Delta customers and employees began saying their goodbyes to the airline's iconic Boeing 747 fleet as the aircraft operated its final Tokyo-Narita to Honolulu flight. It then made a rare appearance on two domestic flight legs earlier this month.
After arriving in Honolulu from Tokyo-Narita for the last time, the aircraft was routed through Los Angeles on its way back to Detroit. The flights from Honolulu to Los Angeles and Los Angeles to Detroit were expected to be the final domestic 747 flights by any U.S. airline before two 747s were sent from Detroit to Orlando last week to help assist with Hurricane Irma evacuation efforts.
Employees in Honolulu paid tribute to the aircraft, which regularly operated the Honolulu-Narita route, with traditional Hawaiian customs by fashioning a maile lei big enough to fit over the top of the aircraft as a sign of respect. The team also held a gate celebration, and several employees held back tears as the group sang Aloha Oe and watched the aircraft depart Honolulu for the last time.
The Los Angeles team also had a chance to say their goodbyes to the "Queen of the Skies." Employees lined the ramp at LAX and waved orange wands as it made its late-night departure to Detroit. Employees in Detroit met the aircraft when it landed, though the 747 will continue flying through Detroit for a few more months.
A group of 50 Delta Diamond Medallion customers joined in on the festivities as well. When one member of a Diamond Medallion Facebook group saw that the 747 would be flying two domestic legs, he notified other members of the group, who jumped at the chance to take one last flight on the aircraft. The group booked nearly the entire Delta One cabin and some of the Main Cabin as well, and they flew in from all over the country to catch one last ride on the 747.
Additionally, employees in Los Angeles hosted a reception for the group in the Delta Sky Club, and each member of the group received model 747 aircraft as a parting gift. All customers on the flight received commemorative ear buds in celebration of the final scheduled domestic flight.
Delta expects the remaining 747s in its fleet to be retired by the end of 2017. The retiring aircraft will be replaced by the Airbus A350, which will be Delta's flagship international aircraft and the first to feature the airline's all-new Delta One Suite, the world's first business class cabin to feature a sliding door, as well as Delta Premium Select, a new premium economy experience. Delta will take delivery of five A350s in 2017 with more coming in 2018.