Even as a frequent world traveler, I’ve only had the pleasure of flying on a Boeing 747 one time and that was a Cathay Pacific flight from LAX to HKG (and back) back in 2004. I was fortunate enough to be up front, enjoying Cathay Pacific’s amazing First Class product and I can still remember how massive the aircraft was.

Cathay Pacific 747

As I entered the plane, I felt like I was walking into an apartment building. The second strong memory that remains with me is the incredible thrust and power that plane had as it rolled down the runway. Here I was, ensconced in this luxurious cabin with almost 500 other people in this giant structure. Suddenly, as the pilot moved the throttles forward, this apartment building began to move. First slowly, then faster and faster, finally launching into the air.

This weekend marks a historic milestone for Cathay Pacific Airways as it bids farewell to “the Queen of the Skies,” the Boeing 747-400, nearly 30 years after first touching down at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) in July 1986. On Sunday, August 31, the sole remaining Cathay Pacific 747-400 in North America will make its final voyage from SFO to Hong Kong when flight CX879 takes off at 1:45pm PDT.

Beginning Monday, September 1, CX879 will join SFO’s other daily flight (CX873) and Cathay Pacific’s six other North American gateways (Chicago, Los Angeles, Newark, New York, Toronto and Vancouver) in a 100% Boeing 777-300ER operation. Boston, which will become the airline’s seventh North American gateway in May 2015, will also offer a 777-300ER service four times per week. Cathay Pacific will continue to operate the Boeing 747-8 freighter fleet for cargo flights to 15.

Boeing 747
The last 747-400 flight for Cathay Pacific

“The Boeing 747 put Cathay Pacific on the map and helped propel us into the world-class global carrier that we are today,” said Cathay Pacific Senior Vice President, Americas, Tom Owen.

“There is so much affection for this aircraft from our customers, pilots, engineers and ground staff alike and it has been an incredibly important aircraft for Cathay’s overall long-haul evolution. While we bid adieu to the 747, Cathay is proud to have one of the youngest fleets in the world, and we will operate the fuel-efficient and environmentally beneficial Boeing 777-300ER on all of our North American flights beginning September 1.”

Cathay Pacific made its first direct order for the 747-200 series from Boeing in February 1978 and the first aircraft arrived in Hong Kong in mid-1979. In the 1980s, thanks to the Boeing 747, Cathay Pacific expanded its international network to include San Francisco, Vancouver, London, Brisbane, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Rome, Paris, Zurich and Manchester. Cathay Pacific was the first airline to operate a non-stop flight from New York JFK to Hong Kong over the North Pole in June 1998 – known as “Polar One” – to commemorate the opening of the new Hong Kong International Airport.