I just returned from a crazy, exciting, and tiring week centered around United’s final 747 flight on Nov. 7, 2017.
If you don’t know, United (and others) have been taking the Boeing 747 out of service in favor of smaller more efficient planes. Reference article here.
United proclaimed that it would re-create it’s first 747 flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Honolulu (HNL) on Nov 7th. It sounded like a great experience, and quickly sold out in 2 hours.
I was not amongst the lucky few to purchase a ticket before they sold out, and I thought I had missed my opportunity. Then, in my email, I noticed that the MileagePlus group at United was going to auction off a pair of tickets.
After I gauged my wife’s interest level in the trip, and the logistics of who would watch the kids, I was given the green light to bid.
I am selling the experience short. It was not just a pair of tickets on the last flight, but tickets to SFO, and back from HNL to home. It included 2 nights at the fabulous Ritz Carlton Waikiki and the privilege to board the plane first. Plus a piece of the actual plane , after the flight 🙂
November 6, 2017 – Travel Day
My wife and I boarded UA912 from EWR-SFO. I was able to use additional miles to get an upgrade, so we enjoyed the first class trip across the country.
After realizing that my wardrobe might not make the cut, my wife and I ran out to the nearest mall to find a Hawaiian style shirt.
November 7, 2017 – Event Day
Our day started early, as we needed to check bags at SFO, and wanted to get to the gate by 8am.
On the shuttle from the hotel to the airport, we happen to run into a United pilot, and strike up a conversation. Turns out he is one of the two captains that will fly the 747 to HNL. I have to ask for a photo, and Captain Tom obliges.
At the 1K desk, we check our bags and notice that all the United employees are taking pictures with the 747 signage made for the event. There was a palpable buzz in the air.
As we walk from security to the gate, there are some people dressed in vintage 70’s outfits and others like me in Hawaiian prints. We all just give a nod, like “yeah see you on the plane”.
The boarding area was a circus like atmosphere, with media, aviation luminaries, United employees and corporate brass. It was a mix of block party meets high-school reunion. A velvet rope separated the haves from the have-nots. This ticket was like gold.
The MileagePlus Awards team did an exceptional job of making this a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We were treated like royalty. We were allowed to tour the plane while the festivities took place at the gate, and presented with commemorative certificates marking the day.
Time to Fly
Oscar Munoz, United CEO was at the gate to check me in. As the first passengers to board, there was a media frenzy around us. We were escorted to the plane by the “retro” flight attendants.
As the plane filled up, the party atmosphere continued. Many of the passengers were media or United employees who purchased tickets on their own. People were in the aisles almost the entire flight.
As we taxied out, everyone on the ground waved and snapped pictures. The pilot seemed to pose the plane for a photo op for the ground crew.
We were served a TV diner style meal on a retro tray while Grease and Tootsie played on the bulkhead screens. My son later commented “that was the only screen?” I felt sorry for the flight attendants who struggled to get the service carts up and down the aisles.
The party continued at HNL, with a giant Lai draped over the plane. Drinks and speeches continued.
By this point, my wife and I were both exhausted and decided to head to the Ritz Cartlon where we would spend the next two nights.
The Swag Bag
Each passenger was presented with a canvas swag bag which included commemorative pins, a coin, a glass bottle of Coke with 747 Farewell, and even a bag of Pop-Rocks.
I can say this was one experience that I will never forget. Yes, it was a lot of hard earned miles, but what’s a chance to say goodbye to the Queen of the Sky worth? Some would say PRICELESS.