retirement from Virgin’s fleet comes as a shock to many the airline is ready to look to the future, where cleaner travel is the aim. Corneel Coster, Chief Customer and Operating Officer at Virgin, commented on the airline’s future plans after the 747. “As the airline moves forward to a more sustainable fleet, Virgin Atlantic’s legion of 747s have now ceased operations in favour of cleaner, greener, twin engine aircraft, comprised of the Airbus A350-1000 and the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.  Each of these new planes is on average 30% more fuel efficient than the four-engine aircraft they replaced.”[1]

Coster’s announcement provides some celebration on the topic and the hope of a cleaner, greener future. Though this marks the end of an era with the 747, it also marks the beginning of a more fuel-efficient world where airlines start to take more responsibility for their contribution to global warming. One iconic chapter may be closing but it is just the start of Virgin’s greener future.


© Whitestone Chambers

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