United bids a retro farewell to the Queen of the Skies

November 08, 2017
United 747 final flight
Posing for the camera ahead of United's final B747 flight. Photo: United.

There were retro uniforms and a 1970s style menu as United Airlines flew its last passenger flight of the Boeing 747 Tuesday.

Fares of up to $US550 one-way on the specially-scheduled farewell trip from San Francisco to Hawaii sold out in less than 90 minutes when it was announced in September.

The send-off began with a gate party at San Francisco International Airport and was due to end with festivities in Honolulu.

United has been operating the 747 since July, 1970, and flew its last international flight using the plane from Seoul to San Francisco in October.

“The iconic 747 is a remarkably special aircraft that signaled a new era of air travel and was equally recognizable and beloved by our customers and crew alike,” United chief executive Oscar Munoz said.

“While today is bittersweet, we’ll continue to honor the Queen of the Skies’ game-changing legacy of connecting people and uniting the world with our next-generation of long-haul aircraft.”

READ: Father of the 747 dead at 95.

The decisions by United and Delta Air Lines to retire the “Queen of the Skies” means that no US airline will be operating the legendary plane in 2018. Delta will operate its final 747 flights in December.

The big four-engine plane fell victim of the rise of fuel-efficient twins in an era of increased competition and pressure on yields.

Notable operators of the classic passenger versions of the jumbo jet , such as Air France and Singapore Airlines, have already moved on and a number of those still carrying the baton, such as Qantas and British Airways,  have plans to phase the plane  out.

BA remains the biggest B747 operator but says half of its 36 747s will be gone by 2021 and the remainder by 2024.

The aircraft continues as a cargo jet and a handful of airlines such as Lufthansa and Korean Air took the revamped passenger version, the 747-8 Intercontinental.