United Boeing B747-400 in its pre-merger livery
Hong Kong, October 2008
United Airlines (IATA: UA) becomes the most recent airline to retire the jumbo jet Boeing 747 from its fleet.
Its last commercial flight (UA747) was from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu last Tuesday, November 07, 2017. It was a remake of its first international flight 47 years ago in 1970. This event was well covered by United and the social media. Hundreds of videos and photos were posted only moments after it took off from SFO using the hashtag #UA747Farewell.
According to United’s official press release, main cabin tickets were sold out in less than 90 minutes of its announcement. Meanwhile, the upper deck seats were not sold. Instead, they were awarded by drawing lots.
What will replace United’s Boeing 747s?
Prior to the UA jumbo jets’ retirement, UA had ordered several Boeing 777-300ER. Some of which are already serving its transpacific and transatlantic destinations such as Frankfurt, Beijing, Hong Kong, Taipei, Tokyo-Narita, and Auckland. United also operates a fleet of new Boeing 787-8/9 Dreamliner. This month, UA launched it’s longest existing route – Los Angeles, CA to Singapore using the B787-9 Dreamliner, a staggering 17-hour flight and approximately 15 hours on the return. Singapore Airlines used to ply this route using the Airbus 340-500. (Both UA and SQ operate SFO-SIN nonstop)
Meanwhile, in September, United converted its order of 35 Airbus A350-1000 to 45 of the smaller A350-900. Deliveries will start in 2022, according to Airbus. The Airbus’ newest widebody is to replace UA’s aging Boeing 777-200. Prior to this order by UA, the only Airbus aircraft in its fleet are narrowbody A319 and A320.
What’s the future for the Boeing 747?
While the Queen of the Skies is not completely gone, a dozen of the passenger version of the B747 are already retired by the likes of EVA Air, Cathay Pacific, Philippine Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines and others. Plane spotters like myself can still chance upon a few of them as few airlines are deciding to keep their Boeing 747-400 fleet for a longer time like Korean Air, Asiana, Thai Airways, China Airlines, Air India, Delta, Qantas, KLM, Lufthansa, El Al, Saudia, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and others. Only a few of them also operate the new B747-8I (Intercontinental) namely Korean Air, Lufthansa as well as Air China. Most of the 747s we see flying around are of the freighter versions. There’s still over a hundred of them, looking at Flightradar24 app.
These days, it has become a rare chance to spot a passenger jumbo jet. So the next time you see the queen, be sure your cam is ready to snap a shot.
Francis is an aviation fan. He loves to travel for the flying part of it and to plane spot during stops. He likes to express his views about some aviation industry news, from the perspective of a regular traveller. Finally, he writes anything that he thinks can help others make the most out of their flights.