Air Capital Insider

United to say goodbye to 747 jumbo jet sooner than planned

A United Airlines Boeing 747-400.
A United Airlines Boeing 747-400. Courtesy photo

United Airlines will bid adieu to its “Queen of the Skies” by the end of this year.

United president Scott Kirby said the airline will accelerate the retirement of its fleet of 20 Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets.

Kirby said in a blog post Wednesday on the company’s United Hub website that its last 747 will fly in the fourth quarter of 2017.

The airline had earlier announced that the hump-backed jetliner would make its last flight by the end of 2018.

“It’s a bittersweet milestone – this jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel,” Kirby wrote. “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 first operated the 747 in 1970 on flights between California and Hawaii.

Airlines’ appetite for four-engine jumbo aircraft such as the 747 and Airbus’ even larger A380 has been waning in the past several years in favor of two-engine wide-body jetliners such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, 777 and 767, United’s other wide-body jets.

That lackluster demand prompted Boeing last year to lower monthly production of the 747 to one every two months. Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita manufactures the 747’s forward fuselage, wing leading edge and struts and pylons.

United Airlines has begun using Boeing and Airbus jets on one of its four daily flights from Wichita Eisenhower National Airport to Chicago. (April 6, 2016)

Jerry Siebenmark: 316-268-6576, @jsiebenmark