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The largest operator of the hump-backed icon is plumping up seat cushions, hanging fresh curtains and upgrading entertainment systems on 18 planes. Yet competitors can’t seem to park the four-engine aircraft fast enough.
Upgrading the best-selling 747-400 version of the jumbo bucks a wave of retirements that have cast doubt on the model's future, with Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Japan Airlines Co., which once vied with BA for the title of No. 1 operator, ending flights more than three years ago.
A clue to BA’s lingering love affair with the 747 lies in the model’s ability to eke out capacity from scarce operating slots at its London Heathrow hub at a time when lower fuel prices make retaining older planes an option. The revamped jets, the first of which returns next month from a refit center in Cardiff, Wales, will also get 16 extra business-class seats, aiding deployment on lucrative trans-Atlantic services.
“It makes hard business sense,” JLS Consulting Director John Strickland said. “These aircraft have a lot of life in them and can be used in very effective commercial ways. Given the capacity constraints at Heathrow and the high demand they have on certain routes, it’s still a very good model.”
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