[TRAVELMAN] Mourning the Concorde...
Rohit at ics.uci.edu
Fri Apr 11 14:54:18 PDT 2003
The end is nigh... y'all know how close this was to TRAVELMAN's heart
-- one of the founding struggles of FoRK was finding an archival copy
of Egon Ronay's Concorde cuisine eat-off review (shockingly, he gave
the nod to BA, over his own biases...
Putting aside Branson's marketing hype, this really does seem to be the
end, and very likely, the absolute end of civilian SST. $3000 seems not
like very much in the grand scheme of things to swing a final flight,
however expensive that seems at the moment. Don't know what I'll
actually do about it, but if any of you are interested, call before the
week is out... (a tip from the agents there: returning to a gateway
city has greater seat availability than asking for a straight JFK-LON
Hmm... the South Asian Journalists Association annual confab is in NYC
June 20-22 :-)
PS. BA's FAQ estimates that 2.5M passengers have been on a Concorde.
That looks suspiciously like some flack's multiplication of 100 pax x
50K flights / round-trip... how likely is that actually to be the case
given the *intense* frequency of its typical users (50+ crossings are
not uncommon, I was told). On the other hand, you have to compensate
for the number of charter flights, I suppose.
PPS. Info on the Braniff Concorde service at:
> Concorde was never painted in a Braniff livery...The only change was
> in the registrations and ownership of the aircraft. When in the US
> the "G" or "F" was covered up with white tape when the aircraft was
> Sold to Braniff, so a Concorde registered as G-N81AC would become
> N81AC when flown in US. Because the FAA would not allow the non-US
> aircraft a US certificate of airworthiness, the aircraft ownership was
> transferred to Braniff Airways for the Washington-Dallas segment of
> the route. As well as changing flight crews the US approved
> documentation and procedures had to be present on the flight deck,
> with the UK/French documentation being stored in the forward toilet!
> British Airways, at the behest of their insurers were forced to fly a
> captain and flight engineer as cockpit observers for US segments as in
> reality the aircraft were still BA owned for insurance purposes.
Or, for that matter, the famous Pucci-designed Braniff Air Strip:
> Mary Wells at Jack Tinker & Partners took over the account at Harding
> Lawrence's invitation. Because Braniff was unknown in the big cities
> and known as a small-town airline in the little ones, she decided to
> emphasize that Braniff was a big, long-distance, international
> airliner giving the domestic operation an aura of excitement,
> authority, and power. Color was the answer.
> Working with interior designer and color specialist Alexander Girard
> and Italian couturier Emilio Pucci , Mary Wells recommended a
> marketing theme built around "color". The key elements were new
> aircraft interiors, solid-color fuelages, redesigned ticket counters
> and waiting rooms, and Pucci-outfitted stewardesses. At her
> suggestion, the airline's jets were painted any one of seven different
> colors (solid-pastel colors). Originally Braniff's planes had been
> painted a basic silver like most of the other airlines (that's
> traditional in the industry). Its stewardesses were also brightly
> garbed, in clothes designed by Pucci. The uniforms came in layers: "a
> zippered coat for the ground, a jacket and skirt in which to meet
> boarding passengers, and so on in an enticing peel to a blouse and
> culottes to accompany after-dinner coffee." ( Fortune, August 1966,
> p146 ) Braniff called it the " air strip ." (Please see the above ad)
> Passengers who had got off the plane in Dallas called in to ask what
> they missed by not staying on for the continuation flight to San
Photos at: http://www.braniffinternational.org/image/airstrip.htm
Ageing icon whose cost was sky-high
By Simon Calder Travel Editor
11 April 2003
From the start, the Concorde project was rooted firmly in the past. It
was akin to building a Formula One racing car from the combined
resources of the Morris Minor and Citroën 2CV production lines; you
could do it, but the result might not be pretty.
Aesthetically Concorde is unequalled. It is one aircraft that turns
heads, as the slender craft floats past with a roar that belies her
The iconic delta is a motif for the final quarter of the 20th century,
and marks the conclusion of man's quest for speed. But tougher security
checks and increased congestion mean that flying almost anywhere in the
world is slower and more stressful than when the first commercial
Concorde flight took off in 1976.
"Commercial" is stretching things a bit. The elitist symbol of
Anglo-French esteem has been a financial disaster for taxpayers. Once
the real world of aviation showed it was not interested in such a
thirsty, noisy brute, the governments simply gave the jets to their
national airlines. Each passenger who has flown on the jet has, in
effect, been subsidised by about £3,000 per trip. The first
destinations were Bahrain and Dakar. The North Atlantic routes upon
which Concorde's success was believed to depend were closed to the new
jet. After much diplomacy, Washington relented, but the US capital is
one of many cities where Concorde came and, after losing a few million,
Concorde is as unsustainable economically as it is environmentally. The
timing of yesterday's announcement is the culmination of events that
began in 1999, just before the dot.com bubble burst.
The disastrous crash in Paris in 2000 made the aircraft statistically
the most lethal and, while millions was poured into restoring safety,
the increased cost of maintaining the relic proved too much to bear.
With some previous customers unwilling to fly between the UK and US on
what they consider a high-profile target, and with business between
France and America plummeting, Concorde has been killed off by
Branson unveils £1 rescue bid for unwanted Concorde
By Michael Harrison Business Editor
11 April 2003
Sir Richard Branson intervened to try to prevent the demise of Concorde
last night – saying he was interested in taking over supersonic
services when British Airways retires its fleet of seven aircraft this
Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard's long-haul airline, said that when the
Conservative government sold Concorde to BA for £1 in the 1980s, the
agreement stipulated that if another British company ever wanted to
operate the fleet it could.
He said that since BA had confirmed the retirement of Concorde, Virgin
had been inundated with calls from the public and BA staff asking if it
could keep the aircraft flying. "As a result of the public's response
today, I will be asking British Airways to provide me with the full
operating figures," he added. "If, having examined the figures, Virgin
Atlantic, with it lower cost base, believes it can make a success of
it, we will be asking BA to give us the planes for the same price that
they were given them together with the slots and other facilities that
But Rod Eddington, BA's chief executive, ruled out the idea of Virgin
or any other airline flying Concorde. "After 27 years' service, we
intend to retire Concorde with dignity. It is an aeroplane which is
part of the fabric of our company. We are not going to sell it to
Mr Eddington said BA had decided to retire Concorde because of falling
passenger revenues and higher maintenance costs that meant the service
was now losing millions of pounds a year. Since the crash of an Air
France Concorde near Paris in July 2000, bookings had dipped sharply
and the fall in revenues had been made worse by the economic downturn
and the 11 September attacks. Bookings by business executives, who used
to account for 70 per cent of traffic, were down by 80 to 90 per cent.
Some valuable customers such as City and Wall Street investment banks
had abandoned Concorde altogether after the collapse in share markets.
BA nevertheless pledged that Concorde would go out "on a high" and
announced a series of special fares. Passengers who book within the
next week will be able to fly return from London to New York for half
the standard £8,000 fare.
A range of other fares is on offer including a £1,999 return trip
flying out by Concorde and returning ordinary economy class. The offers
only apply, though, to about 10 of the 100 seats on each flight.
Sir Richard said his intervention might come to nothing but he added:
"I believe that every effort should be made to keep Concorde flying as
it is such an important symbol of British innovation."
If the rescue bid fails, then two of the seven Concordes in the BA
fleet are expected to find new homes in air museums in the UK. The
remainder will be sold or donated to overseas museums. Mr Eddington
said he had been flooded with calls from museums since the announcement.
The retirement of Concorde will result in a one-off £84m write-down in
BA's books to cover the value of spares it still carries. That is
likely to plunge the airline into an accounting loss for the financial
year that has just ended.
BA had already cuts its service to New York from two to one a day in
response to the economic downturn. It will now cease services entirely
from the end of October.
Separately, Air France announced that it would retire its Concorde
fleet at the end of May in an attempt to stem annual loses running at
€30m to €50m (£20m to £34m).
A supersonic journey
1956: Creation of the Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee at the
Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.
1962: Britain and France join forces to build the supersonic airliner.
1968: First public appearance at the Paris air show.
1976: First commercial Concorde flight leaves Heathrow. Immediate
backlash from nearby residents over sonic boom.
1980: Concorde flies from London to New York in record 2 hours, 59mins,
1989: First sign of engineering problems as section of rudder falls off
during take-off from Christchurch. Two more rudder failures in the next
2000: July: Air France Concorde crashes in Paris, killing all 109
passengers and crew.
2001: Flights resumed after safety precautions are introduced.
2003 April: British Airways and Air France announce end of commercial
Experience the thrill of Concorde before she retires
To celebrate over 30 years of commercial supersonic flight and in
anticipation of Concorde's retirement, we are offering special fares to
help you take advantage of the ultimate travel experience.
We're offering 1000 seats on Concorde at special promotional fares,
which allow you to combine your Concorde experience with any of our 4
classes of subsonic service between New York and London.
$2,999 one-way Concorde, one-way World Traveller (economy)
$3,499 one-way Concorde, one-way World Traveller Plus
$4,499 one-way Concorde, one-way Club World business class
$5,499 one-way Concorde, one-way FIRST
$5,999 round trip Concorde
1000 seats at these fares are available for sale from April 10, 2003
through April 17, 2003 or until all these special fares are sold out.
With a limited number of these promotional fares available, you'll want
to book now at 1 800 224 0500.
Concorde 'Once in a Lifetime' Terms & Conditions
Offer available for sale from April 10-17, 2003 or until inventory is
sold out. Outbound travel permitted between April 10-Sep. 6, 2003.
All Concorde sectors must be completed by Sep. 6, 2003. Min. stay is 3
days. Max. stay 30 days. Fares are based on round-trip purchase,
non-changeable, non-refundable and for travel on British Airways only.
Bookings must be paid for in US dollars and ticketed within 48 hours.
Concorde segments are booked in E class. Fares are subject to
availability & gov't approval. Fares do not include gov't. fees & taxes
of approx. $87.40 for Concorde/ World Traveller, $118.46 for
Concorde/World Traveller Plus, Concorde/Club World or Concorde/FIRST
combinations, and $87.40 for round-trip Concorde, plus the $2.50
September 11th Security Fee. No advanced purchase is required. Cannot
be combined with any other offer. Other restrictions may apply.
Copyright 2003 British Airways Plc.
Special one way fares on Concorde
are also available from $3,822 (one way on Concorde between New York
JFK and London Heathrow). These fares are available for sale from
April 10-August 30, 2003 for travel through September 6, 2003. To book
this special offer, please click here, contact your travel agent or
call 1 800 224 0500.
Why not ground Concorde immediately?
A: We are proud to have flown Concorde and want her to retire in
dignity and in style.
The special events we will be planning between now and retirement
will celebrate the aircraft and it is fitting that we do so.
We also want to give all those people who still wish to fly Concorde
that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some terrific offers will be
available to enable that to happen while also earning valuable revenue
for the company.
In addition, we will want to work with and support our staff,
suppliers and other partners rather than just giving them no warning
Was it a mistake to re-launch?
A: Absolutely not. At the time of re-launch, there was no way of
knowing that the downturn in business and premium travel would take
effect to the extent it has. Indeed, for a period after the re-launch,
services were profitable.
Modification work and testing programmes were virtually complete and
paid for by the time of the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks,
which also impacted negatively on business travel greatly.
What does a New York return flight cost? What does a Barbados return
A: As of 7 April a return from London to New York is Â£8,230.
As of 7 April a return from London to Barbados is Â£7,430.30.
What is there to differentiate British Airways now?
A: We have many innovative products which differentiate us from other
airlines - like the first truly flat bed in Business class - Club World
- and an outstanding First Class product which offers luxury, privacy
Although Concorde is unique, it only represents a very small
proportion of our long-haul operation. We carry seven and a half times
more First Class passengers than Concorde passengers and 44 times more
Club World passengers.
What is the policy for passengers booked to travel on Concorde after
A: All passengers are being contacted and may choose to rebook onto a
subsonic flight on the same date or bring forward their travel dates
and rebook on Concorde. They will receive a refund for any difference
in fare. Alternatively they may cancel and receive a full refund on
As a gesture of goodwill passengers will also be offered a free
upgrade from Club to First for a future journey.
What will you do for the last flight?
A: No decision has been made yet with regard to how we will operate the
last flight but clearly, there will be lots of opportunities to
celebrate this unique aircraft and to mark its retirement.
Will Concorde ever come out of retirement - e.g. for a Coronation
flypast or airshows?
A: No, as it would be too costly to maintain for occasional use.
How many customers have travelled on Concorde?
A: More than 2.5 million since it started commercial passenger services
How many customers have travelled on Concorde since its re-launch?
A: From Nov 2001 to Jan 2003, 35,000 customers have travelled on
How many flights have the British Airways Concordes made since 1976?
A: Just under 50,000.
When did Concorde begin commercial services?
A: British Airways' first commercial supersonic flight flew London
Heathrow - Bahrain on January 21, 1976. British Airways' first
Concorde flight to New York was November 1977.
When and where was the first transatlantic crossing?
A: May 24, 1976 to Washington.
When was the first New York flight?
A: November 22, 1977.
What's the flying time to New York for Concorde?
A: Average flight time between London Heathrow and New York JFK is
three hours and 20 minutes. A Boeing 747 averages more than seven
hours for the same journey.
Is today's announcement about safety?
A: Absolutely not. It is purely a commercial decision based on the
significant downturn in demand coupled with the rising costs of
Is this announcement related to the Air France crash?
A: Absolutely not. Today's decision was not based on any safety
concerns. It is solely a commercial decision based on our assessment
of the long-term commercial viability of the Concorde service. If we
had any doubt about the safety of any of our aircraft we would not fly
How old is Concorde?
A: 34 years old since its first ever test flight out of Filton in 1969.
27 years since the first commercial flight.
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