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United Ponders an Earlier Retirement for Out-of-Favor 747s

  • Airline may drop Boeing's `Queen of the Skies' in 2018
  • Memo hints at possible plan to move action up from 2020
A United Airlines Boeing 747 aircraft taxis to the runway at San Francisco International Airport, on Jan. 11, 2014.

A United Airlines Boeing 747 aircraft taxis to the runway at San Francisco International Airport, on Jan. 11, 2014.

Photographer: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

United Continental Holdings Inc. is considering parking its Boeing Co. 747 jumbo jetliner fleet ahead of schedule to make way for newer, more-efficient twin-engine aircraft on its longest routes.

The carrier’s 22 747-400s might be retired as early as 2018, according to a memo last week to the company’s pilots from Howard Attarian, senior vice president of flight operations. That would be an accelerated timetable, as then-Chief Financial Officer John Rainey in April said United likely would keep its four-engine aircraft at least until expensive maintenance work set for 2020 requires a decision on their future.