It’s a Sight You Won’t See Much Longer
The Queen of The Skies won’t be around much longer at United Airlines. United announced today that their fleet of 747-400s would be retired in the fourth quarter on 2017. United had previously planned to retire the fleet by the end of 2018.
The move in the retirement date isn’t completely unexpected. The 747-400 fleet is fast becoming elderly and has significantly higher operating expenses than their expanding 787-9 and 777-300ER fleet. In a statement, United explained their rationale for early retirement of the Queen:
This jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel. Today, there are more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and reliable widebody aircraft that provide an updated inflight experience for our customers traveling on long-haul flights.
United did announce that they will plan a special farewell for the 747 fleet:
…we’ll honor the 747 with an unforgettable retirement celebration — we’ll keep you posted with more details on her final flight in the months ahead.
The era of US airlines operating the 747-400 is quickly drawing to a close. The announcement of United’s 747’s accelerated fleet retirement along with Delta Air Lines’ planned retirement means that no major US airline will fly a 747 in their fleet for the first time since the iconic jet debuted in 1969. Your best chance to fly on a 747 will be to fly on a foreign carrier’s 747 or hop a charter flight on one of the 747-400s in Atlas Air’s fleet.