Today, United bids farewell to the Boeing 747 with a special flight with 1970-style in-flight service, appropriately designated UA 747, from San Francisco to Honolulu. This is the same route on which United began 747 service on 23 July 1970, just over 47 years ago, Although that was the first revenue flight of a 747 with a United logo, United's 747 service goes a little further back: Continental Airlines began 747 service on 26 June 1970, flying from Chicago to Los Angeles and continuing on to Honolulu
Other than today's special flight, United's last scheduled routes using the 747 were between San Francisco and London Heathrow (flights 901 and 900) and Frankfurt (flights 926 and 927), both of which ended on 28 October, and Seoul (flights 893 and 892), which ended on 29 October. The Frankfurt trip now uses a Boeing 777-300ER while the other two changed to the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. (A second London trip continues to use a Boeing 777-200ER.) United ferried seven 747-400s to retirement at Victorville during the last week of October, leaving two at San Francisco—N118UA, which is planned to fly today's flight, and N121UA which presumably is available as protection for the special flight. N118UA will ferry back to SFO on Wednesday.
Although I missed getting a ticket on today's flight, N118UA holds a special place for me since it was the plane on which my daughter took her first flight.
Delta continues to operate the 747 for a few more weeks between Detroit and Seoul. Delta replaced the 747 with the Airbus A350 on their flights between Detroit and Tokyo on 31 October, and will change the Seoul trip to the A350 once a fourth A350 has been delivered. Unlike United, Delta is continuing to use the 747 for military charters, but will end all 747 service by the end of 2017.
Curiously, the last United 747 retired in October was a 747-451, built for Northwest just like Delta's 747-400s. N105UA flew at last one test flight in Northwest livery but Northwest cancelled the order before delivery; Boeing subsequently sold this aircraft and another cancelled 747-451 to United. All of United's other 747-400s were 747-422 models, built for United.
Today's Featured Map shows United's last three regular 747 routes (red), today's special retro flight to Hawaii (orange), and the ferry flights to the graveyard (grey).
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Karl L. Swartz.
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