Goodbye 20whatever, Hello 2021

BOAC Boeing 747-400 G-BYG0C (Image: TransportMedia UK)
BOAC Boeing 747-400 G-BYG0C (Image: TransportMedia UK)

Its 31st December 2020, that final day of a year that has been memorable for all the wrong reasons. A year that we should forget, but we never will.

It started as a positive year, in fact it was expected to be a record year for air travel with almost every UK airline planning expansions in the UK and new routes but just a few weeks in, it all changed.

The Coronavirus pandemic spread to every corner of the globe within a matter of weeks as a result of lockdowns, air travel literally fell of a cliff.

For a large part of the 1st half of 2021 less than 5% of the normal flights in Europe actually operated and it never really improved.

With consumer confidence low and rolling changes to travel restrictions, most UK airlines haven’t operated more than about 20-25% of their normal schedules.

There are an estimated out 10,000 unemployed pilots across Europe because of this pandemic and thousands more Cabin Crew.

BA Airbus aircraft parked at Palma (Image: The Aviation Centre)
BA Airbus aircraft parked at Palma (Image: The Aviation Centre)

Outgoing Heavies

Even now air travel is not expected to recover to anywhere near the pre-pandemic levels for many years so airlines have been forced to re-evaluate their route network and their fleets going forward.

The biggest and most noticeable change has been the removal of the Boeing 747 from the UK fleet. Both Virgin Atlantic and British Airways have retired the type in favour of more efficient twin-jets such as the Boeing 777 & 787 and Airbus A350 and A330.

Virgin Atlantics 747’s have either gone for scrap or for those that were leased, returned to lessor.

British Airways have largely gone for scrap except 3 special aircraft. The Retro jets.

Thanks to the hard work of the PR team at British Airways the Landor, Negus and BOAC liveried aircraft will live on as static display aircraft and entertainment centres at Dunsfold, Kemble and St Athan respectively.

Boeing itself had a slightly more positive end to 2020 with the Boeing 737 Max cleared to fly once again following its worldwide grounding.

So it wasn’t all bad news.

British Airways New Livery. (Image: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography/British Airways)
British Airways New Livery. (Image: Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography/British Airways)

2021 Outlook

The outlook initially for 2021 isn’t a massively improved picture with us still firmly in the grip of the Coronavirus pandemic and much of the UK on almost total lockdown but there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Several vaccines have been approved for use and perhaps, by the end of this year, we may see air travel begin to recover.

If we don’t then the future could be very bleak for several airlines that even now are hanging on by a thread.