Boeing 747 in Hawaii: 50 years

“This week marked 50 years since the Boeing 747 started flying and soon thereafter arrived here in Hawaii,” according to Beat of Hawaii.

“The ‘Queen of the Skies,’ as it was known, was a plane that we grew up with and still remember fondly. It was totally amazing when we first flew the Pan Am 747 ‘Clipper’ decades ago. Now we are in awe when we step aboard a perhaps also soon to be obsolete Airbus A380.

“In its 50 years history, the 747 transported nearly six billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s population. It was a big gamble for now challenged Boeing, which paid off. The company constructed a new plant to accommodate the 747 and its half a football field length, six-story height and 20-lane highway width.

“Yes it’s true, with the 747 came some of the very first Hawaii deals. Suddenly, in the 1970’s Hawaii became an affordable destination from the west coast and beyond.

“Air travel in the 1970’s was still considered an extravagance, and service aboard the 747 in those early days was quite elaborate compared with today’s no-frills, a la carte, and basic economy era of air travel. Just look at the above photo to see how people were dressed, the spaciousness and feeling evoked.

“Certainly the most famous and the first to start was Pan American. Their Hawaii flights began in 1970, shortly after the 747 began flying, and ended in 1985, when United Airlines acquired all of Pan Am’s Pacific routes including Hawaii. Continental Airlines followed Pan Am’s Hawaii entry with their own 747 “air cruises.” TWA flew the 747 to Hawaii. And there was also the short-lived Hawaii Express, an airline that existed in the early 1980’s.

(My first plane trip ever was a flight to Hawaii in the mid-’70s to visit my childhood friend in Honolulu on a United 747″Friend Ship” from SFO. It was awesome. The upper deck was a lounge. Later, my wife and I flew to Hawaii on a Continental Airlines DC-10, with a long L-shaped bar for in-flight libations. These were dubbed “Pub Flights.” The motto: “On Continental Airlines, we really move our tail for you” (an inappropriate tagline nowadays). But that glamorous era of flying came to an end: United flew its last 747 this fall with retro flight attendant uniforms and menus. More details here).

“In 2017, Delta Airlines, which also flew the 747 in Hawaii, became the last U.S. airline to use that aircraft.

“Other U.S. airlines that flew the 747 to Hawaii included Northwest Orient and Braniff. Are there others that we missed?

“United Airlines retired their Boeing 747 fleet in 2017 with a farewell flight.

That was from San Francisco to Honolulu, and was retro all the way, with passengers and crew in 1970’s attire, and a 70’s menu too. When United announced the farewell 747 in Hawaii flight, they sold out all tickets in 90 minutes.

“At the time, United Airlines said: ‘So many of our customers and our employees have flown on this plane, have serviced this plane, and they’ve served customers on this plane. So today was both an exciting day for us and a sad day for us.’ United made its first Boeing 747 flight to Hawaii in 1970.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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