A 747 is part of the Continental fleet.
A 747 is part of the Continental fleet.

Looking back in wonder as United bids the 747 a fond farewell

Last week, United Airlines ended an era when it retired its last Boeing 747 from service. At the time it was introduced in 1970, the 747 was the first wide-body jet with the highest passenger capacity. Because it dwarfed all other planes, it picked up the nickname jumbo jet or the more regal “the queen of the skies.”

“Its grace, its capabilities, and its place in history give the 747 an unmatched mystique that transcends aviation,” said Patrick Smith, a pilot and author. “Its legacy belongs to the bigger, more important context of human imagination and achievement.”

The 747 is not only a cultural icon, it’s also a celebrity. The plane has appeared in more than 300 films, everything from campy disaster flick “Airport 1975” to the 1997 film “Air Force One.”

“The 747’s demise is painful for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s such a great looking airplane,” Smith said.

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To commemorate its final voyage, United flight attendants donned vintage uniforms and served a special menu. Here’s a look back to the very colorful time when United launched its iconic 747 service into the friendly skies of the 1970s.

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United Airlines’ first commercial flight of the 747 was from San Francisco to Honolulu in 1970. United Airlines took delivery of the 747 from Boeing in Everett, Wash.

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The 747’s distinct hump-like upper deck served as a first-class lounge during early years of service. Here, passengers enjoy a cocktail in a lounge adorned with of-the-moment blue shag carpet, orange vinyl seating, and dizzying wallpaper.

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A United flight attendant in a fashion-forward, patterned smock prepares meals for passengers in the 747’s state-of-the-art 1970 galley kitchen.

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“Coffee, tea, or hard alcohol?” A flight attendant makes small talk with a first-class passenger while pushing the bar cart through the blazing red cabin. At the time, United claimed “It’s more than a new airplane, it’s a new environment.”

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Is it a club or an airplane? First-class passengers relax in the very civil, spacious lounge in the 747 in 1970.

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Paneling? Check. Yellow vinyl lounge chair? Check. Passenger in a plaid maxi skirt? Check. The champagne is chilling in the upper lounge. This 747 is ready for a party.

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This family is dressed for excess in the lounge of a 747 in 1972. The ride is so smooth that not a hair is out of place on mom’s impressive bouffant or the boys’ bowl cuts.

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Please note the lack of sweat pants and bare feet. In 1972, a tiara and evening gown were proper first-class attire for women. For men, a tuxedo with a purple ruffled shirt whispered “I’m a jet-setter” to fellow passengers.

A spiral staircase may not seem like the most practical or accessible way to get from first class to the upper lounge, but in 1970 it was the newest, hippest airplane amenity. Here, passengers relax in what United called “the Friend Ship.”