United is Flying a 747-400 Between Chicago and San Francisco
For a few months this year, United is operating its 747-400 on a domestic route — between San Francisco (SFO) and Chicago (ORD). The airline's largest aircraft is normally used on international routes, and offers 12 Global First seats, 52 flat-bed BusinessFirst seats, 70 economy plus seats and 240 standard economy seats. United will also be offering an international 777 between Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX) beginning in April.
The iconic 747 offers a small upper deck, which on United's plane includes seats for just 20 passengers in BusinessFirst. Aside from this new route, you generally can't otherwise fly a 747 within the US outside of select Delta repositioning flights — with the exception of a Qantas flight from New York-JFK to LAX, which is only available if you book an onward flight to Australia.
Every day between March 3 and May 4, there will be a 747 flying from SFO to ORD, and then back to Chicago. United elites booking economy may receive an upgrade to BusinessFirst, while business-class tickets can be upgraded to Global First in the nose of the plane.
Many airlines are retiring their 747-400s as newer, more fuel-efficient aircraft become available. Delta retired its first commercial 747 last year, and Air France recently flew its final 747 alongside French Alphajets just before its retirement. At the same time, British Airways is updating its 747 aircraft, with plans to continue flying them for the time being.
Earlier this month, United told pilots it will be removing the 747 from Chicago in February 2017, leaving just San Francisco with 747 service. Although the airline hasn't confirmed the news, there are reports that the full retirement of its 747-400 aircraft could come as soon as 2018.
If you want to get one last flight on the Queen of the Skies in before it's next-to-impossible to find one on United — especially domestically — this is a great opportunity to get on board one of the remaining 747s before they're gone for good. In the past, United suggested it could keep its 747s in commission until 2020 or later, however, with news sent to pilots to retire them as soon as 2018, it looks like there isn't much time left before United parts with its jumbo jet forever.