United Airlines announced today that it will recreate the journey of the first United 747 flight from 1970. United is retiring the Boeing 747 from its fleet and Tuesday, November 7, from San Francisco to Honolulu will be the airline’s farewell flight to the 747 fleet.
This journey will serve as the ultimate throwback for customers, employees and invited guests as it recreates the first 747 flight operated by United in 1970. From a 1970s-inspired menu to retro uniforms for flight attendants to inflight entertainment befitting of that first flight, passengers will help send the “Queen of the Skies” off in true style.
The original United 747 aircraft that first made this journey from San Francisco to Honolulu was named the “Friend Ship,” the same name bestowed on this farewell flight. Seats on this special, one-way trip, United flight 747, are available for purchase now at united.com or through the United app.
Note the seats in the upper deck will not be sold, giving all guests the opportunity to spend time in this iconic space. Customers seated in United Polaris first class and United Polaris business class will be entered into a drawing that will take place at the gate prior to boarding for an opportunity to occupy one of a select number of seats in the upper deck during the flight.
The journey will begin with a gate celebration at 9am local time at San Francisco International Airport, featuring a Boeing 747 gallery, remarks from United employees and executives, as well as refreshments. The flight will depart San Francisco International Airport at 11am local time, landing at Honolulu International Airport at 2:45pm local time. Upon landing in Honolulu, local employees will welcome the aircraft with final festivities to close out the historic day. Customers and fans of the Queen of the Skies are encouraged to use the #UA747Farewell hashtag in social media posts.
The 747-400, specifically United’s will always hold a special place in my heart since it was the plane that gave me my love of flying. I used to be afraid to fly and didn’t know just how good flying could be until college, when I started dating a bona fide princess. Her parents lived in Hong Kong and Sydney, and she wouldn’t fly in economy because she was accustomed to flying business class. I had ONLY flown coach—and I had never been overseas.
When she invited me to Hong Kong one summer, I couldn’t let the opportunity slip by. Her parents bought her a business class ticket on their favorite airline, and I knew there was no way I could sit on a plane for 14.5 hours by myself. I (okay, my dad) bought the seat next to her from a consolidator for $1,500, which was great (full fare was $5,000). I picked the right time to have my first out-of-coach experience. WOW! What a difference! A nice phat seat with a leg rest, some hot towels, a little sorbet to clean the palate, non-stop food, beverages, and movies. It was so good I didn’t want to leave the plane.
Although I know this wide-body plane is getting dated, it’s still sad to see it being retired so rapidly by airlines around the world. They worst part is that it’s mainly being replaced by narrow bodies (single-aisle planes with an economy configuration of 3×3).
United and the Boeing 747 through the years:
April 13, 1966: Boeing announces it will build a 490-passenger 747 transport. Construction is set to begin in June on a new plant in Everett, Washington.
January 3, 1967: The first production workers for the 747 program arrive in Everett. The 50,000 who would produce the world’s largest civilian airplane were known as The Incredibles, and they earned the label by bringing the Jumbo Jet dream to reality in only 16 months.
September 30, 1968: The first Boeing 747-100, City of Everett, is rolled out at their Washington plant, painted with the insignias of the 27 airlines that had already ordered the aircraft including United.
February 9, 1969: The Boeing 747-100 makes its first flight.
January 21, 1970: The Boeing 747 makes its first commercial flight from New York to London for Pan American World Airways.
June 26, 1970: Continental Airlines becomes one of the first carriers to put the Boeing 747 into U.S. domestic service, flying from Chicago to Los Angeles and onward to Honolulu.
June 26, 1970: United Airlines receives its first Boeing 747-100 complete with a christening ceremony fit for a luxury liner.
July 23, 1970: United makes its first Boeing 747 commercial flight, with a trip from San Francisco to Honolulu.
January 1977: A modified Boeing 747-100 is delivered to NASA to serve as a carrier vehicle for the Space Shuttle.
April 22, 1985: United announces its plan to acquire Pan Am’s Pacific routes, as well as 11 Boeing 747SP planes. The 747SPs feature a 48-foot-shorter body and fly higher, faster, and farther than standard 747 models.
January 29-30, 1988: Friendship One, a Boeing 747SP owned by United Airlines, sets the around the-world air speed record of 36 hours, 54 minutes, and 15 seconds. This special flight raises $500,000 for children’s charities through the Friendship Foundation. Tickets cost a minimum of $5,000, and special guest passengers included astronaut Neil Armstrong, famed test pilots Bob Hoover and Lieutenant General Laurence C. Craigie, and Moya Lear, the widow of Lear Jet founder Bill Lear.
June, 1989: United Airlines receives their first Boeing 747-400 which provides increased range.
August 23, 1990: The first of two modified Boeing 747-200Bs is delivered to the Air Force for presidential transport. Better known as Air Force One, these planes still serve the president today, having replaced the Boeing 707-320Bs that had served as the presidential aircraft for almost 30 years.
September 1996: A 747SP previously flown by United is transformed into NASA’s SOFIA, or Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which carries a 17-ton, 8-foot-wide infrared telescope mounted behind an enormous sliding door.
June 28, 2014: Boeing delivers the 1,500th 747 to come off the production line. The 747 aircraft is the world’s first wide-body airplane in history to reach the 1,500 production units milestone.
January 11, 2017: United announces that it will retire the Boeing 747-400 fleet in the last quarter of 2017.
July 28, 2017: United schedules a special domestic flight from Chicago O’Hare to San Francisco to allow more people to say farewell to the Queen of the Skies.
October 29, 2017: United flies its last international 747 flight from Seoul to San Francisco.
November 7, 2017: United celebrates the retirement of the Boeing 747 with a fitting full-circle moment. A special retro event sees the aircraft flying from San Francisco to Honolulu—a nod to its first-ever flight back in 1970.