United says Mahalo to the 747 with Honolulu retirement flight

A collection of United 747s at SFO in October 2014

Hot Take:

Great to see the United Airlines honoring the legacy of the aircraft and of its route history with the “Friend Ship” operation from San Francisco to Honolulu. And I love that the upper deck will be open throughout the trip for all passengers to explore and enjoy. Stairs inside an airplane remains nifty even after many years and many trips of experiencing such. Also nice that the send-off is a dedicated event, not just a regular commercial flight, though I imagine some who bought seats on that ICN-SFO trip might be miffed.

Were I not headed to China three days later I’d consider getting a seat on board.

CHICAGO, Sept. 18, 2017 – In celebration of United Airlines retiring the Boeing 747 from its fleet, United flight 747, on Tuesday, Nov. 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. 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 view from the upper deck on a 747 is hard to beat! Departing SFO for ICN in Octoer 2014.
The view from the upper deck on a 747 is hard to beat! Departing SFO for ICN in Octoer 2014.

The journey will begin with a gate celebration at 9 a.m. 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 11 a.m. local time, landing at Honolulu International Airport at 2:45 p.m. 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.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. Yes, it seems like I get the BA 74s pretty often. But given my ties to United and some great memories of test flights and ferry flights when we were installing new seats and IFE, the UA planes will always be special. Remind me to tell you about doing touch and go landings in Mobile. ????✈️

    1. Yup…gone about an hour ago. Some seats will likely pop up here and there as holds expire or people change their mind in the first 24 hours but it went fast.

    1. SFO-ICN is the final international route, with commercial ops ending on 29 October. Others are dropping in the coming weeks. Rumors of a hub tour and a few other bits, too, but this is the grand finale.

    1. Doesn’t fit in my schedule. Makes me sad, of course, but I cannot swing a 24-hour turn to Hawaii the same week as a work trip to China.

      This whole being a responsible adult thing sucks. I don’t know how you do it so often.

  1. No way I could make that work with my schedule, but oh well. We’ve got four 744 segments on three airlines (DL, TG, and CI) planned for mid-November/early December.

    1. My final UA 744 flight was SFO-ORD in May a year ago. When door 2L was closed after boarding, a huge plastic panel fell off the door and onto the floor. We delayed for a bit while that was reattached before flying. Then, during the flight water started pouring out of a space above some of the economy seats due to the air conditioning system. It ranked about average for my UA 744 flights.

    2. Really, as nostalgic as everyone is about the UA 747s, anything they replace them with is a hard product improvement in every class, with the exception of the first class seats and maybe the Upper Deck. Even the 3-4-3 in the back of the 773 is somewhat better, with more amenities (seatback video, power, USB). It’s not like the Y seats on the 747 are all that wide. And, pretty much any other long haul plane in their fleet is going to have better dispatch reliability than those hangar queen 747s have had in the past decade. I totally understand 747 nostalgia, but it’s very old technology at this point, and the UA ones have not been well cared for.

    3. BA did a retrofit on some, Barry, now known as the “high j” config because they added more biz seats. Those are decent. The low j config are miserable and need to be put out to pasture. And they will.

    4. The ex-NW/DL ones also got a pretty major overhaul just 5-6 years ago, with new seats and entertainment systems in all cabins, and new, larger overhead bins on the upper deck. Wall panel lamination and the lighting was also refreshed, so they look cleaner and brighter. They’re still showing some age, but do feel newer inside than UA’s, especially in the main cabin.

  2. Thanks for sharing news about 747 nostalgia, it is always worth noting when airline decides to retire such an iconic aircraft. Regards, Alastair Majury

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