Farewell Britain's 'Queen of the Skies'.
In 2006, I took my first long-haul flight on one of British Airways' 31 Boeing 747-400s. Flying the 'Queen of the Skies' wasn't a totally new experience for me. During the previous four years, I'd worked for a Japanese airline that operated the same type of jet. But this was my first time to 'Fly the Flag' on a British 'Jumbo'.
I'd managed to blag a business class seat in 'the bubble' - the upper deck cabin accommodating just twenty passengers. Downstairs, another 279 were cramming themselves into the lower deck. Before we'd even taken off on our eleven hour flight to Johannesburg, I realised I'd made a wise choice.
And that was always the way it was every time I flew on one of BA's 'seven-fours'. The upper deck was my oasis of calm - the best place to be when I was winging my way back to Blighty from some far-flung place. But it didn't really matter where I sat. It was a BA 747, full-stop.
Whenever I wasn't travelling BA, I'd look longingly at one of its Jumbos as I taxied past. It was always nice to be flying home, but I preferred my national airline to any other - especially those with questionable safety records. So a BA 747, no matter where I saw one in the world, was always a place of safety, of comfort, of home. But now, no longer.
Today has caught me by surprise. "It is with great sadness that we can confirm we are proposing to retire our entire 747 fleet with immediate effect," a BA spokesman said. My first thought was for the crews. What would happen to them? Okay, BA operates other long-haul aircraft, but if you're a BA 747 captain or first officer, it can't be easy to transition to another type - not least the Airbus A350.
Covid-19 has a lot to answer for - the loss of so many loved ones, a change in world order, my own redundancy from the aviation industry - but its effects still ripple on. One thing I never expected was for 'the world's favourite airline' to permanently ground the 'Queen of the Skies'. It's an astonishing moment. The time has gone when we could 'Fly the Flag' on a British 'Jumbo'.