The end of the line is coming for one of America’s most iconic aircraft. After years of service to flyers around the world, United Airlines announced earlier this year that their fleet of Boeing 747 aircraft would be retiring by the end of 2018.
While we still have two more years to appreciate the world’s original jumbo jet with the Chicago-based carrier, the airline has already begun slowly weeding these aircraft out of their fleet. As of today, only 20 United 747-400 aircraft are actively flying, with that number expected to rapidly decrease between now and the end of the year.
Sure, these aircraft may not be as modern as the Boeing 777 or the 787 Dreamliner, nor do they feature the new Polaris business class, but they are a classic that introduced the world to long-haul travel and luxury. Pan American, TWA and Northwestern Airlines were just some of the carriers that chose to fly the Boeing 747 in its heyday.
For those who have never experienced flight on the Boeing 747, it’s not too late to pay homage to this great American aircraft. Here is how you can still snag one of the flights aboard the aircraft before it’s too late.
Know the routes ahead of time
For a short time this year, United operated a 747 between San Francisco and Chicago, allowing domestic flyers to appreciate their time on the aircraft. Although that route is no longer being operated, the carrier is still operating several international routes through both of its major international hubs.
From Chicago, travelers can fly to several points in Asia on three flights. From San Francisco, travelers have many more options, flying to either Europe or Asia aboard the 747-400. FlyerTalk has a board dedicated to the United 747, which is updated on a semi-regular basis.
Book early and often on miles
Once travelers have decided on a route, the next thing to determine is how many points it would take to fly aboard the aircraft. From the United States to Europe, economy flyers can expect to pay up to 65,000 miles for a one-way redemption, while business class could cost up to 150,000 miles for a one-way flight. To Asia, the prices are not much better: economy award tickets can cost up to 80,000 miles, while business class travel can cost up to 175,000 miles one way.
Although it sounds like an insurmountable amount of points and miles, travelers can cut down that amount through everyday spending. For example, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers a 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points bonus after a $4,000 minimum spend during the first three months. Those points can be transferred to United MileagePlus, getting flyers only 15,000 miles away from at least an economy ticket aboard one of the last remaining 747 flights.
Prepare for last minute changes
Finally, despite the best laid plans of frugal travelers, every flight is subject to change. While travelers may book their original flight on the Boeing 747, last-minute aircraft changes can happen.
Prior to boarding, be sure to keep an eye on any changes coming to the flight. Changes often come in various e-mails from the airline prior to the departure date and can range in information from flight times to aircraft changes. If your aircraft gets changed in the end, it may be wise to cancel your flight and redeposit the points. For the nominal fee, those miles can then be put towards an actual 747 flight.
While time is running out to appreciate this part of history, there is still time to take a final flight aboard a 747. With careful planning and preparation, any flyer can still say they flew on one of the world’s most iconic jets before they go away forever.
Would you take one last flight aboard a 747? Let us know how you would plan it in the comments below!
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