In a recent interview with Bloomberg, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz defended his company’s decision to move up the retirement of the 747-400 by a full year. The last United 747 flight will be in October.
In answering a question about the accelerated retirement of the Queen of the Skies, Munoz stated–
You’ve got other jumbo jets out there that are being built and that a couple of people are flying. For us, we had dwindled down our fleet of 747s. They were already on a path to becoming obsolete. They have been a grand aircraft for us for a long time, but we have issues with maintenance — parts in particular. If I need a part today, I can’t get it. We stripped every airplane in the world of its parts to feed the need, and no one is making new parts for this particular aircraft because there are just not as many out there.
If IranAir kept its 747SP running until last summer and Air Koryo still runs a fleet of Cold War-era Soviet airplanes, I don’t think the issue is that Munoz “can’t” get the part he needs. Rather, the issue is whether it is smart to do so. It is not.
Okay, 747 out. But what’s next?
Every time I get accosted with the issue of the “Queen of the Skies,” I say, “Have you met Miss Dreamliner over here?” It doesn’t have that grand double-decker look, but that’s where [the new Polaris business class] comes into play. The service that you get, the seats that we are working with, that was the decision. We were getting new aircraft that we were going to fly, and we are going to make long-term commitments to flying, and we wanted to start those new routes with aircraft that we are going to be flying into the next generation.
Well, I do enjoy dancing with Miss Dreamliner but the Queen will always be the Queen. Oscar is right though — it is the inside that counts.
No startling revelation from Munoz, but it is interesting that he pivots from arguing the 747s were retired of maintenance necessity to arguing that the retirement was to better align service and seats. Polaris retrofits will be ongoing for the next six years. Consequently, it is going to be a LONG time before some of the 777s have the new Polaris seat. Furthermore, service should not vary by aircraft. So in the end, the 747s just became too expensive to operate. That’s reason enough to retire them.
> Read More: United Announces Final 747 Flight
> Read More: United Accelerates 747 Retirement to 2017
> Read More: Last United 747-400 Departs from Chicago
> Read More: End of an Era: United Pulls 747s from Australia Routes