Every day since June of 1970, United Airlines has been flying 747s all over its route network and across the world. After 47 and a half years, United will fly its last passengers on a 747 on November 7th on a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu.

Today, United announced its plans for a November 7th 747 farewell flight that will be modeled after its first 747 flight in the 1970s. The last international flight will be on October 29th from Seoul (ICN) to San Francisco (SFO).

Just about everything on board flight 747 will be based off of the 1970s including the menu, the flight attendant uniforms, and the movies that will be available for entertainment.

As a feature that is unique to the 747 and A380, the seats on the upper deck will not be sold. The goal is to give all passengers an opportunity to spend time on the upper deck to experience what will likely be the last time a multiple deck aircraft is flown by United Airlines. A few of the seats on the upper deck will be occupied, however. United plans to allow all Polaris First and Polaris business class passengers to enter into a raffle at the gate to win a seat in the upper deck.

United will begin the celebration at 9 A.M. with a special 747 gallery. United employees will speak as refreshments are served at the gate. The flight will then depart from San Francisco at 11 AM local time and arrive into Honolulu at 2:45 PM local time. United employees will welcome the 747 into Honolulu for the last time with another celebration at the gate.

United’s first revenue 747 flight took place on July 23rd, 1970 on San Francisco to Honolulu route. Since then, the 747 has been flying to Honolulu from destinations on both sides of the Pacific.

Throughout the years, United has operated a total of 88 different 747s including four variants of the 747: the -100, -200, -400, and even the SP. This includes 44 747-400s, 23 747-100s, 10 747-200s, and 11 747SPs. One of United’s SPs was turned into SOFIA, NASA’s flying satellite in 1996.

United began its final round of 747 retirements at the end of 2015. Before this, the fleet was 24 aircraft, and is now down to 13. United consolidated its 747 operations to its San Francisco hub in February of 2017, when the last 747 flight into Chicago arrived from Tokyo Narita. The 747s have been gradually replaced by 777-200s and United’s new 777-300ERs. 

Last April, I had the chance to fly aboard a United 747-400 from Chicago to San Francisco in the upper deck. While not the farewell flight, there were many aviation enthusiasts on board. The crew acknowledged this by giving my friend and I a tour of the galley and the crew rest area as well as allowing us to visit the cockpit at the end of the flight.

United’s 747 sits at ORD’s C16 before departing for SFO
Awaiting pushback aboard N121UA at ORD.
Awaiting pushback next to a United 777-200.
Departing ORD and turning north with the city in view.
The flight map from a business class seat on the upper deck of a United 747.
Arriving in SFO aboard N121UA.
The cockpit of N121UA after arriving at gate 86 in SFO.

All photos by Author Alec Mollehauer

Categories: Flyer Talk