United Airlines CEO explains why the Boeing 747 jumbo jet will soon go away (UAL, BA)

In January, United Airlines announced that it will expedite the retirement of its fleet of Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets.

United, the last major airline in the US to operate the venerable icon, will retire its fleet by the end of 2017, one year earlier than previously planned.

This year, the Chicago-based airline will replace the 747 with new twin-engined Boeing 777-300ER airliners that, along with the 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350, will serve as the future core of United's long-haul fleet.

United Airlines Boeing 747United Airlines

Recently, United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz sat down for a one-on-one interview with Business Insider in which he touched upon a broad spectrum of topics including the fate of his fleet of jumbo jets.

In the interview, Munoz spoke about the practical considerations behind the retirement of the iconic plane known affectionately as the Queen of the Skies as well as the future of the airline's fleet.

Here's an excerpt from that interview:

Benjamin Zhang: Recently, United announced that it would be expediting the retirement of its Boeing 747-400s. What was the thinking behind that, and is it the end of the jumbo jet?

Oscar Munoz: You've got other jumbo jets out there that are being built and that a couple of people are flying. For us, we had dwindled down our fleet of 747s. They were already on a path to becoming obsolete. They have been a grand aircraft for us for a long time, but we have issues with maintenance — parts in particular. If I need a part today, I can't get it. We stripped every airplane in the world of its parts to feed the need, and no one is making new parts for this particular aircraft because there are just not as many out there.

Zhang: With the 747 on the way out, what does the future hold for United's fleet?

Munoz: Every time I get accosted with the issue of the "Queen of the Skies," I say, "Have you met Miss Dreamliner over here?" It doesn't have that grand double-decker look, but that's where [the new Polaris business class] comes into play. The service that you get, the seats that we are working with, that was the decision. We were getting new aircraft that we were going to fly, and we are going to make long-term commitments to flying, and we wanted to start those new routes with aircraft that we are going to be flying into the next generation.

PHOTOS: United Airlines in pictures

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A United Airlines Boeing 777 takes off at San Francisco International Airport's runway 10L. (Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Oscar Munoz, chief executive officer of United Continental Holdings Inc., right, and Ed Bastian, chief executive officer of Delta Air Lines Inc., speak before the start of an airline executive meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. Trump assured U.S. airline executives that his administration would help them compete with foreign carriers that he said are subsidized by their governments, and promised infrastructure upgrades, lower regulation and tax relief. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 03: United Airlines Dreamliner 787 taking off from LAX on October 03, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 03: United Airlines Dreamliner 787 taking off from LAX on October 03, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by FG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 13: A United Airlines 787 prepares to depart from London Heathrow International Airport's Terminal 2 on September 13, 2016, in London, England. The collapse of Great Britain appears to have been greatly exaggerated given the late summer crowds visiting city museums, hotels, and other important tourist attractions. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
Oscar Munoz, President and CEO of United Airlines, attends a meeting with airline industry executives hosted by US President Donald Trump in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 9, 2017. / AFP / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
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Click here to read Business Insider's complete interview with United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz.

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