Last week I wrote about United’s plan to retire its 747-400 fleet by the end of 2018. Today, UA President Scott Kirby announced plans to accelerate the retirement of the fleet by a full year.
In a letter to employees, Kirby stated–
As deeply connected as we all are to this iconic aircraft, the time has come to retire our 747 fleet from scheduled service. Last March, we announced that this would occur by the end of 2018; now we plan to operate our last 747 flight in the fourth quarter of this year.
Exactly the reason I laid out in my previous article: operational reliability. Kirby added, “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.”
And of course, he’s right. United’s 747-400s never received personal TVs in economy class and the four engine maintenance nightmares may be the most beautiful thing in the sky, but increasingly unattractive to operate. With more 777-3ooERs and 787-9s coming, it simply does not make sense to sustain the life of these birds for another year.
And that is quite sad. I’ve already got two 747 longhauls booked this spring on United and hope to be part of the last flight, whenever that may be. But start preparing for it. Also from Kirby’s letter:
And of course, we’ll honor the 747 with an unforgettable retirement celebration — we’ll keep you posted with more details on her final flight in the months ahead.
There is a positive side to this: a more standardized experience on United. Screens in economy, no more embarrassing first class, and a new Polaris seat on the 777-300s. This news also suggests the new 77W fleet will be based in SFO. That’s little consolation, but nevertheless good news for us in California.
(tip of the hat to Gary)