This is a continuation of our COVID fleet retirement series, where we tap our archive to commemorate the planes that retired early because of COVID. In our first installment of the series we said goodbye to the Queen of the Skies, the Boeing 747-400. In this story, we stick with the “4 engines 4 long haul” theme but switch gears from Boeing to Airbus.
An Airbus A380, A340 and a few A320’s hanging out at Toulouse Blagnac Airport
With fewer people flying, plus the increasing use of fuel-efficient two-engine long-haul planes in airline fleets, older quad-engine planes are dropping like flies. No surprise, then that a number of airlines retired their Airbus A340 and A380s fleets. The A380 is a unique behemoth, the largest and arguably most-comfortable passenger plane around. And its older sister, the elegant A340, has captured AvGeeks eyes and hearts around the world.
Virgin Atlantic Airways Airbus A340 (G-VRED)
Read on as we take a stroll down memory lane as we say goodbye to a few A340 and A380s.
There used to be a lot of fanfare when airlines retired their flagship subfleets. But thanks to COVID craziness, carriers are sunsetting aircraft types left, right, and center. To celebrate these newly-retired planes, we’re compiling stories we’ve written on some of these recently-retired fleets, and it made sense to start with the queen herself: the Boeing 747-400.
Photo: John Nguyen | AirlineReporter
It has been over 30 years since the first 747-400 took flight — an eternity in the fast-moving aviation world. The Queen of the Skies was still going strong with a few airlines coming into 2020. But there was no doubt that when airlines started retiring planes, the 747-400 would be first in line to go. Four-engine planes are less fuel efficient than dual-engine types like the Boeing 777 or Airbus A350. And most of the 747-400s flying are pretty old. A few airlines like Delta and United had already retired the type (checkout the links for our stories). But this year, a few others joined them thanks to COVID.
A British Airways 747 in a retro livery – Photo: BA
Let’s send the recently retired 747 fleets of four major airlines — Qantas, BA, Virgin Atlantic, and KLM — off into the sunset in style. Read on for a recap of our favorite stories flying on those airlines’ 747s!
LaGuardia International Airport (LGA) – Photo: Timothy Vogel | FlickrCC
Two things unite all of us on the AirlineReporter team: (1) we all LOVE flying, and (2) we all have other day jobs. I started writing for this website a few years ago as a medical student in California. And once I graduated I moved to New York City to start residency … just in time for COVID to hit. Yikes.
The reality in COVID-hit cities has been covered plenty in the news so I don’t need to describe it here. Except to confirm from firsthand experience that — despite hospitals’/doctors’/nurses’ best efforts — it was as horrific and chaotic as you heard. A lot of people got really sick. A lot of people died. And a lot of people who got better have complications that will affect them for the rest of their lives.
It’s hard for anyone to set a passion or hobby aside. Even with everything I’ve seen, I still miss flying like crazy. I’m guessing it’s the same way for many of you. And even during peak pandemic there may be rare reasons when you absolutely have to fly. If you do, please do so safely.
But for those of you who are able to pause plans for avoidable travel, know that you’re making a huge difference. Air travel can help pandemics leapfrog around the world. And despite airlines’ admirable efforts to keep things clean, the inside of a compact fuselage is an extremely high-risk space to catch a virus like COVID-19.
I live under the approach to runway 13 at LaGuardia and it’s sad to see fewer planes in the sky than I used to. But I also see far fewer COVID cases in the hospital than a few months ago. And while social distancing and masks are responsible for the lion’s share of that change, people reducing their avoidable air travel helped.
So here’s a quick but heartfelt thank you for doing what you can to keep yourselves, your loved ones, and your communities safe. As a nation we’ll need to help the aviation industry stay afloat during this tough time. But take it from me: right now, staying on the ground whenever you can — even as an AvGeek — is 100% the right call.
If you live anywhere in the South, you’ve likely heard the old joke that says “whenever someone dies, they don’t go to heaven (or that other place), without connecting in Atlanta!”
Having spent 14 years living in various southern cities and connected through Atlanta more times than I care to remember, there’s no doubt the scene at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL) the other weekend is one that won’t soon be forgotten.
A peak into an empty “C” gates at ATL, thanks to an airport worker who allowed this pic while the door for employees was open.
Recently, I needed to take a number of flights for family reasons, and in the current coronavirus climate, I wasn’t sure what to expect. My adventure took me through one Delta mega-hub (Atlanta ATL) to another (Minneapolis MSP), where typically the flights would be full. However, this time they were only about 25 percent occupied. The ATL to MSP flight, usually an A321 or 757, had been replaced by a smaller 737-800.
No passengers and just 2 pilots occupy the “Plane Train” level at ATL below the C gates.
Atlanta currently has multiple concourses closed with fully sheetrocked walls and security doors to allow only airport and airline staff to enter. The “C” and “E” terminals were just empty shells. TV screens packed with flight info now had just a couple active monitors.
BONUS: Feeling the impact of COVID-19 on the US Commercial Airline Industry
The food court in the E terminal had just one restaurant open: McDonald’s. They were so happy to see anyone that they gave me 10% off my McDouble — that 20 cents will go far someday, I just know it! You know it’s bad when even airport concessions start discounting prices.