It is super sweet to board a Boeing 747-400 from the tarmac. Hold's a long way up.

It is super sweet to board a Boeing 747-400 from the tarmac. Hold's a long way up. Click for larger.

I have never flown on the upper deck of a Boeing 747. I have flown plenty of times on the lower level, but I have never had the opportunity to climb those stairs (photo) to the upper echelons of air travel.

Well, I still haven’t flown on the upper deck of a 747, but now I have been up in one. I have to admit, it is pretty darn awesome. During my recent trip to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to hang out with United Airlines, I was invited to check out the top deck and cockpit of one of their Boeing 747-400’s that was being set up for a 15 hour flight to Sydney, Australia.

Ah. The upper deck of a Boeing 747-400. Great seats, total exclusivity and an amazing view

Ah. The upper deck of a Boeing 747-400. Great seats, total exclusivity and an amazing view. Click for larger.

The upper deck is a world of its own. Even though there were only about 30 people (invited guests, United employees and cleaning crew) it was obviously quieter up top. Speaking with a flight attendant she said she loves working the top deck since it has a more laid back atmosphere than the much longer bottom deck. All the seats on this United 747 upper deck were International Business Class — which weren’t too shabby at all. The First Class Suites were all located in the nose  section on the bottom deck (photo). Yea, the location isn’t as cool as the upper deck, but those first class seats are crazy-big.

Anyhow, back up top, the seats and service might be pretty slick, but the coolest part is up front… the cockpit. The cockpit isn’t just for flying, there is a lot of room to invite guests and take a nice little nap. Heck, I think it might have had more square footage than my first apartment (ok not really). Part of the cockpit houses a set of bunk beds for pilots (photo) to get some rest. There is also plenty of extra seating for the relief pilots. Flights over 8 hours will require one relief pilot and flights over 12 will require two. So there needs to be plenty of room up front for everyone to be comfortable and well rested.

Heck yes. The best seat in the house!

Heck yes. The best seat in the house! Click for larger.

The Boeing 747 is one of my favorite aircraft. Even though the Airbus A380 might be larger and carry more people, it just doesn’t have the same awesome presence that the Boeing 747 does. I am very excited for Boeing to introduce the new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (video), which will allow the Boeing 747 to fly well into the future.

A special thanks for United and their employees for flying me down to LAX to enjoy this and other fun adventures.

More Goodies:
* All the photos from my LAX visit with United.
* Time lapse video of new Business/First class seats being installed in a UAL Boeing 747-400
* Video from United 747-400 upper deck of take off from Chicago.
* Photo of United Boeing 747-400 in original Tulip livery in 1989

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
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Sweet. I may be flying LAX-SYD, in the next few months and hopefully a systemwide will get me up there one way.

That is pretty cool. I always was curious what it looked like up there and thought if I just ran up the stairs midflight to look it would probably cause problems.

I had the pleasure of flying on the upper deck on United last Sunday for the first time ever. It was the MEL-SYD-SFO route. I did the miles+cash option to waitlist for the upgrade. I thought I was going to be stuck in 58C until the called my name to the podium three minutes before boarding. Worth every mile/dime.

Wow, that is a very long haul all together for sure.



I had to fly United overseas for business quite a bit over the last several years, and my company’s policy allowed for business class. I’d always try to snag an upper deck seat if possible, since (as David stated) it is much quieter up top, and you get the opportunity to get to know the FAs and other passengers a bit. The best seat is in row 15, by the emergency exit–you had about 6 feet to the seat in front of you. (The only problem was very elite frequent flyers would often trump you and you’d get moved elsewhere; sometimes we suspected that the air marshals might also go for those seats.

I also love the 747…. And usually fly upper deck… :-). Still remember In the old days (100s and 200s) when the upper deck was a lounge and on long haul flights over night, the upper deck were converted to beds (with sheets, blankets, pillows) for first class passengers (on Singapore airlines)… On UA, I like row 15 exit row upstairs… In the old business class with the extra, extra legroom… In the new configuration…with the more comfortable lie flat seat, Row 15 faces backwards… I still like it… As you can see the engines. 🙂 yes, it’s quieter upstairs but can also be warmer. Little overhead bin space but you have storage bins along the window and there is a closet area near the stairs to stow your Rollie… Service is usually better upstairs as it’s a smaller cabin and there’s 2 lavatory upstairs… I also hope UA will consider the new 747-8. 🙂 David… Thx for sharing your pics… I’ve never seen the crew rest area for the pilots…

Hey Sam!

Thanks for sharing. I have been wondering what it would be like flying backwards. I have been told there is little difference, but I would think take off and landing would be quite difference.


I always select backwards-facing seats in the new United Business. (I agree with Row 15 being the best in the old configuration and still sit there–mostly out of habit–and preference). Other than inertia carrying you ‘forward’ at take off (much the same as the opposite at landing in a regular-facing seat), it’s not really all that different.


I flew backwards on British Airways from LHR-LAX—as Jim points out, it seems strange for about 10 minutes, then you don’t really notice it except for takeoff and landing, although it is a bit disconcerting when you’re looking at the feet of you next door neighbor! 🙂

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