When will United retire its Boeing 747s?

 United is retiring some Boeing 747-400s. Photo: United Airlines

United is retiring some Boeing 747-400s. Photo: United Airlines

Some of you hate the Boeing 747-400. You find it too cramped, especially in coach. On United, you complain there are no personal televisions, though there is WiFi and streaming entertainment.

Others love the airplane, nicknamed the "Whale" or the "Queen of the Skies." You love the plane's sleek looks, and you prefer sitting on the upper deck or in the nose. You probably like its history, too. 

I have some bad news for the second group. United, which should be the last U.S. airline flying the 747, has released some tentative retirement dates. There are now 23 in the fleet, and some should be around until 2019. But it soon will be harder to find them. 

Below is the tentative retirement schedule for the next three years. Keep in mind, United can change its mind. If fuel costs go up, United will probably implement a more aggressive retirement plan.

  • N194UA - Sep/2015
  • N171UA - Nov/2015
  • N179UA - Jun/2016
  • N180UA - Aug/2016
  • N182UA - Jul/2017
  • N181UA - Sep/2017
  • N174UA - Dec/2017
  • N175UA - May/2018
  • N177UA - Oct/2018

Some of you follow this closely, so you know that the first 747 slated for retirement - N194UA - is used exclusively for charter flights. When that aircraft is retired, United will move another aircraft to charter duty. That will be N105UA.

If all goes as planned, United will be the last major passenger U.S. airline to fly the 747. Delta expects to retire its final aircraft in 2017.