CHICAGO -- United Airlines is bumping up the retirement date of its Boeing 747 aircraft.
The iconic jumbo jet will make its final United flight in the last three months of the year, airline President Scott Kirby wrote in a letter to employees Wednesday.
That's about a year earlier than what United announced in March. United has said the aircraft, known for its distinctive hump, would be replaced by Boeing 777s and 787s.
"It's a bittersweet milestone -- this jumbo jet with its unmistakable silhouette once represented the state-of-the-art in air travel. Today, there are more fuel-efficient, cost-effective and reliable widebody aircraft that provide an updated inflight experience for our customers traveling on long-haul flights," Kirby wrote.
United, which has used the 747 since 1970, still has 20 in its fleet.
United isn't the only airline moving away from using the jet, particularly for passenger travel. Boeing announced last year it was slowing the pace of production to just one 747 every two months, down from one plane every month.
But Chicago-based Boeing has no plans to end 747 production and is "confident in the 747-8's unique value proposition," spokesman Tom Kim said.
UPS ordered 14 new 747 cargo jets in October, accounting for most of the 17 orders for the 747 Boeing received in 2016.
"While we've seen a softening in the cargo market for quite some time, we continue to closely track air cargo and make the right decisions that drive shareholder value and keep the production line healthy," Kim said.
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