NEWARK — The journey of United’s Queen of the Skies is nearing its end. It is a fact. Unfortunately, however, the journey never began for those United employees looking to fly aboard the iconic aircraft at Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) one last time on the morning of October 24.
High winds and rain dampened the United employees who had entered a lottery to determine who would be lucky enough to fly on the iconic 747 on a special farewell flight around the New York area from the airline’s third largest hub.
Though not all was bad news for the disappointed UA employees, who continued celebrating on the ground by taking a tour of the Jumbo jet and take in all the history.
For some people, including myself, this was the first time boarding the magnificent 747. Walking up and down the aisles, one could feel a sense of pride and legacy.
This Boeing 747-400 (N118UA) was delivered to United on February 24, 1999. That’s 29 years after the first 747 joined United in 1970. If we add all those numbers together, it’s 47 years of continued, non-stop service. The 747’s relationship with United is a successful marriage.
I was able to meet Silja Kaude-Kelly, a senior Flight Attendant on this last flight. She said to me, “I’ve been here as long as this plane has.” Over the past 18 years, Silja said she’d been part of four other farewell flights.
As we climbed to the aircraft’s upper deck during the ‘grounded’ tour, I met with First Officer Sydney Ihde on the flight deck. Ihde had been with United for 28 years.
“Dream to Fly,” were her words when explaining how it feels to come to work every day and fly the Queen of the Skies. Ihde will be moving on to the much newer Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Likewise, Captain David Smith will be in command of a brand-new 787. He told me on the main deck of the Queen of the Skies, “I’ve never really had the opportunity to hang out in this part of the aircraft,” he said. “Even though I’ve been with United for 32 years, I’ve been flying the 747 for only two years!”
For the 747’s retirement flights, United brought a line of premium cabin amenity kits that started rolling out on October 23. These kits were distributed in United’s Polaris international business and first class cabins and on Premium Transcon flights.
The amenity kits have an image of the 747 emblazoned on the outside along with the line “celebrating the 747.” On the inside, however, the 747-branded bags contain the usual items found in the regular premium cabin kits, including eyeshades, earplugs, and Cowshed travel products such as lip balm and hand cream.
This 747 (N118UA) will head to ORD and then onto DEN to complete the Hub tour. And then on November 7th, the airline will commence its last 747 flight by honoring the first United 747 flight as they will fly from San Francisco to Honolulu in 1970’s style.
Airways will be on board that historic flight, so stay tuned and follow our social media feeds to live that moment together.