United Considers Accelerating 747 Retirement

By Jesse Sokolow on 20 February 2016
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DSC_0486 (1)United Airlines said on Friday it may accelerate the retirement of its Boeing 747-400 fleet. The Chicago-based airline currently operates 22 of the type and operates them on long-haul flights out of Chicago and San Francisco.

In a memo sent to the airline’s pilots Friday, United said it is considering moving up the retirement date to 2018 and replacing the jumbojet with wide-body aircraft. The airline originally had planned to phase out the type by 2020.

“We are contemplating an accelerated retirement plan for the 747s,” said Howard Attarian, United’s senior vice president for flight operations, in the message. “If we do decide to head in this direction, we plan to accelerate widebody deliveries to replace this capacity.”

The Boeing 747 first entered service in 1970, with launch customer Pan Am. It changed the face of flying forever, offering amenities (depending on the airline) from a first-class lounge to a piano bar on the upper deck, and its greater capacity contributed to making flying more affordable.

In 2014, Delta Air Lines announced plans to begin phasing out the 747 and retired four that year. In September 2015, the Atlanta-based carrier operated the final commercial flight of the first ever Boeing 747-400 aircraft.  That 747, carrying tail number N661US, had been delivered to Northwest Airlines in 1989. Delta acquired the aircraft when it merged with Northwest.

In January of this year, Air France operated its last 747 flights.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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