United has accelerated the retirement plans for its B747 jumbo aircraft, with the last scheduled service now planned for later this year.

The carrier announced last year that it would retire the Queen of the Skies from its fleet “by the end of 2018”, but has now confirmed plans for this to be brought forward to the last quarter of 2017.

In a statement Scott Kirby, president of United Airlines said that “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.”

These new-generation aircraft include the Boeing Dreamliner, of which the carrier operates both the B787-8 and B787-9 variants, the B777-300ER, on which United will debut its new Polaris business class seat, and the Airbus A350, which the airline is due to start taking delivery of in 2018.

United first flew the B747 between California and Hawaii in 1970, and currently has 20 B747-400s in service.

Kirby added that “of course, we’ll honour the 747 with an unforgettable retirement celebration — we’ll keep you posted with more details on her final flight in the months ahead”.