United has announced that it will phase out the Queen Of The Sky from their fleet by the end of 2017, versus original plans that had the 747 staying in the fleet until the end of 2018.

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The remaining 747s are now all based in San Francisco where UA maintains most of the 747 maintenance facilities.   The last United 747 left Chicago for good on January 3 as part of the fleet consolidation to SFO.

From last count, there are 20 of them left and they’ll be phased out during the course of this year as new planes are delivered to United.

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Primary drivers for the decision include maintenance expense, fuel consumption, and new aircraft that are joining the fleet.   There is also a new FAA maintenance directive that was announced the same day that United said the fleet would be retired a year earlier than expected.  No doubt the expenses surrounding the directive played a role in the decision as well.

Regardless,  United’s recent introduction of the 777-300 and the ongoing success of the 787 fleet, UA deemed it was time to move on to newer and better.   Lets not forget the long list of A350s that UA has on order as well.

None of this comes as a surprise obviously as the newer aircraft with their improved efficiencies make the 747-400 all but a dinosaur in today’s airline world.  Since being introduced to United in 1970, the 747 has been nothing but a wonderful and reliable workhorse.

Fortunately for us avgeek types, we still have the 747-8i to enjoy for the next couple of decades!