Yay: Rossiya Will Acquire British Airways 747s!

Filed Under: British Airways, Other Airlines

Update: British Airways has reached out to indicate that this information was unfortunately not accurate, and that there are no plans for these 747s to go to Rossiya. That makes me a very, very sad avgeek — sorry for the misinformation!

Several airlines have announced that they’ll be retiring 747s as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, though it looks like at least seven “queens” will live on at another airline.

British Airways retiring its 747s

Around the middle of July it was announced that British Airways would be retiring its entire Boeing 747 fleet as a result of the pandemic. British Airways had a fleet of 28 Boeing 747s, and it was the world’s largest operator of the 747-400.

British Airways is retiring its 747 fleet

As an aviation geek it’s hard not to get sad about 747 retirements, even if there are objectively “better” planes out there nowadays, in terms of capabilities.

The 747 is such an iconic plane that in many ways changed global aviation and made the world a smaller place. It was my favorite British Airways plane, and the 747 is one of the things that made me feel most favorably towards the airline.

The assumption all along has been that British Airways’ 747s would likely be scrapped, but that won’t be the case for all of them.

The “nose” of the 747 is a special place to fly

Rossiya to take over seven British Airways 747s

Rossiya is an Aeroflot subsidiary that I’ve been wanting to fly for a long time. The airline currently operates a fleet of over 50 planes, including nine 747-400s and 10 777-300s. Well, it looks like Rossiya’s 747 fleet will soon be expanding.

It’s being reported from multiple sources that in the next couple of months the following seven British Airways 747-400s will be taken over by Rossiya:

  • G-BYGA
  • G-BYGB
  • G-BYGC
  • G-BYGD
  • G-BYGE
  • G-BYGF
  • G-BYGG

These planes are all roughly 21 years old. With this, Rossiya will have a total of 16 Boeing 747-400s, making the airline the world’s largest operator of the passenger variant of the 747-400. Wow…

I would imagine the airline got these planes for very little, and figured it make sense to acquire these for high density routes.

Historically Rossiya has operated 747s on all kinds of leisure international routes popular with Russian tourists, including Moscow to Bangkok, Phuket, and Zanzibar, just to give a few examples. The airline has also operated 747s on domestic routes, like St. Petersburg to Sochi.

What could Rossiya’s “new” 747 interiors be like?

Rossiya has acquired much of its fleet on the secondhand market, and in many cases the airline has simply maintained the same interiors the planes had before, with some minor changes to finishes.

For example, Rossiya got several of its aircraft from Transaero, which went out of business. However, Rossiya didn’t make many changes to the interiors of these planes.

Transaero’s former first class

I’ll be very curious to see what kind of changes Rossiya makes to these former British Airways 747s:

  • On the one hand, Rossiya is all about minimizing costs with getting its planes into service, so I would guess interiors will largely remain unchanged
  • However, I think it’s likely these planes will be densified a bit, given that British Airways’ 747s are in a four class configuration, while Rossiya’s 747s are in a two class configuration

Could Rossiya simply maintain British Airways’ cabins?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rossiya maintain the same first class, business class, and economy seats, and maybe get rid of premium economy. Rossiya’s 777s feature three cabins of service, but first class there is simply marketed as “Super Space Business Class.” I expect we’ll see a similar situation for these newly acquired 747s.

Will Rossiya maintain British Airways’ premium economy?

Bottom line

While it’s sad that British Airways is retiring its entire 747 fleet, I’m happy to see that at least a quarter of the fleet will get a new life at Rossiya. I can’t wait to see what Rossiya ends up doing with these planes in terms of routes, interiors, etc. The airline will now be the world’s largest operator of the passenger version of the 747-400.

Suffice to say that my desire to fly with Rossiya has increased yet again. With Russia’s Azur Air launching Miami flights, could Rossiya please be next? 😉

What do you make of Rossiya’s growing 747 fleet?

(Featured image courtesy of Anna Zvereva)

  1. Wow. The largest operators of the passenger 747. Makes you wonder how they can make it work and others can’t – even in some specific routes.

  2. As long as the cost of jet fuel remains low, it makes sense to buy inefficient but cheap aircraft. Perhaps an intended consequence is that global warming is breaking up the Arctic ice, and Russian shipping can operate year-round.

  3. Thanks for reporting on this Ben – it’s quite interesting to see that the 747’s times might not necessarily be over :)) Surely (when Russia opens its borders to others than UK, Turkey and Switzerland) I will take on this opportunity. I have a lot of memories connected with this plane, especially back in my college period when we at SK have still operated with 747-283… it would be sad to see it phased out altogether

  4. Please go to Russia, support Putin and enjoy a one way ticket to a Siberian Gulag… It would be a fantastic 10 years review

  5. This airline is pure trash. The fleet is falling apart, the service is almost non-existent.
    If you want to have a TAAG Angola experience again, then go for it.

  6. @Rafael – go away with this racist comment. There are more prisoners per capita in USA than in Russia. You’d better also compare the safety ranking of both countries – there are not even close as many mass shootings in Russia as there are on the other side “of the pond”.

    Why is this still not deleted? If Rafael made fun of blacks, George Floyd (or any other black-skin criminal), Chinese, Mexicans or muslims he would be considered racist and dealt with in a rapid manner – when he insults Russians ot other Europeans, it’s not racism anymore…

  7. They’ll need to do a reconfig as at least some of these are 14F / 86J “hi-J” models which wouldn’t make sense on these leisure routes

    I could imagine them keeping the upper deck and maybe F in the nose and then economy all the way though or maybe maintaining a PE section. You’d imagine that BA would be willing to sell them the left over Y seats from the scrapped examples

  8. The way that Gmail truncated the subject line of my notification email was attention-getting … all I could see was “Yay: Rossiya Will Acquire British Airways”

  9. Looks like both Donald Trump (Air Force One) and Rossiya have purchased 747s belonging to defunct Transaero. Small ripples can send out waves lasting many years.

  10. I disagree with Vanya…yes part of the ex-Transaero fleet (so some of the 777s and 747s) are quite old, but overall Rossiya isn’t bad, and these ex-BA 747s (with their much more modern interior hard product) will only improve it further. This move of purchasing more 747s actually does make sense – despite Aeroflot Group’s long-term plan having Rossiya fly mostly Russian-built aircraft, Aeroflot is also planning to become much more premium-oriented. This leaves many routes that don’t justify the kind of premium service it’s planning to provide, which means Rossiya has to grow its widebody fleet to back-fill capacity that Aeroflot drops as it shrinks and reinvents itself as a very premium carrier. Fantastic news, and I look forward on going 747-hunting and trying to get on as many Rossiya 747 flights as possible!

  11. I’m actually really excited about this. I love BAs 747s, would definitely go the ‘long way’ to fly one of them again

  12. We Russians are counting on Trump getting re-elected (rather than him heading to prison). It’s so exciting! I can assure you that we will have some small part in the election’s “outcome” and we are so looking forward to all the fun! Stay tuned for the exciting finale of Season 4 this winter. You will be AMAZED at what we have lined up for you!!!

    from Russia with Love,
    – Oleg

  13. We had so much fun watching the Rossiya 747 land from the beach at Phuket International. Excellent plane-geek moment. Standing in line at immigration at the same time as hundreds of Russians arriving on one of those planes, not so much.

    Good borscht can be had in Phuket btw.

  14. Was definitely wondering what might happen to the windfall of 747’s hitting the used market. Not surprising to see an airline pick them up and I wonder if there will be more. Do you think it’s possible that many retired passenger 747’s will be converted into freighters? Also, I wonder if someone will pick up the 777’s that Delta is retiring.

  15. Most interesting, Ben. I look forward to your future comments about these ex-B.A. 747’s once they have started operating with Rossiya and whether any significant changes are made by them to the interior of these aircraft before putting them into service.

  16. Ah, too bad it’s a false alarm. I would’ve given Rossiya another go if one had been placed on the SVO-VVO route, just for giggles. Generally, I am not a fan of Rossiya, and flying them once was enough for me. I’ll stick with trusty Aeroflot!

  17. I just got word from a Russian friend that the original post (in Russian, on planespotters) got translated and distributed widely, but that the director of Rossiya denies this. There is only one actual “source”, the rest being repeats of the source.

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