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Final Days For Delta and United Airlines Boeing 747-400 Passenger Fleets

At one time, the Boeing 747 was the epitome of luxury travel.  With a two story cabin, an exclusive lounge, two-wide aisles and plenty of space to stretch out, the Queen of the Skies was far and away the most sought after jet to fly for transcontinental and intercontinental travel.

Why are they going away?

Times have changed.  The Boeing 747 was once one of the few aircraft that could fly across the furthest points of the Pacific non-stop.  Routes like Hong Kong to Chicago O’Hare would not have been possible without the Boeing 747-400.  Airlines have fallen out of love with the four-engined jumbo jet in recent years though.  Airlines have chosen to replace four engined aircraft with more efficient two engine aircraft like the Boeing 777, Airbus A350, and Boeing 787.  The latest aircraft offer better economics both from a fuel efficiency standpoint as well as a right-sizing to match customer demand. About 15 years ago, the trend started towards more frequent flights to midsize markets.  Passengers who used to have to connect in major hubs began to have direct access to domestic and international markets.  This trend has continued and made large aircraft less desirable for all but a few trunk international routes. Customers have spoken and chosen frequency and convenience over size.

When will the last Boeing 747 fly in US skies?

That’s actually an interesting question.  The Boeing 747-400 and -8i are still flying with a number of international airlines across the globe. Many of these airlines have daily 747 flights to major US hubs like LAX, SFO, ORD, and JFK. Atlas Air also has a few passenger configured 747-400 aircraft the perform military and unscheduled charters. We’ll definitely continue to see the double-decker queen of the skies in the US for at least a few more years. Airlines across the globe are retiring their four-holers at a brisk pace though too.  The days for seeing a US scheduled airline are numbered though. Delta and United Airlines are retiring their 747-400 fleets in the upcoming months.  United recently subbed a 747-400 on a route between SFO and ORD.  They dubbed it the final 747 domestic flight. They’ll continue to operate the Boeing 747-400 fleet to Asia out of the SFO hub for a few more months. Delta also has an upcoming domestic 747-400 flight between Atlanta and Detroit.  While the date for the final United and Delta 747 flights haven’t been set, we’re expected them to be fully retired by the end of this year.

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Jeff Gilmore

Written by Jeff Gilmore

Jeff is a former active duty Air Force pilot who founded and now works in Silicon Valley. A longtime #avgeek, Jeff loves technology, aviation, model airplanes, and his family.

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