A British Airways 747 aircraft flies over roof tops as it comes into lane at Heathrow Airport in west London on February 18, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS
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If it's the end of the line for Boeing Co.'s 747 jetliner, nobody told British Airways.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. Demand for the latest 747-8 variant has also faded as airlines prefer leaner twin-jet types.The latest 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus Group SE A350 are hastening the retreat by combining twin-jet economics with composite materials that offer a 20 percent efficiency saving versus planes far newer than the 747 .The backlog stands at just 17 planes, excluding freighters, after delivery of the last of 19 ordered by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the only major airline to sign up to the passenger version.While that's 40 percent fewer than on the superjumbo, the A380 is a niche model for the airline, with just 12 orders.British Airways declined to specify how long the upgrade will prolong the 747's lifespan, though it has said the bigger 787 variants and Airbus's largest A350 will be used to phase out some jumbos through 2023 .
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