MIAMI — It hasn’t been an easy year for the Queen of the Skies. Less than a week ago, United retired the iconic Boeing 747 from its fleet, leaving behind 47 years of continuous, unstoppable service.
Today, Delta announced that it’s ready to do the same with an exciting schedule of farewell flights between some of its leading hubs around the country.
But first, let’s look at Delta’s long and fruitful relationship with the world’s most iconic airliner.
Delta’s Relationship with the Queen
Delta took delivery of its first Boeing 747 on October 2, 1970. The airliner joined a fleet of DC-10s and L-1011s, changing the way people traveled during that decade. In all, the airline operated thirty-five 747s.
As time passed, Delta’s management determined that the aircraft, while reliable, was too big for its routes at the time and began trading them back to Boeing in September 1974.
On April 23, 1977, the airline flew the last five of its Boeing 747s before transitioning to the widebody Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star, first delivered to the company on December 15, 1973.
Delta’s reunion with the Boeing 747 was the result of its September 26, 2008, merger with Northwest Airlines (NW). The combined company was, at the time, the world’s largest airline, with a total enterprise value of $17.7 billion. During the first quarter of 2008, ahead of the merger, the carriers posted a combined loss of $10.5 billion.
On December 31, 2009, the merged carrier’s operating certificates, ground operations and computerized reservation systems were joined with those of Delta Air Lines as the surviving entity. By the fourth quarter of 2009, the combined airline had reaped $700 million in merger benefits.
Following the merger, Delta inherited two Boeing 747-251B aircraft that Northwest had utilized for charters only; these were quickly retired on November 25, 2009.
Twelve Boeing 747-200 Freighters were also inherited, flying for the last time on December 26, 2009. What remained were 16 Boeing 747-400 aircraft, ranging in age from seven to 20 years.
Of these inherited 747-400s, Delta operated the very first variant ever produced (Ship 6301). This plane took off for the first time on April 29, 1988, as a test plane for Boeing and was later delivered to launch customer Northwest Airlines on January 26, 1989. Since then, it logged more than 61 million miles flying around the world.
Delta refurbished every 747-400 in its fleet with on-demand entertainment and the airline’s new Business Class back in 2012.
However, even though the 747 became an influential player on the airline’s Transpacific network, Delta announced their complete retirement by the end of 2017.
Out of the 16 Boeing 747-400s in the airline’s fleet, four were retired between September and October 2014, and the rest followed suit in 2017.
Ship 6301 was not only the first 747-400 ever produced; it was also the first to be retired by Delta in September 2015. The historic aircraft is now on permanent display at the Delta Museum in Atlanta.
By the end of this year, no more American carriers will operate the iconic Queen of the Skies in the passenger version.
Want to fly it again? Here’s how
Delta announced that a few farewell trips will be held and that the aircraft will continue to operate daily flights between its Detroit (DTW) hub and Seoul-Incheon (ICN) until December 17.
According to the airline, the last scheduled flights the Queen of the Skies will operate are:
- Final U.S. departure: Flight 159 at Detroit to Seoul-Incheon at 12:31 p.m.on Dec. 15
- Final Asia Pacific arrival: Flight 159 at Seoul-Incheon from Detroit at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 16
- Final Asia Pacific departure: Flight 158 at Seoul-Incheon to Detroit at 11:15 a.m. on Dec. 17
- Final U.S. arrival: Flight 158 at Detroit from Seoul-Incheon at 10:14 a.m.on Dec. 17
For those who are not able to be part of one of these last scheduled flights, Delta has organized special employee farewell flights.
- Employee Flight, December 18: Detroit – Seattle
- Employee Flight, December 19: Seattle – Atlanta
- Employee Flight, December 20: Atlanta – Minneapolis-St. Paul
These employee flights will be for sale internally. All the proceeds will be going to the Airloom Project, the organization behind the 747 Experience exhibit at the Delta Flight Museum.
Delta also announced that the 747 will fly a handful of sports team and ad-hoc charter flights through the end of the year. This will give plenty of spotting opportunities for aviation photographers around the country wishing to capture the very last flights of Delta’s Boeing 747-400.
Lastly, the airline noted that the last 747 will be flown to the scrapyard in Arizona in early January. The official date is yet to be determined.
Stay tuned for more information. Airways will be covering live via all our social media feeds the retirement of this historic aircraft. Make sure you follow the #DL747Farewell hashtag and check our website repeatedly for detailed coverage of these events.