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Why BA is keeping faith with the Boeing 747
When Boeing debuted the 747 in 1969, it was the largest civilian aircraft in the world. Like Stephenson’s Rocket and the Model T Ford, the 747 brought about a paradigm shift in human transportation. The first wide bodied passenger plane, its size heralded a new era of economical air transport. Its double-decked ‘humpback’ design allowed room for a more luxurious cabin experience than ever before.
The 747 was first flown by BOAC – BA’s predecessor – in 1971, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that the aircraft’s time in the sky was over. But despite younger and more innovative aircraft have joining the family in the past 45 years, the ‘Queen of the Skies’ remains the matriarch.
But will the customer experience keep pace with Jumbo’s iconic staus?
The 747 was first flown by BA’s predecessor BOAC in 1971
At British Airways, 18 of the airline’s 747s have been undergoing an extensive interior renovation project. On board the newly refreshed aircraft are the latest advances in cabin furnishing, entertainment technology and interior design.
BA’s team of engineers in Cardiff has been working on the project since last year. Each 747 takes almost 40,000 man hours to update and. At the heart of the update is a new inflight entertainment system (IFE) which introduces larger, high-resolution screens. These new devices are controlled using swipe and touch gestures, familiar to anyone who uses a tablet.
Behind the screens, the system offers 1,300 hours of entertainment including more than 130 movies and 400 TV programmes. Every screen has its own built-in memory networked to three independent onboard servers. The aim: to make playback failure a thing of the past.
For those who plan to bring along their own device, every First, Club and World Traveller seat comes with a power socket capable of accepting plugs from the UK, US and Europe and a personal USB dock.
The updated aircraft feature 14 First seats with new passenger controls, updated seating and at 16-inches, the largest IFE screen on the aircraft. Elsewhere, the aircraft’s Club capacity has been increased to 86 seats.
Technology has also been used to make relaxing on board even easier. A new LED lighting system allows the cabin ambience to gently shift from night to day. Similar to the experience of flying on the 787 Dreamliner, this technology helps customers arrive refreshed and ready for their destination’s time zone – helping to avoid jet lag.
The refresh has been welcomed by customers, with overall satisfaction levels climbing by 19 per cent. Research by the airline has shown that customers spend around 90 per cent of their flight using the IFE system, so it is encouraging to find that satisfaction with the new entertainment onboard has grown by 40 per cent.
Twelve aircraft have been refurbished to date, with the final aircraft scheduled to roll out of the hangar this August. With its refreshed interior and unmistakable silhouette, the airline’s fleet of 747s will continue to delight millions of admirers and is ready to welcome a new generation of flyers to the air.