[TRAVELMAN] Mourning the Concorde...

Rohit Khare 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...  
http://www.xent.com/FoRK-archive/winter96/0014.html )

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  
> Antonio.

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  
geopolitical realities.

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  
they use."

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  
someone else."

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,  
36 seconds.
1989: First sign of engineering problems as section of rudder falls off  
during take-off from Christchurch. Two more rudder failures in the next  
two years.
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  
flight cost?

A: As of 7 April a return from London to New York is £8,230.
  As of  7 April a return from London to Barbados is  £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  
and comfort.

           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  
its retirement?

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  
their ticket.

         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  
in 1976.

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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