United Retiring Iconic 747 Sooner than Expected

‘Queen of the Skies’ will be phased out of its fleet by the end of 2017, a year ahead of schedule.

United Airlines Boeing 747
United Airlines says it will retire its fleet of Boeing 747s by the end of the year.United Airlines

It’s the end of an era for one of the most iconic airliners ever to take to the sky.

United Airlines announced Wednesday that it plans to retire its fleet of Boeing 747s by the end of the year. The airline had previously set that goal for the end of 2018.

The 747 has been part of United’s fleet since 1970, when the company first flew the jet from California to Hawaii.

"It's a bittersweet milestone — this jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel," United president Scott Kirby said in a company memo.

Kirby said the move helps usher in “more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and reliable widebody aircraft that provide an updated inflight experience for our customers traveling on long-haul flights.”

Boeing’s fleet now includes more modern widebody jets, such as the 777-300ER, 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliner models.

The only other U.S. airline that uses 747s for passenger service, Delta Air Lines, expects to phase out the widebody jetliner by the end of the year as well, according to USA Today.

In case you’re feeling sentimental, Kirby promised the “Queen of the Skies” will at least get the farewell it deserves.

“Of course, we'll honor the 747 with an unforgettable retirement celebration,” he said. “We'll keep you posted with more details on her final flight in the months ahead.”