As they say, ‘all good things must come to an end…‘
After 47 years of trustworthy service, United Airlines has retired their final Boeing 747 type aircraft. On the 7th of November, Boeing 747-422 N118UA (MSN 28811) operated United’s last 747 revenue service, from San Francisco to Honolulu, under the fitting callsign “United 747.”
The next day, N118UA flew back to San Francisco as a ferry flight, before continuing to her retirement home of Victorville Airport, in the early morning of the 9th of November.
The last revenue flight was in a fashion similar to that of the 747’s first flight with United, also on the route between San Francisco and Honolulu. Whilst many were visibly upset that the airline was retiring such an iconic plane, for those on board, the farewell flight was one not easily to be forgotten.
It all started at the gate, where passengers were treated to speeches by local Mayors, council members and even United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz, reflecting on the life of the Boeing 747. Crew members were dressed in 1970s throwback uniforms, while cakes and other snacks, beverages and memorabilia were also available prior to boarding.
Upon boarding, passengers were given the honour of having their boarding passes scanned by Munoz himself, and at the doors of the aircraft, retro-themed crew members welcomed passengers onboard. Goody bags, themed pillows and a specialise menu adorned every seat on the flight.
United Airlines Flight 747 was scheduled to depart San Francisco International Airport at 11 AM on November 7th, 2017, however, technical problems caused the flight to leave an hour late. Shortly after takeoff, the flight flew low over San Francisco and the Golden Gate bridge, giving those onboard an incredible view of the bay area. From there, a champagne toast was held as the aircraft routed towards Hawaii.
Bound for Honolulu, with a scheduled flight time of just over 4 hours, this flight symbolized a recreation of the first United 747 flight, and passengers were not going to let the delay disturb the festivities. Specially branded food and drinks, celebrating the final flight, were dished out.
In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the flight, passenger Sean Worsley brought his girlfriend Christine Ellis to the plane’s upper deck, and proposed to her. She said yes! When United officials learned of the story, they said they would offer the couple free travel within the contiguous 48 states for their honeymoon.
All too soon, United flight 747 began to descend into Honolulu Airport. With a flight time of 4 hours and 19 minutes, N118UA touched down in Hawaii at 3:01 PM local time. The 747 was met by United ground staff, who braved a tropical thunderstorm to welcome the Queen into her gate.
Passengers reluctantly disembarked from the 747 for the last time, saying “goodbye” to a very iconic aircraft. As a final touch to the celebrations, a giant “lei” which was handmade by United staff, was placed over the forward fuselage of N118UA
The final commemoration of the United 747 was by CEO Oscar Munoz, in his farewell note. He referenced the 747 in United livery as a special aircraft that “has helped us fulfil our shared purpose of connecting people and uniting them to a wider world.”
Farewell United 747, Queen of the Skies!