The 'Queen's' last hurrah
Plaid polyester, platform go-go boots, sideburns and big hair all made a comeback on Tuesday as customers and employees said goodbye to the "Queen of the Skies" with a raucous celebration at San Francisco International Airport's Gate 86 before taking off for Honolulu on United's final Boeing 747 flight.
Many of the passengers came decked out in their best '70s garb and a complement of flight attendants from around the U.S. chosen by base leaders for recognition were there to sport the original uniforms worn on the first 747 "Friend Ship" routes; the flight was operated with a regular, Honolulu-based crew.
The gate area took on the feel of a family reunion, with generations of loyal United flyers swapping memories about their cherished 747. Managed Care Program Manager, Terry Werber's father was a United mechanic at CLE when she was growing up, and she took her first 747 flight on a family trip to Honolulu in 1971. On Tuesday, Terry wore the same floral print dress that her mother had worn on that flight 46 years earlier.
Terry and her husband Fred love the aircraft so much that when their son Zachary was born at 7:47 p.m., they gave him the middle name "Boeing."
"I know, it's crazy," Terry said, laughing. "Airplane people are crazy – just look around us!"
Retired flight attendant Peggy Daughtry, who flew on the 747 out of Honolulu during parts of her 35-year career, was there courtesy of her son Donovan, a 1K Premier customer who purchased a seat for her as a surprise.
"I started to cry," she said, describing how she felt when Donovan told her the news. "He knew how much this means to me. This is where [we flight attendants] grew up. We were the 'girls next door' and this plane was our home. And when you were on board, we welcomed you and said, 'Now let us make it special for you.'"
Peggy's favorite memories are of the lengths they went to in order to make the trips to and from Honolulu fun, such as decorating serving carts to look like homecoming floats, playing trivia games and taking time to get to know the passengers.
"My rule was, if you didn't know five people's stories by the time we landed, then you weren't doing your job," she said.
Customer Thomas Lee, who was on the first-ever commercial 747 flight – a Pan Am trip from New York to London – was there, too, saying the chance to fly it one last time was too good to pass up. So was Neyssan Rassesh, a customer with nearly 5 million miles flown on United. He began flying on the 747 years ago when his family lived in Senegal. "That was the only aircraft that flew to the U.S.," he said. "We'd fly from Senegal to New York six times a year."
With tattoos of his passport immigration stamps inked on his forearm, it was hard not to notice customer Nick Calle taking photos. "It's one of my favorite planes," he said, talking of his love for all things aviation-related.
We know people are taking a second look at their travel plans right now. If you're scheduled to travel March 10 – May 31, 2020 and would like to change your plans, there is no fee to do so, regardless of when you purchased your ticket or where you're traveling. This is in addition to our previous waiver, which waives all change fees – domestic and international – for tickets purchased March 3 – April 30, 2020. This is available for any of United's published nonrefundable fares. If you decide to cancel your flight, you can retain the value of your ticket to be applied to a new ticket without a fee. These electronic travel certificates are now valid for 24 months from the date they were issued. This includes all currently valid electronic certificates and all new ones issued on or after April 1, 2020. You might not see this policy change reflected everywhere right away – we appreciate your patience as we work to make that happen.
Eligible travelers on domestic flights and international tickets can request a refund on united.com or may call our contact centers if their flights have been severely adjusted or service to their destination suspended either due to government mandates or United schedule reductions related to COVID-19.
Certain tickets cannot be changed on united.com or the mobile app, including tickets booked through another airline (if the ticket receipt does not begin with 016). Please contact the original ticketing airline for changes.
Follow the steps below to stay up to date, change or cancel your flight.
Change your current flight:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your flight information to retrieve your flight.
- Select "Change flight" and then "Edit" to make the following changes:
- Date of travel or destination
- Add a flight
- Remove a flight
- Select "Continue" and choose a new flight option
- Continue through booking to confirm your new flight
Note: The change fee will display as waived, but any difference in fare may apply.
Cancel your flight and rebook later:
- On the united.com homepage, select "My Trips" and enter your reservation information to retrieve your flight
- Select "Cancel flight"
- Confirm flight cancellation
- If you have future flight credit, when you return to the reservation, select "Use Future Flight Credit" to shop for new flights and apply the credit towards a new flight.
Canceling or changing an award flight:
When you select "Cancel flight," you will have the option to cancel your award reservation and redeposit the miles or to cancel your award reservation and use those miles for another trip in the future.
*We're currently experiencing heavy traffic to united.com. If you experience an error while trying to change or cancel your flight, please try again later.
Click through the slideshow below for more detailed instructions:
Start on the United homepage:
User can select 'My Trips' on the homepage widget to find and retrieve their reservation.
When and where possible, we are working to repatriate travelers who are stranded abroad in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Our teams are working closely with government officials here in the U.S. as well as in other countries where flying has been restricted to gain the necessary approvals to operate service. In regions where government actions have barred international flying, we have coordinated with the the U.S. State Department and local government officials to re-instate some flights. Additionally, we have been operating several extra flights to countries in Central America and South America as we continue to play a role in connecting people and uniting the world.
We have operated more than 68 repatriation flights from Panama City, Guatemala City, Quito, Lima, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and Roatan, bringing nearly 9,200 people home. We will continue working with government officials to operate extra flights to Houston from Quito, San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa and from Lima to Washington Dulles and beginning April 5, we will begin operating multiple charter flights between Delhi and San Francisco. We continue to review more opportunities for flights between the United States and other countries to bring citizens home.
Video provided by the U.S. Embassy Ecuador of Americans returning home on United.
Additionally, our Customer Solutions and Recovery team is working with customers in the following markets to rebook them on flights back to the United States as capacity allows, either on our aircraft or on one of our airline partners' planes:
- Quito, Ecuador
- Managua, Nicaragua
- Roatan, Honduras
- San Pedro Sula, Honduras
- Seoul, South Korea
- Melbourne, Australia
We also recently reinstated several international flights back into our schedule to support customers and essential businesses which depend on these routes. As a result, we will be the only airline to offer service between Newark/New York and London, San Francisco and Sydney, as well as Houston and São Paulo, Brazil.
Calling all AvGeeks and travelers! Here's a fun way to take your next video call….from a United Polaris® seat, the cockpit or cruising altitude. We're introducing United-themed backgrounds for use on Zoom, a video conferencing tool that many people are using to stay connected.
So for your next meeting or catch up with friends and family, download the app to either your computer or mobile device to get started. If you've already downloaded Zoom you can skip ahead to updating your background image (see instructions below).
- Start here by downloading your favorite United image to your computer or mobile device. Just click "download" in the bottom left corner of the image.
- Next go to your Zoom app (you'll need to download the app to access backgrounds) and click on the arrow to the right of your video camera icon in the bottom of the screen.
- From here select, "choose virtual background" to upload your uniquely United photo.
Together, we are facing an unprecedented challenge. United Together, we rise to meet that challenge.