As anyone who happens to be flying to or through Atlanta this week knows, it has not been a good week for Delta. The Sunday power outage in Atlanta forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and put holiday travel plans in limbo. Since it was an Atlanta problem, Delta was naturally hit hardest. (If you know a Delta employee in Atlanta, they need a hug.) But hidden beneath those bitter headlines this week is a bittersweet milestone. Today, Delta’s last scheduled 747 flight is heading to Detroit from Seoul/Incheon. The 747 will still be flying around for a bit on charters (and, if I were to hazard a guess, to help recover from the power outage), but the days of booking a scheduled 747 flight on a US-based airline are officially over.
Delta’s goodbye was far more subdued than United’s proper send-off, probably because it wasn’t really Delta that had that long love affair with the airplane. (It was that red-headed stepchild Northwest.) But while many people gave their tributes when United put the 747 out to pasture, I decided to wait until it was truly gone for good from scheduled service on US airlines. In the meantime, I took a look back through the archives at all the 747 flights I’ve taken. I can weave together a tapestry of many parts of my life through experiences on that airplane. As airline news starts to wind down for the holidays, I thought I’d take you along on my admittedly entirely self-indulgent look back.
Though I didn’t start writing down every flight I took until 1994, there were several 747 flights before that point which I remember vividly. The first was back in the summer of 1985. My parents took us on my first trip to Europe just before I turned 8. We took an SAS DC-10 to Copenhagen, but on the return from London to LA, our chariot was a British Airways 747 (-200, I’m guessing). I don’t remember much from that flight, but I do remember boarding the airplane and thinking it was just so massive. Here I was, a 7-year-old fresh off an eye-opening swing through Europe, in a sea of coach seats.
While flying British Airways was exciting, there’s nothing quite like flying a Pan Am 747. That first happened for me in 1989. After Pan Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie, the airline was in dire shape. It threw low fares out there to try to attract anyone to fill those cavernous 747s, and we gladly took advantage. The summer of 1989 found us on 747s from LA to Zurich and back via JFK. I remember little about those flights, but the same can’t be said for my next (and last) Pan Am adventure.
We had to go back to Europe for a wedding the following summer, and Pan Am was again our chosen instrument. On the return, we flew the 747 back from London to LA. This trip was special. I remember that Pan Am had a promotion at the time where if you spent a couple hundred dollars at the Sharper Image (we bought a table hockey game), you could get really cheap upgrade certificates on any flight over $800. This trip was just over that threshold, and we flew business the entire way. I seem to recall that we were even upstairs on that flight home.
It was 1993 when I had my first 747-400 ride, and that was purely by accident. I was traveling overseas with a student group called People to People. On the return, I rode on my first A320 from Moscow to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. We were all supposed to take an A340 to New York before heading home, but our group leaders had somehow failed to reconfirm our reservations in advance. (Remember when that was a thing?) The reservations had all been canceled. Most people were put back on the flight, and a handful were upgraded to Business. But once it was filled up, there were 3 of us left stranded. The next thing I know, I was handed a boarding pass for a Business Class seat on the nonstop 747-400 flight back to LA. (Side note: It took another decade before I actually flew on an A340.)
After that, it was quite a drought. It wasn’t until a trip to Brazil during college in 1998/1999 that I was able to log a slew of new 747s. At the time, Japan Airlines flew Tokyo-LA-Sao Paulo, and you could get the LA-Sao Paulo flight for cheap. So we did. That was on a 747-300 both ways, and I distinctly remember visiting the cockpit on both legs. On the return, the American pilots were very friendly and let me stay for a long time in the middle of the night. In Brazil, we had another 747-300 experience going from Sao Paulo to Manaus and back on Varig. These were combi airplanes, I believe, and they brought a bunch of cargo up to the Amazon. I was in the cockpit on both those flights as well. On the way in to Manaus, there was a massive rainstorm halfway down the runway. That photo is long lost now, but I showed it to a pilot friend many years ago and he said we never should have landed. If we had to go around, we would have had to fly right into the thick of it.
In 2002, I was just starting business school, and Concorde was entering its twilight. British Airways had some incredible deals that employees of the company could give to their friends, and I was able to take advantage. On the way out, I flew BA from LA to London on the upper deck of a 747-400. For some reason, the departure in a driving rainstorm is something I remember clearly, but for once, the 747 was not the star of the show. The only thing that could upstage a 747 was Concorde flying me home.
The next time I flew a 747 was a very different experience. In 2003, I went to visit a friend in Africa. I used my Delta SkyMiles to fly on then-partner South African. At the time, the airline had 747-400s flying from Atlanta to Jo’burg nonstop with the return having to stop in the Cape Verde Islands for fuel. That return path meant I’d have two 8 hour flights without getting off the airplane in between. That remains the longest I’ve ever been on a single plane… and it was in coach. But here’s the thing. South African put coach on the upper deck of its 747s. I had a window, which meant I had that little shelf/storage compartment against the wall to stretch out. I believe pitch was 34 inches as well, so it was quite the comfy ride.
One of my favorite 747 trips was in 2007 when my wife and I had used miles to fly in coach over to Europe. The return was on an Air New Zealand 747, and a friend had somehow arranged for us to be upgraded if seats were available. Sure enough, we checked in at Heathrow and were given boarding passes for row 1. That was my first time sitting in the nose, and it was surreal being able to almost look forward out the window. I do remember never wanting that flight to end.
In 2010, it was time to fly Air New Zealand again. The airline invited me down to Auckland to see the unveiling of its new onboard experience for the 777-300ER. At the time, 747s were still operating most of the airline’s long-haul routes, and I flew in Business both ways.
Later that year, we were in for yet another unexpected treat. My wife and I were in Indy with the in-laws for the holidays and had used miles to come home in First Class via Chicago. There had been bad storms during the days leading up to our flight, and United has pressed its charter 747 into service to get people on their way. We were treated to Business Class on that old bird – these were the recliners and there were even still projector screens.
In 2011, Lufthansa invited me to its A380 inaugural on the Frankfurt-San Francisco route. To get there, I had to take a 747-400 from LA. I remember being giddy at being in row 1 on this flight as well. While I really enjoyed my first scheduled A380 flight on the return, I remember wishing I was back on the 747. I was clearly addicted.
My most recent 747 flight, incredibly, was 5 years ago. Back in 2012, British Airways invited me out to the London Olympics. I tried the new premium economy cabin on the 777-300ER on the way out, and I was expecting to return in Business on the 747-400. I found that the airline graciously upgraded me to First Class so I could experience something different. I was again in row 1.
It’s sad for me to think that my options to get on another 747 are dwindling. I imagine Air China, Korean, Lufthansa, and British Airways will still have them flying for many years to come, but it’s getting much tougher to find. I’m hopeful that I’ll find a good reason to take my son on one before they disappear. At least on Thursday, he’ll get to walk around one when Delta brings a 747 to LA for people to tour. That, strangely enough, will be my first time on a Delta or Northwest 747. I wish it weren’t the last.
Now let’s hear your stories.
My first, probably 1975, was UA LAX/HNL…2nd and most thrilling was same trip returning HNL/SFO on PA. I was with my parents and brother. The Purser invited us upstairs to dine at a table for 4, complete with lovely linens, china and silverware….plus fresh flowers! I remember the roast beef being carved at the table. That was some high class flying for a kid from Alabama that loved airplanes.
My first flight on a 747 was on United from ORD to SEA back in the 90’s. Got upgraded (Thanks to being Premier Exec) to the upper deck. Great ride from up top.
Most of my trips on the 747 were from LAX to Australia, London, Frankfurt. A couple from ORD to EU as well. I did have one flight on Singapore from LAX to Singapore where I think I spent more time on a 747 to/from than I was actually in country. Coach really wasn’t too bad back then.
And there’s nothing like getting a biz upgrade from Mumbai to Frankfurt, having had my trip to India extended 3 times, and changing reservations that many times as well. After finally getting a flight out, Lufthansa had me in the last row (the 2 seater) on a completely full plane. Plus there was about 300 kids flying to Frankfurt too. I asked the gate agent if I could buy my way up towards the front of the plane, he worked a few keys on the computer, and handed me my new boarding pass. He apologized that it was a center seat in biz class. No charge. Thanks Lufthansa!
Probably my most memorable was a Melbourne to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. The jumbo bird was over 3/4 empty, and my work partner flew this particular flight often, so he knew some of the flight crew. I swear it seemed we had our own personal concierge on that flight. Great times.
Sadly, the 747 will fade away and the 777 will continue to be the long haul of choice. It’s a good bird, but it lacks character. My pilot friend flys for a freight hauler and he loved flying the 747. Now he’s doing domestic routes so back to lessor Boeings.
Soooo… I have 66 747 flights in my logbook, thereof 9 on the classics (-100/200), 50 on the -400 and 7 on the -8, on a total of 10 different carriers. My love of the 747 probably began on my first ever trip to the US at the age of 11 in 1984, on a KLM 747-200B from AMS to LAX. When you’re a child, even economy class as it was back then seemed spacious. The longest route was FRA-SIN while there a few notable shorthaul highlights including a domestic -400D roundtrip HND-CTS-HND on ANA’s Pokemon Jet, an island departure from infamous Tenerife Norte to MAD, 6th freedom hop on Air Namibia’s 744 Combi from LHR to FRA, First Class upper deck from Dubai to Muscat, a domestic 748 flight on Air China from SHA to PEK, and most recently a domestic roundtrip FRA-TXL-FRA. Also the honor of my 1000th flight ever goes to the 747 (FRA-NRT). I’m glad to be able to keep flying the queen for some more years!
I can’t recall all the details for specific flights, but a lot of United from SFO to Asia, several Delta JFK-NRT, a few BA from JFK-LHR and I know I flew Tower Air from LAX, though I can’t recall where – probably JFK? Many will disagree but being upstairs on Delta with only 14 people for 12-13 hours was a joy.
Neil – Tower! And you lived to tell. I don’t think they flew anywhere from LAX other than JFK (and then push all those people right on to Tel Aviv…) Unless maybe it was a charter?
I liked Tower Air; they had informal and very friendly crews. I once even spent a night at their isolated JFK terminal before a 6 AM departure to LAX. Tower Air are probably responsible for more than half of my 747-100/200 experiences — a total of 8 flights, including 6 in 1996 which was my most 747-filled year (the 6 on Tower plus one on TWA in August, just a few weeks after flight 800).
Wonderful story, nostalgic and warm all the way.
My 747 tales are not so grand but I still remember the first time I saw one landing at Dulles as I viewed it from several miles away from someone’s back yard. The thing was huge – as if moving in slow motion.
Then my first trip: UA from LA to Honolulu – in coach. Which I avoided from that day forward.
Then there was the UA LHR to SFO the day after the liquid bomb scare and we sat upstairs in Biz Class for 4 hours in a penalty box. No movies. No TV. No nothing (as the only things we were allowed to carry were passports and keys if they didn’t have a fob attached).
But there is a bright spot. A Virgin Atlantic flight which I got for super cheap in the early days of the bid sites. Exit row in coach, but, by chance, a friend was the co-pilot on the trip and I got to visit the cockpit both during the flight and while landing at Heathrow. (pre-9/11, of course). I was as giddy as a kid getting wings. There would be a runway underneath us, or so they told me, as we came in sideways in a crosswind having been given a last-minute, fast-descent option at the end of the heavies stack. OH BABY
I was about 13 on my first 747 flight in 1984, Newark to Brussels on Peoplexpress, no less. I can remember my dad paying for the flight with the cash register cart rolling down the aisles.
The thing that struck me as unusual (even to a clueless teenager) was that the pilot was a woman. For some reason her name–Beverly Burns–stuck in my mind. Decades later, I looked her up on the web, and she was in fact the first woman to be type-rated on a 747. She had only started flying 747s earlier that year, so when she flew me, she was probably the only female 747 pilot.
First ride on a 747 was from ORD to JFK on United in 1979. Went out of my way to catch that one, just so I could see what it was like. Fantastic airplane.
Favorite 747 story was a 747-200 flight, what was then United 2, from HNL to ORD. It was in January 1993 or 1994. We were returning to the deep freeze in Chicago after two weeks in Hawaii. Anyway, while we were in Hawaii, a national cheerleader conference had been held. The cheerleaders were concentrated in a few hotels near downtown Honolulu and had basically turned their hair dryers on at the same time. They blew out electrical power for six blocks.
Anyway, the Saturday night we were scheduled to go home, we showed up at HNL, checked in and were handed our first class boarding passes. As we headed toward the Red Carpet Club, roughly 250 noisy cheerleaders showed up at United 2’s gate screaming, “slumber party!” We stopped for a few moments to watch the chaos at the boarding gate desk. We were in first class in the nose, so we did not expect much problem from the cheerleaders. However, frequent flier after frequent flier lined up at the desk, trying to plunk down anything to get upgraded. Anything… literally!
I looked at my wife and said, “you know, we could make an awful lot of money tonight!” Her comment back… “not on your life!”
So… wait… businessdudes were desparate to get AWAY from 200 cheerleaders screaming “slumber party”? That’s weird.
Well, I will concede that in today’s news environment, that would seem out of place. But trust me, an overnight flight from HNL to ORD with 250 high-school aged cheerleaders aboard is about the closest thing to Purgatory one will encounter in this life.
Besides, to be more cynical, most of the business executives on that flight were traveling with Mrs. Business Executive. I’ll leave it at that!
My first ride was on Northwest’s brand new 747-400 from PHX-MSP. They had just received the new jets and were running that route for the pilots to get practice before running them international. I was about 13 at the time and remember thinking it was so big and comfortable. I also remember thinking it was really fast compared to our trip out to PHX on likely a DC-9 or 727. I now realize it was likely a combination of going eastbound, and maybe the pilots having some fun with the top speed of the 747!
Brett, I’ve also been on that upper deck on South African. I had the window seat right in front of the exit row. Both flights LHR-JNB and back were overnight flights. I could easily sneak out of my seat by climbing over the bins along the wall and get up without disturbing the other two people in my row!
I also once got a double upgrade on LH from BOS-FRA. I was upstairs again on their first class seat that turned into a bed (circa 2009). I had champagne, lobster, tenderloins. Sadly, the jet stream was strong that flight and we made it to FRA about 2 hours early. I didn’t want to wake up and turn the bed back into a seat!
JB – The 747s actually do cruise very fast, faster than most aircraft today. But I believe the 727 was similar.
My first 747 experience was also a BA 742, Brett (LHR-BOS) – not only that, but it was my first flight ever. Most of my flying on the QOTS was on United metal, granted (and a few times upstairs, and once in the nose), but I did fly Northwest (LGW-MSP) a few times, a VS flight (SFO-LHR) booked 3 hrs before take-off, on a 2-week old 744; but the coolest was a QS flight on an 747SP, from SYD-CNS (a swap-out). Was hoping to sneak a 748 on Lufthansa to SIN in January, but saying SQ A380 instead.
Bobber – The SP is the one that eluded me. I’m guessing at least one of my Pan Am flights was a 747-100 (if not all), but I never did get on the SP (or the SR but that was less interesting).
Flying on a 747 was always quite a trip, upstairs or downstairs!
Still an experience to see a BA or LH 747 fly over my place and then turn around to land north at IAD.
Sadly I’ve never flown on a 747 in commercial service. There were opportunities but for one reason or another the stars never aligned. Some by my own doing – brand new A330 or long in the tooth 747? Yeah, I’m kicking myself for some of those decisions but I do have some stories. In the mid-1990’s I got a tour of the NW maintenance base at MSP. Got to visit every nook and cranny of a passenger 747-400 and a cargo 747-200. That was probably what started my fascination of planes – well beyond my childhood years. For a while I lived in Fargo and NW would do touch-and-go training runs at FAR. There is a city road that runs perpendicular to the southern end of the runway that is awfully close. If you timed it right while driving the wake turbulence would nearly lift a small car off the ground. Still my favorite plane spotting ever was the 747’s at FAR. Sadly DL changed the MSP-NRT/HND flight to a 777 so in recent years I’ve only seen them when traveling through airports around the globe. Still think it’s the most beautiful commercial aircraft out there.
People to People! I did their exchange program in 1993 as well in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Unlike your return flight home, though, we were on an Ilyushin Il-86 that required refueling stops in both Shannon, Ireland, and Gander, Newfoundland. That was a LONG trip.
Ilyushin Il-86? Flew in several of those LHR-Moscow-(unplanned) Tashkent-DEL and back, in 1991 – they were feckin’ awful and stank of cattle! Taking off from Moscow, the plane was at 30 degrees at take off and people were still walking up and down the aisles, as they’d overboarded the flight…gotta love Aeroflot
Chris – Whoa! That’s is awesome. I still remember my whole itin. We flew from LAX-Nashville-Washington/National on an AA MD-80, same plane through.
Then we did our couple of days in DC. (That, actually, was when we stayed at a GW dorm and I first learned about the school. Only two years later I found myself enrolling.) Then we flew a Lufthansa DC-10 to Frankfurt. We used the planemate to board directly from the moon buggie. From there we connected back to Heathrow on a Lufthansa A300. Pretty cool… but nothing like flying an IL-86.
Too funny. We stayed in that same GW dorm for our multi-day orientation before heading to Dulles and then over the pond. Fortunately, only one technical stop was needed on the way over. As for Aeroflot, their service wasn’t awful – it definitely wasn’t great but it wasn’t awful. I do vividly remember the condensation from the AC pouring fog machine style from the vents and that giving us a little pause prior to take off. Also, one flight attendant did legitimately slap me for messing with the water dispenser after yelling at me in Russian. As a 17 year old snot nosed American, I’m sure I deserved it.
The best part about flying Aeroflot was that the crew let us come up to the cockpit during the flight and chat with them. Not a digital display in sight on that plane. I recall the flight crew boasting about Soviet aircraft construction and that the plane was essentially indestructible. If you look at the safety record of the Il-86, they were pretty much right.
For those of you with kids who love to travel, definitely recommend the People to People program.
Chris – Apparently People to People went away for awhile, but it appears to be back. I would agree that it was a fantastic program. I can’t imagine having been able to do something as cool as staying with a family in Warsaw just after the fall of communism without the program.
That makes me jealous. I really, really enjoy the novelty of flying commercial airplanes that weren’t designed by the big 4 (Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and Embraer), be they Dash 8s, Mad Dogs, the B717 [sic], or even the Cessna Grand Caravan I flew during an EAS flight. I would love to add a Russian plane to my list.
I’ve only been on a 747 once so far and it was the most memorable journey I’ve ever taken. Back in 2013 Delta did a few domestic flights and I got on one from ATL-SEA. I was living in New Jersey at the time so flew from Newark to Atlanta. My flight was scheduled to be on a new to Delta 717 but much to my excitement a DC-9 taxied into my gate. I could not have been more excited. At the time the DC-9s had mere weeks left in service. My flights to Seattle on the 747 was nothing short of incredible. We chased the sun the entire flight and the service was impeccable. I spent the entire next day touring Boeing’s factories. I’ll never forget my flight on the 747. I’ve been on countless flights since and nothing comes close to matching the charm of flying on the 747.
I too have fond memories of flying in a 747. It was in 1976 and I flew on a Ward Air 747 over the pole to England with my father. I was returning to the land of my birth for the first time and our seats were in economy.
Only minutes after gaining cruising altitude an attendant approached us and said that Mr. Ward was inviting us upstairs. Turned out my dad was friends with him from back when they were kids (at least that is how I remember it being explained to me). That was one of the greatest trips I was ever on!
1st trip: SYD – HNL Christmas Day 1980 enroute to sfo. QF Couldn’t make it nonstop across the pacific in those days. Lost count of the number of QF /NZ flights Australia to US. Best flight was hanging out in the cockpit of a one month old -400 westbound way before 9/11. Spent hours in the jump seat over the mid pacific before reluctantly returning to my seat at the back of the bus. Very fond memories of the bird. Sad to see it’s demise
In college I flew LAX-HNL-LAX on AA 741s at least 25x. Due to connections in AA sales in LAX and then an internship with AA in HNL, probably 20 of those flights were in F. Nothing like taking the spiral staircase to the lounge! Made incredible contacts personally and professionally that have lasted a lifetime.
Flew LAX-HNL with former President Ford who was keynoting the ASTA conference (1981 iirc). Traveling solo with 2 Secret Service, one of them next to me. Gracious man who took time to speak with anyone who wanted to say hello.
Flying a NW 74? HNL-LAX in 1986 (?). It was an extra section — they’d had 2 birds MX and the operation was a mess. I was on a fam, less than zero priority but the gate agent was a classmate from UH so made the flight AND was upgraded — double shenanigans! Flight itself was miserable — seals in both 1L/R leaked. Cold AF and no blankets loaded. If the tail’s red, take the train instead.
Lastly, and by far the most memorable 747 flight was the PIP Express. A group of whackjobs, commandeering the entire upper deck and partying like it was 1999.
Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be …
I recall that my first ever Jet flight was onboard TowerAir’s 747 (either -100 or -200) from EZE to MIA at barely 11 years old in 1993. Although the plane was configured in Full Economy, my family managed to get seats at the nose, it should have been Row 5 or 6 at latest. Amazing sight and experience to fly under the FlightDeck and looking forward, as you wrote. Then, in 1994, I’d flow on UA’s 747SP from EZE to MIA. I didn’t know of the SP existence but I recall looking through the terminal window, amazed at how short that 747 looked like and I couldn’t believe it. Many years would go by until I could get a ride on LH’s 744 from EZE to FRA and return – currently LH’s longest non-stop route in their network.
Wishing I could remember the 747 variants I rode back in 1985 when I was 6 years old… Honestly I’m doubting my memory, but fairly sure it was a Pan-Am 747-SP(?) flying JFK-NRT, then a JAL or ANA 747SR from HND-CTS.
Jinxed – I’d say if you were on a 747 within Japan then it’s highly likely it was an SR back then. As for Pan Am, I’d say there’s a good chance, but I don’t know for sure. At some point there were 747-200s that could make the trip, I believe. But I don’t know if Pan Am ever did that since the Asian network was sold a year later.
I remember seeing them in Miami when they were new and was really in awe of them. I flew on them a bunch over the years, here and there, along with another favorite, the L1011, many times from LAX to ATL on Eastern and Delta.
My first flight in a 747 that I remember was in the early 80’s, transcontinental nonstop on United from Dulles to LAX. It was either United with the 747s or American with DC-10s that you rode the mobile lounges out to.
We did fly back from SFO to LAX one time in a Pan Am 747SP. That flight leapt into the sky, it was like flying in a 757 out of SNA. It was a real hotrod that seemed to not be carrying a full load of fuel and was on it’s way to New Zealand after we got off in Los Angeles. Even with a compressor stall climbing out of SFO that produced a big bang but didn’t seem to slow down the rate of climb, we made it into LAX on time, flying over the closing ceremonies of the 84 Olympic Games in the Coliseum on final approach to LAX.
But the most memorable was on Pan Am, nonstop from LAX to LHR in the summer of 85. Our plane, Clipper Mandarin, had an engine problem somewhere south of Iceland that led to a fire that melted the bottom off of the number 2 engine and forced us to make an emergency landing in Prestwick, Scotland. I got my passport stamped there. We had to wait a while until Pan Am could scrounge up another 747 from Shannon to fly us from Prestwick to London, but we got there eventually. Came home on another Pan Am 747 LHR to LAX and no problems.
Further flights included a trip on Northwest from LAX to Bangkok via connections to other 747s in Narita, and the same coming back. And one beautiful Air France nonstop from LAX to CDG. First class in the nose while traveling to Toulouse on company business. That flight was just sublime. As penance, I had to come back from that trip via Alitalia through Malpensa the first week the airport was open, and that was the biggest C*F* that I have ever experienced.
I did fly on a Delta 747 a couple of times after they assimilated Northwest, but those flights get lost in the memory bank shuffle of 777s and 767s that you normally get with them.
My most recent and probably final flight was from Amsterdam to LA in October of this year in a KLM Combi. While exciting to fly in a 747 again (and the first time in a 747 Combi) the plane was not that comfortable and was pretty tired.
Riding on that plane always excited me more than any other.
My first international trip was college spring break to France during the spring of 2001. Through ITA travel we were able to get flights from IND-EWR-CDG for less than $280.00 (Air France and Continental were partners at the time). My three buddies and I were in the middle section of the plane and never imagined the thing would get off the ground. I flew the same route during the summer of 2001 during my study abroad. As before, through ITA travel, flights were a steal at ~$300. I was at CDG and about to board the flight back to Newark when my boarding pass caused the scanner to beep. I was promptly pulled aside and told that my seat assignment had changed. As a new flyer, I didn’t think much of it and didn’t realize that I’d been upgraded to the bulkhead seat of the business class section for the flight home. The following 8 hours were among the most memorable of my life – pre-departure sparkling wine, several Sapphire and tonics, and lots of wine with the meals (and maybe a quick nap in between). My French was pretty passable after 4 months in Paris and the flight attendants couldn’t believe that an American college student could speak so well. The flight attendant encouraged me to take one of the Air France sea horse logo blankets as a souvenir of the trip and said “a la prochaine” (see you next time) as I departed. That blanket remains a cherished possession and those two Air France trips inspired a love of travel that has resulted in 12 subsequent trips to Europe and counting. In September I had the chance to fly home from Croatia on a Lufthansa -800 from Frankfurt (row 55 was not so glamorous). This past Thanksgiving was a trip to/from AMS on a KLM 747 Combi. While the bird was starting to show her age, the economy comfort mini-cabin’s 3-2 seating arrangement was the most comfortable way to fly economy across the Atlantic. As a ORD-based flyer, I’m glad that KLM, BA, and Lufthansa will be flying these to Europe for at least a few more years.
Great article on your remembrances.
My first flight on a 747 set my international vacation travel requirements for the rest of my life. It was in Economy in an Olympic Airways 747-100/200 from ORD-JFK-ATH in 1992. After flying both ways in very cramped conditions with attendants that believed that we worked for them, I swore to myself that I would never fly internationally in anything but business class or above.
Luckily, I fly a lot domestically and that has allowed me to keep my promise to myself: :)
My last flight was just this May on a United flt (SFO-NRT NRT-SFO) because i wanted to give my fiance the experience of flying in the upper deck of a 747 before United ended their service
I will really miss that airplane!
My first flight was on an El Al b747 in 1977 from TLV to LHR. Was economy and I don’t remember much about it except that “security” agents were constantly patrolling the plane.
First time on the 747 – my family flew JFK to DEL and back on AI in 1979. I was 18 months old at the time, so remember nothing about it. I assume we stopped in Europe somewhere along the way (FRA?).
First *real* flight I can remember – 1986 on a Northwest Orient 747 from DFW to SFO. I think the plane continued to NRT from there. I remember being fascinated with the size of that thing.
Most “interesting” 747 experience – my brother and I flew DFW-SFO-NRT-BKK and back on UA in 1998. SFO-NRT-BKK and return was on the Queen. While landing in BKK at midnight, one of the engines caught fire. I had a window seat right behind #s 3 and 4, so I saw the whole thing. Yikes. Luckily it went out by itself but they made us park way out away from the terminal so the fire crews could check it out.
Favorite 747 experience – 2012, when I finally got to fly upstairs in BA J, DFW-LHR-DXB. Yeah, I know, BA J isn’t great for J. But sitting upstairs has to be one of the most serene rides anywhere.
I always enjoy your insider-inspired insightful blogs, but sharing your personal experiences with the 747 really made me smile. I could relate to your plane geek perspective.
While I never have worked in the air industry, I have always been an airplane and flying enthusiast. I am envious that you had the gumption to visit the cockpits. I thought such visits were limited to kids of the age to get their little wings.
I probably have a couple decades of age on you, so my first experience on a 747 was one of the earlier pre-deregulation domestic flights from ORD to SFO. I believe it was a TWA flight with one of those coach lounges. As a kid I loved being able to roam around the twin-aisle plane and sit and play cards at a table in the coach lounge. I thought the advancement meant an irreversible change in passenger experience consistent with man going to the moon. It represented an exciting future. Of course the use of 747s on domestic routes and those coach lounges were both short lived (the former likely tied to certification and the latter the realities of turning a profit). But, I will forever be grateful that I personally experienced it.
My first international 747 experience occurred between my junior and senior years in college (1976). I accompanied my dad on his product sourcing trip for a gift company. We flew a Pan
SEA Flyer – Cockpit visits actually used to be pretty easy outside the US before 9/11. I asked almost every chance I got, and I was rarely turned down on longer flights. A couple times they even let me stay for landing – I remember doing that on Icelandair back in 1999. So cool. It’s a shame those days are over.
Brett, that was one of many things that I really enjoyed when I took an EAS flight on the late SeaPort Air, in addition to the turbulence (I love moderate chop in a plane; so long as no one loses their lunch on me or my belongings it is better than any amusement park ride).
The Cessna 208 plane didn’t have cockpit doors, and I made sure to run up and grab seat 1A, so I was able to look over the pilots’ shoulders for the entire length of both flights (Love to Hot Springs, AR to Boone County, AR)… It was like being in a cockpit jumpseat, only with a little more legroom.
Only a few 747 flights, many years ago. First was a JFK-TLV roundtrip on El Al in March-April 1975. There was a brief LHR stop on the way to Israel. Second was a TWA JFK-FCO flight to Rome in August 1988. Return was through AMS. I don’t remember the equipment from TLV, but AMS-JFK a few days later was on an L-1011, which I enjoyed very much.
HI, loved the article and also the 747. Since you mention the other beauty, the Concorde, I’d love to read your memories on that one!
Yosef – Happy to oblige! I actually posted the trip report when I found it in my files back in 2012. You can read it here: http://crankyflier.com/2012/10/18/flying-concorde-trip-report/
Great post and thanks to all who have shared memories. I have had 4 flights on the 747. The first two were on a -400 to/from NRT on Northwest in 2008. Flew economy and watched 3 movies each way on the overhead monitors. I again flew the -400 in J class on BA LHR-SEA in 2016. In both cases I was in awe with the airplane. But, it was clear the airplane was losing favor at the airlines since neither airline had invested in the product for some time. My favorite 747 flight was on a LH -8 in 2014 from GRU-FRA. I got the last seat on the upper deck and was as giddy as a school boy to fly on that aircraft. Awesome flight that I didn’t want to end. Looking out the upper deck window while on the ground is always mind-bending. That’s a long way down!
My first trip was in 1971 on a TWA 747 from LAX-JFK with my fiancé, First Class. Back then they did the Royal Ambassador service domestically on the 747. A fabulous experience.
My second trip was the following summer, 1972, Pan Am, again first Class with my now wife, LHR-JFK. I thought it would be hard to top the TWA flight but they did. Dining at a table upstairs was a unique experience and frankly, to this day, they served the best Oysters Rockefeller I’ve ever had. Anywhere.
My most memorable trip though was in the late 1970’s, 1977 or so. I was in D.C. on business and at 7:00pm on a Friday night I learned I had to be in Honolulu for a dinner meeting the next day.
My first thought was to connect through Chicago on United’s ORD-HNL nonstop. I called them, no dice, completely full. They offered a couple of other routings that I wasn’t too wild about so I decided to find some alternatives.
I dug out my trusty OAG (remember those) which I always carried with me then. Lo and behold, what’s this? Another ORD-HNL nonstop on a Northwest 747 leaving just ahead of when the United trip was scheduled. It was a Saturday-only flight.
I called. Sorry, flight was full. “Even in First Class?” I asked. There was a long pause, I could hear the agent talking with someone else. She came back and said, well, yes there was room in First if I wanted it. Of course.
Long story longer, I left Dulles on a UAL 737 at 6:00am the next morning, got to ORD and made my way to the NWA gate. It was an absolute madhouse. I was surprised that they didn’t have separate boarding for First but thought ‘oh well’.
I joined the scrum, boarded, turned left and found my seat. I waited for the cabin to fill up. It never did. I was alone.
A flight attendant came by and said she’d be taking care of me. “Me? Just me?” “Yes, just you. We don’t sell First on this flight, its basically a charter for tour groups to the islands. You must be someone special.”
And for the next nine hours I was. Not only did I have the whole cabin to myself but the upper deck lounge area as well. The service was standard domestic first for NWA and very good. I’d had a bourbon before lunch and afterward the FA asked if I wanted anything different from that for the remainder of the flight. When I said probably not she took me to the galley, showed me where the ice was, additional glasses, and snacks and plopped a fifth of Jack Daniels on the counter. “I’ll be back to check on you once in a while but they’re really busy back there. Help yourself. Push the call button if you need something.”
It was a lovely trip.
I’ve flown on many 747’s since but nothing like that.
My first airplane trip ever was a Northwest 747 SFO-HNL. Having worked at TWA for 7 years, there was a number of 747 trips both international and domestic.
My first consciuos ride in a 747 was in January 1981 from GIG to MIA on Pan-Am. I was 10 years old, and we were traveling as a family. For a plane geek that overnight flight was a horrible experience! No window seat (the horror!) as we got a middle row of four. And the non-smoking section was non-existent, since Pan-Am had designated the right side of the cabin (seats H-K) as the smoking section. So effectively there was NO non-smoking section.
My next rides came in March 2001 on Singapore Airlines FRA-SIN and SIN-LHR on the 747-400. Both legs I had a window seat way behind the wing. On the way out I was able to visit the cockpit as we flew over India, and again after landing in SIN.
My last time on a 747 was in May 2001 on a -300 Combi with Varig from MIA to GRU.
Forgot to mention that on the flight from SIN to LHR I saw groundspeeds of over 1100km/h (yes, that is one thousand one hundred kilometers per hour) for a long time. The captain decided to push the speed to recoup some of the delay we had in SIN due to a mechanical and equipment replacement.
I took many (10/year?) transatlantic 747 flights in the late 70s as an American teenage TWA dependent while we lived near LHR. Often in First Class and occasionally in Row 1, but also stuck in the back with our non-revenue family scattered around the airplane.
At the time TWA helped manage Saudia, so we would occasionally fly on Saudia for vacations within Europe. On my MOST memorable flight we were flying from Rome to LHR on Saudia in the upper deck and the Captain invited me (15), my brother (14), and my sister (7) into the cockpit for landing at LHR. My brother and sister squeezed onto one jump seat and I took the other and the Flight Engineer hooked all three of us up with headsets so we could listen to ATC. As we were landing the aircraft in front of us didn’t clear the runway before we were over the threshold, so we went around. That light 747 leapt into the air when the Captain rammed the throttles forward! We were able to circle quickly rather than going back to the top of the stack and landed without much delay.
As soon as we had landed and the Captain could take a break, he turned around and with a huge smile said “That was great! I never get to really fly these things!”
My parents tell me we once flew The Hawaii Express’s 747 between LAX and HNL. I don’t know exactly when it was but considering the airline only operated in 1982 and 1983, it had to be sometime then and was most likely my first 747 flight. Most of my trips to Hawaii growing up were on Hawaiian or Delta, so mostly L-1011s. There might have been a 747 in there somewhere on another airline, though I’m not sure.
The first 747 flight I remember was my first trip to Europe, on Pan Am in 1988. LAX-JFK-JFK-ZRH (then onward ZRH-STR in a PA 727). The JFK-ZRH segment was memorable because there were problems raising the landing gear, so we had to circle for an hour while dumping fuel, then landed back at JFK. The airline brought warm cans of soda to serve passengers while we waited for another airplane. Return on that trip was a PA Airbus HAM-JFK, then a PA 747 JFK-LAX.
Like Cranky, had quite a drought of not flying on a 747. My next flight on one was in 2012 when I flew a China Airlines 747-400 LAX-TPE-LAX. The LAX-TPE leg was B-18206 which wore the SkyTeam livery, so a nice bonus to get a special livery aircraft for my first 747 flight in 24 years. And we were seated way in the back where there were just two seats by the window, instead of three, and a rather large empty space between the “window” seat (which was really aligned with the middle seats in most of the rows) and the window.
My only other 747 flight was in 2015 on a KLM 747-400 LAX-AMS. It was unclear whether or not a Combi was operating my flight, and fortunately it wasn’t, since if it was, I’d been assigned a seat that wouldn’t exist.
I was also booked on a Lufthansa 747-8i in 2014 FRA-LAX, but ended up changing my plans and taking an Austrian 767 VIE-ORD instead.
My 9-year old son is desperate to fly on a 747 so I guess it will be British Airways for us. Not sure where to where, and I’m unenthused about going to another airline now that I’m finally MVP Gold on Alaska. :-) My first 747 was on Pan Am from Newark to SFO when I was 7, so 1974 and I’ve flown SEA-LHR a few times since then on BA.
I had a friend who died on Pan Am 103 and I had tickets for the TWA flight 800 (a 747-100), but had a funny feeling and changed the tickets for 2 days later. Somewhere I still have my paper tickets for that flight. So 747s are also about sadness and loss for me, but I still find them to be the most beautiful airplane built (with the 787 an elegant second place).
PJ Fiske one of your long time CF fans here. I had the opportunity to fly as the Lead Flight Attendant on the first Northwest 747-400 revenue flight MSP – PHX – MSP Tail #N661US in 1989. I will always remember looking out the window from my jumpseat at 1L and looking back at the wing…it had a slight flapping movement on takeoff just like a giant bird. I don’t remember this on the -200s I had flown previously, a testament to the “lighter built” -400. It was fricking cool. I have fond memories of many trips across the Pacific and to Europe….always feeling safe on this well built jet. A few weeks ago I happen to be down in Marana and had the chance to witness the arrival of a Delta (Northwest) -400 on its last flight into Marana as well as climb around some of the other retired birds. As I crawled around the landing gear of one of the -400s I could still smell oil and jet fuel, and all of a sudden it hit me how many miles over many lands and oceans the bird had flown….causing me to reflect on my own career. It was a sudden rush, almost euphoric for I have flown a wee bit longer than some these 27 year old “wonders with wings”….yet I’m still far from Retirement ha! The jet and I had something in common…we both started when we were barely legal!
I’ll sum things up by saying thank you for sharing YOUR 747 memories. For me nothing will ever come close to the experiences I had with the 747. A piece of her will live on in my Servants Heart (as I work for another airline now) and also on a special shelf in my home office. I look back over my shoulder with Echoes of Love.
PJ Fiske CF Fan Forever Airline Employed for Life
Thanks for your story, PJ. And now when you see a 787, that 747-400 wing looks like it barely flexes at all! The -400 was a big leap forward though, and no question it was a hugely important part of Northwest back in the day.
It’s fairly common in England for children aged 15 or so to have a week out of school shadowing grown ups doing their jobs – usually referred to as “work experience”. I did mine at Gatwick Airport, following someone in the Airside Ops team. One afternoon, he said he had a boring meeting to go to and set me up to join a BA Captain who was certifying some engineering staff to taxi aircraft to/from hangers. The plan was for me to sit in the cockpit of the BA 747 and watch them. It was all very interesting – watching how they lined up on the gate centre line and how they talked to the tug, etc.
And then they set off to do some laps of the airfield. Mid-afternoon, a sunny spring day, an international airport operating as normal. And the engineers take it in turns to demonstrate they can taxi the aircraft along some vacant taxiways, and then the Captain turns to me and offers me a go. So my favourite memory of the 747 is of the Tower telling us to first give way to a Virgin plane and then giving us clearance for me to taxi it around taxiways 7 & 8 at Gatwick.
At the time I wasn’t geeky enough to get the registration or anything like that. But it is still my favourite aviation story.
My first 747 flight was in the 70s from Lax to Hnl. Back then smoking was still allowed and drinks on these Hawaii flights were free. It was a 4 hr party in the sky, like a bar with smoke filled air and people with drinks wandering around and the usual conversations. You could mix your own drinks in the galley. And this was in coach. The flight crew managed this well, stopping alcohol an hour before landing to make sure everyone could walk off the plane. No jetways back then.
The next 747 was from Beijing to Chicago in business on the upper deck.
What made this flight memorable was that the cockpit crew gave us a tour and explained about the 2 flight crews and their sleeping schedules on a long flight.
The last 747 was Dfw to Lhr (on miles) in first class. The new BA cabins with the colored lighting by time of day. The flt over was not full so our seats were in one row and our bed set up in another seat. Plus great service from the cabin crew.
Have not tried the A 380, but will miss that jumbo jet and what it feels like to take off, like it will never get off the runway.
My first 747 was ORD – LHR in 1989. I’m not sure the series, but we were in the lower deck in J while there was Y up top. My second experience was on UA in Y in 2000 and that was miserable. It felt like a regular plane crammed with seats and rude flight attendants. My last experience was with NZ in 2008/9 in W up top and that was quite nice. The upper deck feels much nicer than the lower deck since it feels like a small plane.
I never flew it enough to love being on it, but it was such a pretty plane to look at as opposed to a 380 which is just butt ugly, though really lovely to fly on.
My first 747 flight was in ’73 with KLM from JFK to AMS (on to CDG on a DC-9), Packed in coach but had a great Dutch flight attendant who was very special. On the return 3 weeks later (AMS-JFK), the same FA was working an empty first class and we spent the whole flight upstairs alone. She worked a deal with the Captain so that I could ride the jump seat in the cockpit for the last hour of the flight including landing at JFK. Awesome! Six months later TWA flew me LAX-LHR-CDG. (The early 747s did not have the range to make it to CDG non stop from LAX.). On the return, half way over the Atlantic, one of the 747 engines failed, and we never made it (with TWA) to LAX. A long day indeed.
Lots of 747-200 flights on America West, a few -300 flights on KLM (Combi!) and Sabena, lots of 400 flights on EVA and China Airlines and South African and Qantas and Air New Zealand and Lufthansa and Thai, and Continental and maybe TWA if I remember right. And I even managed to switch tickets around to do a 747-SP flight from Capetown to Johannesburg to Frankfurt. A great plane, lots of fun. Going to miss them, but 4 engines…oy!
I have a vague remembrance of my first flight on a 747, early 70’s around 74 or 75. I flew Continental with my father and younger brother from New York out west (not sure if it was Denver or California). I remember going to the upper deck where they had a small game room and my introduction to Pong.
Later, in the 2000’s, I did multiple flights, close to 20, DTW-MNL, via Japan on NW/DL, as I was going through the adoption process of my son in the Philippines. After the first two, being placed in the middle section in economy due to flying with my MIL, who used a wheelchair, I found booking my wife and I into the first row of 2 near the back of the plane gave us a lot of leg room as we had the gap between the seat and the window where the fuselage started to curve. I was able to stow things under the window seat in the row in front of us and still have room under the seat in front of me for my legs.
I was scheduled to fly on 9/13/11 for a court hearing on my adoption, which of course did not happen and I almost lost the case, because the judge was not understanding of the 9-11 situation. Luckily, my nephew was a lawyer with the PNP, and was able to work with my lawyer, to convince the judge to delay the case until a few weeks later. When I did fly near the end of September, many family members were afraid of us flying after hearing about all the secondary screenings and armed military/police in the terminals. I told them, it was probably the safest time to fly as they were checking now for everything. Of course, nothing happened as I am here writing this now.
There were a few times where I could snag a middle section of a row in the back, especially on the Japan (first through Osaka, then Nagoya) -MNL segment and able to sleep the 4+ hours. Otherwise, I would be up the 26 or so hours as I could not sleep sitting up.
My last 747 flight was in December 2012, Korean Airlines JFK-ICN, as we went to visit the family for Christmas. The return was also my first (and only) flight on an A380 ICN-ATL. This also was the first time not flying NW/DL, so it was a surprise to find no personal a/c blower at the seat. It was the most uncomfortable experience as the Asian airlines tend to run their cabins warmer than NW/DL. At least, I was able to buy a battery operated personal fan for the return, so I felt better.
MY 3 BEST B747 memories are–UA from IAD-MIA ,on a B747-200, when UA had a mini hub at MIA to South America / I sat upstairs in Business class , and it was soooo cool to go up the SPIRAL staircase/ it was a clear night in DC and in MIA,and I could see both cities all lit up ;then / continued on to Buenos Aries ,Argentina in first class / the 2nd was time was Business class upstairs ,on UA’s B747-400,from SFO-SYD , and San Fran. was all lit up-especially to see THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE ; the 3rdt best time was treating my dad to first class on UA’s B747-400 from ORD-HKG via NRT ,and then non-stop from HKG-ORD / my dad LOVED the fact that he could buy Chivas Regal at a very good price he said from the on-board duty-free ,lol / UPSTAIRS BUBBLE BUSINESS CLASS WAS THE BEST ON THE B747–better than first class /THANK YOU TO THE QUEEN OF THE SKIES / now I LOVE the B777
Hello…just a short response RE 747s…I too have had some interesting 747 trips…like you I had the opportunity in my past professional life to fly South African Airways 747s…the first time was before the transformation when SAA had to land in Cape Verde…a long and challenging trip with a 2 and a half year old…but later…in the late ’90s (post-Apartheid) I flew several times to SA and like you managed to sit in the upper deck coach which was generally a nice compromise between coach on the lower part and a typical business section…I’ve also flown to India from the UK on 747s as well as from Dallas to Brisbane on a Qantas 747…always a comfortable flight…most recently I was able to get a Business Class seat for my daughter on her return journey from our home in New Mexico on the 747 BA flight from DFW to LHR (she lives and works in France)…finally, I also have a small collection on display in my home of 1/400 scale 747-400s with the many creative liveries used by international carriers (Qantas, Singapore, Aerolines Argentina (sp?), and Air New Zealand. Sorry to see the iconic workhorse move on, but have to admit that the triple 7s aren’t bad…I will be passing through London in a week or so on my way home from France and will see the BA 747s still parked among the terminals at LHR.
Have a Merry Christmas…Gary Lowe
Gary & Karen Lowe
In our time, must we not face the possibility that the human mind as a social fact might be deteriorating in quality and cultural level, and yet not many would notice it because of the overwhelming accumulation of technological gadgets? C. Wright Mills, THE SOCIOLOGICAL IMAGINATION , 1959
My first flight on a 747 was between New York and Shannon in June 1970.A fist fight broke out between a husband and wife who were seated in front of me.The cabin crew eventually restored order and peace and quiet returned.
So I always remember my 747 introduction for all the wrong reasons!
I was a cross-utilized Customer Service Rep (CSR) at America West when we first took ownership of B747 aircraft (former KLM aircraft). I also was an inflight training instructor, and I helped create the flight attendant training program for submission to the FAA for approval. We became qualified on the aircraft then taught other FAs, which included having to simulate a planned water landing: each FA and pilot had to jump into the water and swim to the raft and board it. That wasn’t pretty at all!
The First Class service on that aircraft was crazy! It had 18 courses. Eighteen, including carving beef in the aisle for delivery to the guest and dishing fruit from a watermelon carved to resemble a whale while dry ice made it look like it had a blowhole. Yes, we had fresh flowers on the carts and lots of pineapple for drink garnishes!
Sadly, the aircraft were old, and they showed their age. On several especially hard landings, ceiling panels would fall and oxygen mask compartments would open, so Maintenance had to be called to replace/repack parts prior to the next flight. We dubbed the aircraft Patches, Cujo, and Christine (after Steven King novels).
The center overhead bins hinged from the back and dropped down, but they were shallow and had a plastic rim that prevented any standard carry-on bag from fitting in it. Which wouldn’t be a problem on most long-haul flights, but AWA operated these aircraft between PHX and LAS, so passengers were often surprised when they boarded and there was no room for carry-ons for 550 people. Ah, the good ole days of aviation!
Not one that AF wants to remember…their first 747 scheduled flight into Montreal Dorval did not go well. (I think it was their first flight since the story was that the VP Flt Ops was in the left hand seat.) The aircraft landed but then slid off the runway into the muck…it was winter. One of the engines scooped up snow and mud and had to be changed. Air Canada had ordered 747’s but had not yet taken delivery. They had, however, built a new hanger big enough. First guest was AF for three weeks and a nice chance for AC mechanics to get good experience on somebody else’s dime. It was also believed, possibly apocryphal, that the new engine coming across the border on a flat bed had gone under a low bridge, smacked the bridge and had to return to base.
Thanks for the memories. I had four experiences and seven flights on the Boeing 747. Aside from the 747SP I would have been on the Boeing 747-100 and maybe 200 series. My first time on the Boeing 747 was in the spring of 1972 when I was in grade school. My parents took my sister and I to Hawaii on holiday and we flew Pan Am LAX-HNL and return. Both flights we were in the centre section of four seats back in economy. There was a meal and movie and as I recall no choice of meals on that flight.
The second 747 experience was in the spring of 1977 when I was in Grade 9. My parents took me on holiday to Greece. We flew a TWA 747 ORD-LHR on the outbound Transatlantic segment and we were again in economy and I recall the configuration was 3-4-2 and I had the window seat on the right side. There was a choice of three entrees and I chose Lasagna and it was pretty good. Of course there was a movie and I slept some. On the LHR-ORD inbound Transatlantic segment I was in the left side window seat. I chose beef stroganoff for the meal on that flight. We were in the non-smoking section.
The third 747 experience was the following year in the spring of 1978 when I was in Grade 10. My parents took me on holiday to New Zealand. We flew a Pan Am Boeing 747SP LAX-AKL and return. The configuration in economy was 3-4-3 but the plane was not full. The meal choices on the outbound segment were chicken teriyaki or beef stroganoff as I recall and I think I chose the chicken. Chicken and Lamb were the choices on the inbound segment and I chose Lamb. These were the longest flights I have taken to date distancewise and timewise. Back then I did not time the flights but estimated flying time for the outbound was 12:15 and inbound was estimated at 11:30. The 747SP was the long range version of the 747 with the same fuel but a shorter fuselage and a capacity of about 100 less passengers.
My final 747 experience was in the summer of 1982. I was flying home along with my parents from CLE and we connected at DFW. The DFW-LAX segment was on American Airlines flight 51. American started Transatlantic service earlier in 1982 and AA51 originated at LGW, stopped at DFW where passengers would have been required to clear Customs then continued on to LAX. I was on the DFW-LAX as a NRSA passenger and this was my first and only time in First Class on a Boeing 747 so I can now say that I am not underprivileged. First Class on the AA 747 was not just the nose section but also a the second section of the plane as well. Configuration in that second section was 2-2-2 and while it was great the First Class product back then would likely be inferior to Business Class of today. All these flights I was on were back in the days of smoking and non smoking sections.
My wife and I booked LAX-AMS on KLM in business class on the upper deck for October 2018 in a 747-400 Combi using SkyPesos. Hopefully they’ll still be flying by then!
My first (and probably only) 747 trip was with People to People too! I flew to Amsterdam on KLM on their 747 combis like seven years ago! Although it was obviously a cool experience to be on such a big plane, it was clear how old some of those 747’s are when compared to an A330 or a 777.
Edit: Add an L to that name
I recall my 747 flights the same way. Here’s the short list from my childhood…
Aer Lingus 747-200 JFK-SNN-JFK
Air France 747-200 LAX-CDG-LAX
Air New Zealand 747-200 LAX-HNL-AKL
Air New Zealand 747-200 AKL-RAR-NAN-HNL-LAX
Air New Zealand 747-400 LAX-LHR-LAX
America West 747-200 PHX-LAS
Iberia 747-200 LAX-MAD-LAX
KLM 747-200 LAX-AMS-LAX
Korean Air 747-300 LAX-HNL-NRT-KMP(now GMP)-HNL-LAX
Lufthansa 747-200 LAX-FRA-LAX
Qantas 747-200 LAX-HNL-SYD-HNL-LAX
Qantas 747-200 SFO-HNL-BNE
Qantas 747-300 SYD-PPT-LAX
Qantas 747-400 LAX-AKL-LAX
TWA 747-100 LAX-LHR-LAX
United 747-100 (?) LAX-HNL-ITO-LAX
Virgin Atlantic 747-200 LAX-LHR-LAX
There were probably others I’ve missed, but I think that’s most of them.
I’ve flown on 747s a few times… probably mostly Air Canada and United, always in coach. The most memorable of those was flying Air Canada FRA-YYZ on January 1, 2000. Remember the Y2K fears? I intentionally booked a return flight on New Year’s day, just because. So what was memorable about the flight? Nothing happened! Haha. Other memories: it was maybe 25% full, having a full center row to myself (pretty much everyone did), and getting to visit the cockpit. Even though it was pre-9/11, the cockpit visit still took a bit of back and forth with the flight crew to negotiate, but was ultimately granted. Somewhere I have a couple photos of the pilot and co-pilot at work, but what I remember most were the banks of analog instruments….
My first and only 747 flight was on a Northwest 747 that was nicknamed the City of Dhahran. We were heading over for Desert Shield/Storm. The crews were making “bomb run” markings of camels and palm trees just inside the front lower entrance door. Flight was COS to JFK, where we picked up another unit. JFK to Rhein-Main, to Dhahran/Dammam, landing at the King Fahd Airport, which had been under construction until the invasion.
Upper deck was officer territory, but we had plenty of room to stretch out on the lower level, 2 MP companies and battalion headquarters unit, with a few MI personnel attached. Those of us who wanted to had plenty of time to check out the cockpit.