Boeing has announced it will end production of its 747 airliner in 2022, signalling the end of the superjumbo era, as the US planemaker braced for steeper job losses.
The 747, nicknamed the Queen of the Skies by fans, was first introduced 52 years ago, with a distinctive bulge to accommodate an upper deck. However, its popularity declined as airlines moved to smaller planes that offer more flexibility.
The end of the 747 programme comes with Boeing enduring one of the most difficult periods in its history, as it contends with the pandemic’s dramatic effect on airline traffic, and the subsequent slump in demand for new planes. It is also continuing efforts to return its bestselling 737 Max model back to service, after it was grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes.
Boeing chief executive Dave Calhoun warned on Wednesday that further job losses were needed beyond the plans to cut 10% of its 160,000 workers. It announced 12,000 of the cuts in May.
“Regretfully, the prolonged impact of Covid-19 causing further reductions in our production rates and lower demand for commercial services means we’ll have to further assess the size of our workforce,” Calhoun said in a memo to all Boeing staff .
Boeing lost $2.4bn (£1.9bn) in the three months to the end of June, as revenues slumped to $11.8bn (£9bn) compared to $15.8bn (£12.2bn) in the same period in 2019.
Calhoun said it would take at least three years for airline passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Analysts have said that the end of the 747 programme has been hastened by the coronavirus pandemic, which has put Boeing’s airline customers under even greater pressure and forced them to re-evaluate the usage of planes that rely on packing in hundreds of passengers to be profitable.
Boeing will continue to produce the 747 at a rate of one every two months until the programme ends, with the US president’s Air Force One expected to be one of the last deliveries.