Commenting on British Airway’s retirement of its entire fleet of 747 jumbo jets, Unite national officer Rhys McCarthy said: 

“While the 747 jet is held in high regard, it is time for the ‘queen of the skies’ to relinquish her throne. The entire aviation industry’s stock of older more polluting planes needs to be replaced with the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft built and maintained in the UK. 

“Other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, have already committed to scrappage measures that will see their aviation industries invest in greener aircraft and help re-kickstart aerospace manufacturing so badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“It is now time for the UK government to do the same and put together a sector-based strategy for the long-term future of our world leading aerospace industry, and the thousands of highly skilled jobs it supports.  

“Investment in research and development is vital if zero and ultra-low emission planes are to be built. However, this must be accompanied with an immediate industry-wide scrappage scheme so that the newest planes, which emit 25 per cent less Co2, are 25 per cent more fuel efficient and 50 per cent quieter, can replace more polluting aircraft as quickly as possible.

“This week Boris Johnson said he would ‘examine’ the idea of an aircraft scrappage scheme. British Airways’ retirement of the 747 should be the impetus he needs to put such a scheme into action."

Unite has been pressing the UK government to follow the lead of competitor nations such as France and Germany to establish an investment programme for the aerospace sector to survive, rebuild and recover. 

The sector has suffered a huge decline in new orders and maintenance work – a knock-on effect from the pandemic hit to the aviation sector.


For media enquires ONLY contact Unite communications officer Ryan Fletcher on 07849 090215.

Email: [email protected]

Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

Notes to editors: 

Unite’s plan for the industry is based around three clear aims for the sector: Survive, Rebuild and Recover. The full details can be read here but in summary embrace:


Sector support similar in scope and ambition to that unveiled by the French and Germany governments. Continuation of the government’s job retention scheme (JRS) plus a shorter working week scheme, which has been effective in saving German jobs.


A government-supported aircraft replacement scheme to help the aviation sector dramatically reduce its carbon footprint. Production and parts must come from UK.

Research and Development increased and the current 50/50 ratio between government and companies changed to 80/20 to bring us in line with those of France and Germany. 


Continued support for aerospace apprenticeships to close the growing skills gap across an ageing workforce.