Flying to London: How my #UnitedJourney took off - United Hub
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Flying to London: How my #UnitedJourney took off

By Benét J. Wilson, June 19, 2018

My love affair with travel began at age 6 at a time when flying was still considered a luxury. My father, a retired Air Force colonel, was assigned to a military base north of London in 1970 and we had to fly to get there.

That flight was on a Boeing 747. The captain allowed me to come up into the cockpit and encouraged my fascination with flight. That not only turned me into a life-long aviation geek, but it also began my love affair with the 747, the Queen of the Skies.

As a teen in the 1980s, I used to travel from the East Coast home to San Francisco. This was a time before smartphones, iPods and even Sony Walkmans, so I enjoyed listening to United's music channels. On one flight, I found my traveling theme song — "Ramblin' Man," by the Allman Brothers, something I play on every trip I take to this day.

Since then, I've traveled around the world as a military brat and an aviation journalist, getting to see amazing places on five of the seven continents (I'm coming, Antarctica and Australia!). Many of those flights have been on United Airlines or Continental Airlines, going back to the 1970s. I've been a member of MileagePlus since the late 1980s and OnePass since the mid 1990s, and I currently have gold status.

When I got a coveted invitation to fly United's last Boeing 747 on November 7, 2017, I leapt at the chance. The flight was from San Francisco to Honolulu, which was United's first 747 route.

Benet and CEO Oscar Munoz before the final 747 flight.

The party, hosted by United CEO Oscar Munoz, started at Gate 86 at San Francisco International Airport. We enjoyed cake, a huge commemorative card and memorabilia from the 1970s. And lucky passengers on the flight -- a fun mix of United's best customers, employees, journalists and aviation geeks -- even dressed up in clothing of the era, including me.

As we boarded the flight, there were goodie bags with commemorative pins. Munoz and the San Francisco ground crew closed the door and we were off, making a deep bank at the Golden Gate Bridge.

No seats were assigned in the 747's hump. Instead, passengers were allowed to go up and socialize, with one even proposing to his girlfriend (she said yes). We played the popular Halfway to Hawaii game, where passengers guessed the geographic halfway point between take-off and landing and three passengers were within 10 seconds of the actual time.

Upon landing, we were greeted by United employees and Hawaii Gov. David Ige, who hung leis around our neck. We watched from the window as employees placed a giant lei made out of 120 pounds of garbage bags around the hump of the 747. The next day, United's last jumbo jet was flown from Honolulu to the aircraft boneyard in Victorville, Calif.

I'm active on social media and enjoy sharing my global travels. One question I always get from my followers is what are some of my favorite trips. My answer is always the same — the next one.

A parade in Seoul.

In 2017, I flew more than 100,000 miles, including Singapore, Lisbon, Honolulu, Acapulco, Havana, Seoul, London and Dublin. As wonderful as being in these places was for me, it's more about the journey.

I've slowed my travel this year, but I still expect to travel across the U.S. and at least get to Paris and Amsterdam before the end of the year. And on my bucket list are places where I have friends — Beijing, Auckland, Perth, Jakarta, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro and Madrid.

And when it's time for leavin',
I hope you'll understand,
That I was born a ramblin' man.

Join MileagePlus to start earning miles from the world's most rewarding loyalty program℠ and share your story with #UnitedJourney.

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