United Airlines ‘Royal Hawaiian’ Friend Ship Final 747 Flight – San Francisco-Honolulu – Review

By Jonathan Spira on 20 November 2017
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United Airlines’ final Boeing 747 flight was to be very much like its first. On July 23, 1970, a Boeing 747-100, the Friend Ship, left San Francisco destined for Honolulu, offering the airline’s vaunted Royal Hawaiian service on board.

Although Flight 747 was scheduled to depart at 11 a.m. local time, I had to get up early to prepare. In addition to United’s plans to recreate 1970s menus and uniforms, most passengers were planning to wear clothing reminiscent of that era and festivities were planned at the gate. I was fortunate that my friend Laurie Haspel, president of Haspel Clothing, outfitted me with a Hawaiian style floral shirt and decade appropriate seersucker slacks.

By the time I arrived at the gate, 8 a.m., three hours prior to departure, the party had already started and it was like walking into a time capsule complete with leisure suits, overabundance of polyester, and big hair. Passengers on the flight included one gentleman who had been on the first ever 747 flight in 1970, which was operated by launch customer Pan Am; the woman who had trained the flight attendants who worked the first United 747 flight; and a couple that had become engaged on the very same 747 a few years ago.

Flight attendants serving pre-departure Mai Tais on the historic flight

Flight attendants serving pre-departure Mai Tais on the historic flight

Oscar Munoz, the airline’s CEO, was posing for photographs with passengers, and the mood was festive.

Finally, it was time to board the Queen of the Skies and get underway.


United boards passengers by group, starting with its Global Services members and continuing with first- and business-class passengers. The first few boarding passes were scanned by none other than Oscar himself and the process went a bit slowly, given the number of photographs and live videos everyone was taking while walking down the jetbridge.

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