08 Oct 2016
Cathay Pacific today bid farewell to its last Boeing 747-400, which took some 300 of the airline’s staff into the skies above the city on a special charity flight to celebrate the contribution that the legendary aircraft has made since it first entered the Cathay Pacific passenger fleet in 1979. To mark its retirement from passenger service, the aircraft, operating as Cathay Pacific flight 8747, flew over Victoria Harbour, providing members of the Hong Kong public with a final opportunity to say goodbye.
With places on the historic flight being highly sought after – the airline ran a ballot after receiving in excess of 900 registrations, nearly three times of the number of seats available – Cathay Pacific staff on board each made a minimum donation of HK$747, and raised a total of around HK$200,000 for the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation.
Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Ivan Chu said: “The Boeing 747 has served Cathay Pacific impeccably for nearly four decades, transforming it into a truly global airline. This iconic aircraft has also played a crucial role in the development of Hong Kong as an international aviation hub. Many of our staff have developed close ties to the 747, which is why we took the opportunity to celebrate its enormous contribution by arranging this special staff flight. It was heart-warming to see our staff enjoying this special moment. I must also thank them all for raising funds for the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation through their participation.”
The celebrations started with Mr Chu making a special passenger announcement prior to departure. To mark the longevity of the 747, many staff were dressed in 1970s-era clothing, while music from the 1970s and 1980s was played to create a party-like atmosphere for the duration of the 60-minute flight. Staff sentiment for the 747 was clear, with many taking the opportunity to snap photos with fellow colleagues and cabin crew, who wore a variety of vintage Cathay Pacific uniforms.
After watching a video documentary on the 747, the airline’s senior management and staff toasted the remarkable service of the aircraft with champagne and each passenger was presented a special flight certificate to mark the unique occasion.
Among the passengers were 20 winners of an internal staff contest who earned their places on the flight by sharing their special memories of the “Queen of the Skies”.
Kenneth Lam, a Cathay Pacific engineer, said: “I have been in aviation for over 28 years and a big part of my job during that time has been to maintain 747 aircraft. I used to work with the aircraft day and night and I know it inside out. It is sad to see it go but I am glad that I was able to share this historic occasion with my colleagues. It’s been great to reminisce and commemorate her retirement together.”
While the jumbo jet has been an important part in the careers of many individual staff, it also has also played a special role in the families of some Cathay Pacific employees.
Zoe Davies, a Cathay Pacific first officer, said: “The 747 was introduced to Cathay Pacific in the same year I started my life in Hong Kong – 1979, which is when my father joined Cathay Pacific. Twenty-nine years later I achieved my dream of piloting the jumbo with him. Being able to share the flight deck with my father, including on his final flights before he retired in 2014, was a dream come true. Joining this flight, flying over the harbour and being able to ’wave’ goodbye to the public made this flight even more special.”
On its return to Hong Kong International Airport, the aircraft received a ceremonial water salute in recognition of its achievements.
Cathay Pacific’s 747 fleet has carried more than 160 million passengers all over the world for the past 37 years. The aircraft completed its last passenger operation from Haneda Airport to Hong Kong on 1 October.
More photos are available at this link.