United retiring the 747 early
Credit: superjoseph/Getty Images

By the end of this year, United Airlines will retire its final 747-700—about one year earlier than expected.

The airline announced on Wednesday that it will stop using the plane because it’s no longer cost effective.

Once upon a time, the Boeing 747 was one of the iconic airplanes that every major airline added to their fleet. During its heyday in the 1970s, the 747 was nicknamed the “Queen of the Skies.”

Since the 747 premiered in 1970, Boeing has delivered more than 1,500 of the planes to airlines. But over the past few years, demand for the jumbo jet has decreased. Last year, Boeing warned that it may stop production on the 747.

Airline officials told employees that the plane is no longer competitive. It requires more maintenance than other aircraft in the fleet and customers are less satisfied with their experience onboard.

The early retirement represents a change in airline priority and a shift in the aviation industry altogether.

“It’s a bittersweet milestone—this jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel,” United President Scott Kirby said in a memo to employees. “Today, there are more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and reliable widebody aircraft that provide an updated in-flight experience for our customers traveling on long-haul flights.”

Delta is the only other American airline with a 747-400 fleet. They will also retire their planes later this year.

Meanwhile at Airbus, demand for the A380 has also been slipping, but the manufacturer said that it will continue producing the plane for the foreseeable future.