BRUSSELS—British Airways (BA) remains committed to its Boeing 747-400s and has completed retrofitting 18 of the type, out of a total of 38 in its fleet.
The refurbishments were carried out in just 11 months’ time at BA’s in-house maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities in Cardiff, Wales. The airline is not disclosing the investment in the 747 cabin upgrade, noting it is commercially sensitive information.
The last aircraft to be revamped went back into commercial service Aug. 4, on the London Heathrow–New York John F. Kennedy International route.
“The 747 is the backbone of our long-haul fleet. So while we have a very large number of 777s, and new A380s and 787s, the iconic 747 is much loved by our customers, so we wanted to make sure their cabin interiors reflected those of our newer aircraft,” a BA spokesman told Aviation Daily.
The airline recently took delivery of its 12th Airbus A380 and now has eight Boeing 787-8s and 10 -9s in its fleet, according to the Aviation Week Intelligence Network fleet database. It has outstanding orders for four 787-8s, eight -9s and 12 -10s. The U.K. airline is the European launch customer of the 787-10.
BA, however, does not intend at present to revamp the other 20 747-400s, as they might be phased out as more new-generation widebody aircraft join its fleet. Besides the new-generation long-haul Boeing twinjets, which are all powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, BA also has 18 Airbus A350-100s on order.
BA has maintained the four-class configuration of its 747s in the retrofit program, though it has made the cabins less dense. The revamped 747s feature 275 seats; the 747s that have not been upgraded have 299 seats. The refurbished 747s have what BA internally calls a “Super High J” layout, with 86 lie-flat seats in business class, compared to 70 seats in the older 747s with a “Standard High J” configuration, the spokesman said.
The average age of BA’s four-engined 747 fleet is just over 20 years. The 18 “Super High J” refurbished aircraft are slightly younger, with an average age of about 18 years.
The number of first-class and premium-economy seats remains unchanged, with 14 and 30, respectively, while the normal economy-class seat count has been reduced from 185 to 145 to make room for the additional business-class seats.
The interior upgrade includes new carpets, seat covers and mood lighting, which matches the new color palette of the airline’s A380 and 787s. New seat foams and new-style seat covers in business and premium-economy classes also have been installed.
All 18 revamped aircraft have been fitted with Panasonic’s eX3 inflight entertainment system and larger, high-resolution screens with touch-and-swipe capabilities. Premium-economy seats have been fitted with a universal power socket capable of accepting plugs from the U.K., U.S. and Europe.
The revamped 747s operate on selected flights to New York-JFK; Chicago; Johannesburg; Dubai; Boston; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City, Kuwait; San Francisco; Seattle; Toronto; and Washington.