Japan bids farewell to United’s Boeing 747 fleet as the airline operated its last scheduled 747 flight from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to San Francisco (SFO) yesterday afternoon. Flight 838, operated by one of the carrier’s 15 747-400 aircraft, took to the Japanese skies for one last time at 4:55pm JST (Japan Standard Time) and arrived in San Francisco at 9:35am PST.
This marks the end of 34 years of United flying the jumbo jet to the Land of the Rising Sun — the majority of the carrier’s flights between US and Japan were operated by the 747 fleet since the inaugural flight between Seattle (SEA) and NRT. As the aircraft prepared for departure, ground crew gathered around with placards and signs in hand to say goodbye to the Queen of the Skies.
United 837, departing daily from San Francisco at 11:45am and arriving at Narita Airport in Tokyo at 2:35pm the next day, will now be served by the airline’s flagship Boeing 777-300ER, which features the latest Polaris Business class seats. The return flight, numbered as United 838, departs Narita at 5:10pm and arrives back in San Francisco at 10:55am.
For now, United 747s are still flying between San Francisco and Taipei (TPE), Beijing (PEK), Shanghai (PVG), Seoul Incheon (ICN), Frankfurt (FRA) and London Heathrow (LHR). Taipei will transition to 777-300ER service from August 1, with the other routes slowly transitioning to other aircraft types by the end of this year. United just took delivery of its 10th 777-300ER, so the airline appears to be on track to retire all 747s by the end of the year.
The aging 747 fleet burns up to 20% more fuel per seat than the 777-300ERs, and incurs higher maintenance cost. As aircraft technology improves, it’s no doubt that the airline is turning to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777-300ER to improve overall fleet efficiency and reliability.
Images courtesy of United.