United Airlines will retire its Boeing 747 fleet in Q4, a year earlier than planned. President Scott Kirby announced that the company will bring forward the retirement of the 20-strong fleet in a message posted to employees on January 11. “As deeply connected as we all are to this iconic aircraft, the time has come to retire our 747 fleet from scheduled service,” he wrote. “It’s a bittersweet milestone — this jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel. 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 introduced the 747 in 1970 flying between California and Hawaii but with a major overhaul of its long haul fleet underway the jumbo’s time is up. The airline has 32 787 Dreamliners in service and has just taken delivery of its maiden 777-300ER. It also has 35 Airbus A350-1000s on order with deliveries due to begin in 2018.
Kirby said the airline would ensure a “smooth transition” to other fleets for staff who work on the 747, adding that the airline was planning an “unforgettable” retirement celebration for the Queen of the Skies.