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STORY ARCHIVE April 2003

Concorde to be Retired by the end of October 2003 -10/4/03

BA and AF Concordes "nose to nose" after their first flight to Washington in 1976

British Airways and Air France have today (Thurs 10th April) made a simultaneous announcement Concorde will make its last flight scheduled passenger flight at the end of October, ending nearly 30 years of supersonic travel.

British Airways said that its decision had been made for commercial reasons with passenger revenue falling steadily against a backdrop of rising maintenance costs for the aircraft.

Air France said similarly that the decision was taken because of "the deterioration of business results from the transatlantic service", the aircraft's only scheduled route. The airline later confirmed that scheduled services would cease on 31st May, but there was a possibility that the airline would offer additional flights up until the end of October.

Detailed discussions over an extended period with Airbus, the aircraft’s manufacturer, confirmed the need for an enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years, the carrier added.

Both airlines have had a drop in Concorde bookings due to the downturn that is currently effecting the aviation industry. BA's business travel have fallen by nearly a quarter over the last 12 months Although BA's bookings for their single daily return flight have been very good and regularly flight have been full, this has not been enough to save the aircraft. Air France have seen a dramatic drop in numbers and some flights have had as few at 20 passengers, as Americans boycott the airline over the countries stance on Iraq.

On the day the end of services were announced Air France only had 16 people booked onto the flight, of which a further 4 did not check in leaving just 12 passengers on board an aircraft that usually, in Air France's case, holds 92 passengers.

Rod Eddington, British Airways’ chief executive, said: “Concorde has served us well and we are extremely proud to have flown this marvellous and unique aircraft for the past 27 years.

“ This is the end of a fantastic era in world aviation but bringing forward Concorde’s retirement is a prudent business decision at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions right across the airline.”

"Air France deeply regrets having to make the decision to stop its Concorde operations, but it has become a necessity ", declared Air France Chairman Jean-Cyril Spinetta. " The worsening economic situation in the last few months has led to a decline in business traffic, which particularly weighs on Concorde's results. Maintenance costs have substantially increased since its return to service. Operating Concorde has become a severely and structurally loss-making operation. In these circumstances, it would be unreasonable to continue operating it any longer ."

Noel Forgeard, president and chief executive officer of Airbus, said: “Airbus’ predecessors Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation created Concorde some 40 years ago and we are proud of this remarkable achievement.

“ But its maintenance regime is increasing fast with age. Thus, as an aircraft manufacturer, we understand completely and respect the decision of British Airways, especially in the present economic climate.

“ It goes without saying that until the completion of the very last flight, we will continue to support the airline so that the highest standards of maintenance and safety are entirely fulfilled.”

Rod Eddington added that today's announcement is not a direct result of war in Iraq.

He said: “While the threat of war and resulting military conflict have had a further impact on premium travel demand, the decision to retire Concorde has been based on a long-term revenue and cost trend rather than recent events.

“ I would like to place publicly on record my sincere thanks and appreciation to all our staff, past and present, who have made the Concorde story one of the most compelling in the history of commercial flight.

“ Our pride in the aircraft will never wane and I am determined that we make its final six months in the sky a time for celebration.”Both airlines need to run services together to pay for the support costs of the manufactures and engine makers. Contractual obligations are in place to ensure that these costs are met. It would be too costly for one airline to go it alone. Several meetings are known to have taken place with key high level members of the management of both airlines over the past few months.

Breaking these contractual agreement is resulting in a write-off £84M in the current financial year.

G-BOAE re-launches Concorde services on Nov 7th 2001 (Paul Dopson)

Air France's Jean-Cyril Spinetta, further commented : "By announcing this decision, my first thoughts immediately go to the Air France crews and maintenance teams who spared no effort to get the Concorde back in the air after the accident on July 25, 2000. Its return to service was an exemplary technical feat, and I well imagine their sadness today. We shall never forget this aircraft, just as we will never forget those who, by contributing to the Concorde service for almost three decades, enabled Air France to write one of the finest pages in the history of aviation. Today, however, it is essential for any business to preserve a healthy financial situation ."

The accident in July 2000 and some of the niggling technical problems have in reality not caused confidence to be lost in the aircraft to the same degree that it have recently be portrayed in the media, but the downward trend for business travel post Sept 11th 2001 has hurt Concorde, as well as many other routes.

Many in the industry have questioned BA's decision to halt Concorde services, as they have not yet re-paid their investment in the new cabin interior upgrade and return to flight modifications that cost upwards of £30M

British Airways are planning to offer substantial discounts on Concorde flights in the remaining six months of its working life so that as many people as possible can fulfil an ambition to fly on Britain’s most recognisable aircraft.

The Airline has rejected calls to keep one or two Concordes in full working order in order to perform occasional flights at air shows. The airline will say that such costs would be prohibitive. BA employs 160 Concorde engineers, and 40 flight crew who will be moved to work on other aircraft in the airline’s fleet.

The airlines plan to dispose of their fleets to museums across the world and rules out selling them to any other operator. Richard Branson Virgin Atlantic airline had expressed an interest in obtaining Concordes from BA or Air France, but this was seen only as a marketing move to antagonise their competitor, than actually being a serious business move.

See the announcements page for the official press releases


So what happens to the Fleet? - 10/4/03

Assuming the fleet is retired and not sold where do they go?

In the UK British Airways will need to keep G-BOAC, G-BOAD , G-BOAE and G-BOAG flying till October to meet their planned services.

G-BOAF is out of flight hours before a 3 month long check that will now probably now not happen..Alpha-Foxtrot is therefore very unlikely to fly in passenger service again, but may be made flight worthy once more to allow a ferry flight to a museum.

G-BOAB, was never modified and returned to passenger service but been kept under a care an maintenance programme so could theoretically be made flight worthy for a subsonic ferry flight. It is planned that an Aircraft would be put on display at Heathrow, G-BOAB may be the favourite for this although the lure of having G-BOAC on show here maybe to strong an opportunity to miss, as it was the flagship of flagships - sharing the "BOAC" initials with the forerunner to BA (British Overseas Aircraft Corporation)

G-BOAA is in the worst Condition of BA's 7 Concordes and would never have flown again. This again could make her a prime candidate for display at Heathrow, being as she was BA's first Concorde and flew their original Launch services.

There are many museums in the UK that would love to add Concorde to their list of exhibits. Prime candidates could Include: the RAF Museum at Cosford (currently home to many former BA aircraft and the New Bristol Aviation heritage site at Filon Airport (where Concorde was built in the UK). The Duxford Aviation Society based at imperial War Musem, Duxford, which currently houses one of the Development aircraft would no doubt love a production aircraft, but the runway there is now possibly too short to allow Concorde to land- it was shortened by 1,500ft to 4,500ft in 1977, when the M11 was built)

Manchester airport's re-developed Aviation Viewing Park is also a prime candidate, that would allow hundreds of thousands of people to see the aircraft each year. Manchester Airport are making great efforts to acquire a collection of aircraft to be preserved as static displays. Recently they have acquired the Avro RJX 100 prototype from BAE Systems Woodford, and are negotiating on an Ex British Airways BAC 1-11. The Aviation Viewing Park already attracts 250,000 visitors per year, so many think it would be an ideal place for a Concorde to be retired to.

Air France have 5 surviving Concordes.

F-BVFA, F-BVFB, F-BVFC and F-BTSD are flying presently, although F-BVFC is currently in a check.

F-BVFF is 12 months through an 18 month major check, which like Alpha-Foxrot may not now be completed. This aircraft may be the prime candidate for being put on show at Charles de Gaulle airport, or shipped to Le Bourget in pieces to go on show at the French Air Museum.

Museums known to be interested in Concordes included the Smithsonian institute in Washington to DC. They have always planned to leave space for a Concorde at their new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy centre which is being built as Washington's Dulles airport, where Concorde first flew commercially to in the US.

The Technik Museum at Sinsheim in Germany has requested a Concorde to be situated on the roof next to a TU144 that they acquired a few years ago.

In the UK interested museums would include new Bristol Aero collection site at Filton Airport, where the UK aircraft were built. Currently G-BBDG, (Concorde 202) is stored there, but would be costly to renovate. Brooklands museum at Weybridge is also a favourite and the forward sections of Concorde were built here, as is the RAF museum at Cosford, North of Birmingham that currently has on show a great many aircraft from British Airways and other UK based airlines.

The Duxford Aviation Society may also be interesting in an aircraft, but the runway at Duxford has been shortened since Concorde 01 arrived there in 1977

Excluding the Airframes, there are a lot of specialist parts and spares that many industrial museums up and down the UK and France could put on display, such as the complex test kits that today would be replaced than no more than a laptop PC.

The final major piece of the Concorde jigsaws, are the simulators: BA have theirs at Filton and Air France at CDG. The BA Simulator, if it was decided to decommission it, rather than kept it available for pilots to pay to "fly Concorde", could make an excellent exhibit for the UK's Science museum in Central London.

TU 144 picture by Peter Unmuth


Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic to the rescue? 11/4/03

Virgin Atlantic founder Richard Branson said on Thursday his airline was interested in buying British Airways' doomed Concorde fleet, but would offer just £1 (€1.5).

Branson, the king of publicity stunts, said in a statement he would be asking BA for the full operation figures for its fleet of seven Concorde.

"Since the British Airways' announcement this morning we have been flooded with calls from the public, including BA staff, asking us to see if we can keep Concorde flying," said Branson.

"When the Conservative government gave British Airways Concorde for £1 they said that if another British company ever wanted to operate it they could. "

" f having examined the figures Virgin Atlantic, with its lower cost base, believes it can make a success of it we will be asking British Airways to give us the planes for the same price that they were given them for (£1) together with the slots and other facilities that they use. "

"This might come to nothing but I believe that every effort should be made to keep Concorde flying as it is such an important symbol of British innovation," he added.

Air France and British Airways said on Thursday Concorde would stop flying by the end of October at the latest after more than quarter of a century as a transatlantic shuttle for the rich and privileged.

The cost of developing the supersonic passenger jet were borne by the British and French governments and only BA and Air France - at the time both state-run - opted to buy the hugely expensive aircraft.

BA indicated that it wanted to see its Concordes put on display to the public rather than going to rival carriers, but the thought of being able to give the aircraft away and not have to fund the £84Million write-off costs may sound a very good deal for the cash strapped airline.


Concorde NOT for Sale -12/4/03

British Airways re-affirmed that Concorde is not for sale to any other airline and will be retired to museums either in the UK or around the World Concorde. The came less than a day after Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Airways said it wanted to buy its supersonic jets for £1 each.

Virgin said it planned to ask British Airways for "full operating figures"

to see if the slender needle-nosed passenger jets can be kept in the air after BA and Air France said they would retire their fleets in October because they were unprofitable to operate.

" If having examined the figures, Virgin Atlantic, with its lower cost base, believes it can make a success of it, we will be asking British Airways to give us the planes for the same price that they were given them for – one pound,'' Chairman Richard Branson said in a statement.

But British Airways said firmly on Friday 11th April that its seven Concordes were "not for sale" as the successors to the joint Anglo-French manufacturers, Airbus, would not allow any other airlines than BA and Air France to fly the prestigious plane.

" Concorde will have a fantastic last six months in various countries around the world," promised a BA spokesman.

The Virgin Atlantic Chaiman did not seem to fully understand the financial implications of the aircraft's continued operation and the write-off costs associated with the aircraft, that he would have to find up front, when he made his offer of £7 for the fleet.

In fact that has now become clear to Virign, was that BA did not pay £1 for the aircraft: In 1972 they paid full market value for the aircraft (around 30% more than a new 747 at the time). The £164M price tag (for the 5 originally ordered aircraft) was funded out of public dividend capital, as the airline at the time was owned by the state and not a PLC.

This was later written off when the airline entered into an agreement to pay the government 80% of all future Concorde operating surpluses. British Airways and Air France only received the remaining 5 aircraft , 2 for BA and 3 for Air France, in 1980 when they were "placed" with the airlines as nobody else wanted them.

In 1982 the airlines were forced into negotiating a agreement where they would pick up all the support cost for the airframe and engine manufacturers, currently being met by the governments for Concorde. The governments would pull the plug and the only way for the aircraft to survive was for the airlines to take the risk and pay for it themselves.

Finally in March 1984, BA agreed to pay a sum of £16.5M, that would allow them to take on all the remaining UK assets and opt-out of the so called 80:20 agreement. Within this £16.5M was £2 (2 pounds) for G-BOAF and G-BOAG.

Stopping Concorde services is set to cost British Airways alone £84 Million. BA Finance director John Rishton, told the London Evening standard that part of this was made up for £47M for the cost of modifying the fleet to the new safety standards and upgrading the interior of the aircraft.

This entire sum will be written off as they airline now had no hope of making it back in returns. Many parts of this upgrade, although purchased, remaining un-fitted – Maybe the airline will sell off the new Concorde W.C's on Ebay!

The remainder of the £84 Million would be made up by writing off the expensive stocks of spare parts and negotiating the early end of long term agreements with third parties, such as the aircraft manufacturers.

If Virgin Atlantic wanted to fly the BA aircraft they would have to find the majority of this £84 million and this is on-going cost associated with the aircraft.

For British Airways returning the aircraft to service in 2001 was always based on running 4 daily flights by mid 2002 at the latest. With the decline in Premium passengers this be came an impossible task and they only ever ran 2 flights a day. Although the BA001 and BA002 ran pretty full, the airline stood no chance of returning the investment made in the aircraft. The final straw was the realization by the airlines and the manufactures that they had been far off the mark in calculating the costs that would be required to keep the aircraft it the air.

Although the airframes are very young in aircraft years (around 4-5 years) the on-board systems are nearing 30 years of age, and tens of millions of un-budget funding would be needed to be invested in the short term. The decision in the end to cut their losses was simple.

The risk of having to write off up to £150M in 4 or 5 years time compared to £84 today was too big a gamble to take, in the hope that the premium class market would improve in the coming years, when most analysts predicted a further downward trend.

Picture - Adrian Meredith / British Airways- All 7 BA Concodes together for the first time ever in November 2000.


Air France could continue flights after May 31st -19/4/03

It is understood that AF may be considering keeping Concorde flying through until the end of October rather than stopping flights at the end of May due to poor passenger loads.

The Air France fleet are enjoying a final flurry of reservations before it is withdrawn from service for good later this year, French flag carrier said on Saturday. An Air France spokesman said between 65 and 90 passengers have made reservations on its transatlantic flights from Paris on the 92-seat aircraft up until May 10th.

This means that the plane is flying with a capacity of between 70 to 98 percent, compared with only 20 percent in the weeks leading up to this month's announcement that the aircraft was to be taken out of service by October 31, as flagging revenues failed to compensate for soaring maintenance costs.

Air France passengers had less time to experience the final flights of Concorde's 27 years of service, as the carrier said it would suspend services from May 31, and will only resume or continue flights if the economic situation improves.

A full price return flight between Paris and New York on Concorde costs some 8 726 euros , but Air France is offering a special price which includes an outward flight on a standard Boeing 777 and the return on Concorde.

The upsurge in reservations has also boosted independent tour operators who organise with Air France special flights on Concorde to give their clients a brief taste of supersonic travel.

"The announcement of the end of Concorde shocked and startled people who quietly thought that the plane was immortal and that they would like to fly one day on Concorde," said Michel Thorigny, the head of tour operator Air Loisirs services.

"In the space of one week - and that was immediately after the announcement of the end of flights - we had over 1 000 requests," he said, adding that his company was able to satisfy 700 customers and had a waiting list of 1500.

A similar number of people are on waiting lists in the UK to fly on these Air France experience flights, and it is hoped that the airline will offer the aircraft for these after May 31st.

British Airways have yet to announce what special flight they will carry out over the final months, but they are are understood to be planning a series of flights, that will give people the opportunity to fly on Concorde before it is retired

 


Museums worldwide line up bids for Concorde - 28/4/03

Museums around the world have been expressing interest in obtaining a Concorde to be their centerpiece exhibit when the aircraft are withdrawn from service.

A British Airways spokesperson said: "We have had an overwhelming response from museums and members of the public with literally hundreds of letters being sent to our chief executive with ideas and offers. People have such fond memories of Concorde, some remember it flying overhead, others have strong local manufacturing connections."

"We will look at which ones have the strongest local connections and ones that will be able to afford the best public access. Obviously we'd like to help as many as possible, but we will be coming to a decision later in the year after assessing each application purely on merit."

The Bristol Aero Collection has its sights on Concorde 216 G-BOAF. "It was the last ever Concorde to be built at Filton," explained Museum Director Oliver Dearden. "It was designed and conceived there and the engines were also built at Bristol - so we think we have a strong case."

For the museum, currently residing at Kemble Airfield near Cirencester, the acquisition of a Concorde would hasten their proposed move closer to Bristol and new premises at the former BAe airfield at Filton.

" We want to bring Concorde back home where it was built," said Mr Dearden. "The old hangar is still in place and it could even land here." Concorde Alpha-Foxtrot was also the last aircraft o ever be built on the site.

The Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, Surrey also has a strong Concorde connection. "The very first Anglo-French meeting was held here in the office of BAC chairman Sir George Edwards," explained curator Julian Temple. "From that moment on, Brooklands was at the forefront of Concorde design and production."

Factories at Brooklands made the airframe, cockpit, rear fuselage, fins and rudders - prior to their shipping to Bristol for final assembly. "We've put in a request and we're preparing a detailed proposal," added Mr Temple. The aircraft would have to be shipped in by road, but with BA having 2 aircraft that will not fly again both located at nearby London Heathrow, this could increase their chances.

Duxford Aviation Society, based at the Imperial War Museum's Cambridgeshire outpost are also though to be interested in adding a production aircraft to their collection, to sit alongside the pre-production prototype that they received in 1977. There was initially some concern over the runway length, but it is thought that the aircraft could in fact land at Duxford, as a B52 bomber landed there a few years back when it was retired to the new American Air Museum on the site.

In Scotland the East Fortune Museum of Flight has recruited the support of MSP Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, the son of famous aviator the Duke of Hamilton. He is said to have enlisted First Minister Jack McConnell to his campaign whilst the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington has also registered a bid.

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC have a contract with Air France that dates back to the 1980 to receive one of their aircraft once services stopped. The aircraft would be placed into the new Steven F Udva Hazy Center at Dulles Airport, Washington DC and would sit alongside the first ever space shuttle - Enterprise.

The Museum of Flight in Seattle is also in line to receive one of BA's Concordes on their site at Boeing Field.

Dennis Parks, senior curator for the Museum of Flight, said Seattle could land one of the planes, which are being taken out of service "We are on the list," Parks said yesterday.

The museum has fielded many calls from the public asking about the Concordes following the announcement that British Airways and Air France would stop flights this year after 27 years of service.

The Museum of Flight last checked with BA a couple years ago, when the entire Concorde fleet was grounded because of a crash near Paris. At the time, the British Airways chairman said the Museum of Flight would get one of the Concordes once they were retired.

But since then, the British carrier has a new chairman, so the Museum of Flight wants to make sure it remains on the list for a Concorde.

"We sent them a letter just to remind them that we have not picked one up in the meantime," museum spokesman Craig O'Neill said.

There is already a British connection. One of the planes being restored for display in the Museum of Flight is a de Havilland Comet, the world's first commercial jetliner."

Manchester airport's have submitted a request for a Concorde to be situated in their Aviation Viewing Park, that already attracts 250,000 visitors a year. The airport is making great efforts to acquire a collection of aircraft to be preserved as static displays. Recently they have acquired the Avro RJX 100 prototype from BAE Systems Woodford, and are negotiating on an ex-British Airways BAC 1-11.

The mayor of Toulouse-Blagnac, Bernard Keller, has written to Air France president Jean-Cyril Spinetta to ask for one of their 5 remaining Concordes.

"I'm making this request," explained the mayor of Blagnac in an official statement, "as the spokesman of the aeronautical community of the Toulouse area which here more than 30 years ago provided the launching of supersonic Franco-British aircraft, a fabulous technological and human bet".

According to the official statement, they plan to place the aircraft at the gates of the final assembly site of the new Airbus A380 Super Jumbo. Concorde would become the first part of a tourist circuit of the area that would include a visit to the assembly line. Also on the same site is Concorde 201 (F-WTSB), which was retired to the factory site after test flying was competed in the late 1970s.

For an up-to-date list of where the fleet will be retired, see the Retirement status page in the new Concorde retires section.

G-BOAF picture by Paul Dopson.


Virgin Atlantic speculation put to bed by BA? - 29/4/03

British Airways chairman Lord Marshall has issued a statement putting an end to any hope Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic had of operating Concorde when she is retired by British Airways in October, after he made a laughable offer of £1 per aircraft.

Lord Marshall said: "British Airways carried out an in-depth review of Concorde operations with the manufacturers. Regrettably this clearly established that there was no realistic prospect for the operation of Concorde services beyond October 2003, whether by us or any other operator.

He also said: "It is clear that the fleet cost British Airways considerably more than the sum of one pound which has appeared in the press recently.

"In fact the British Airways Board paid the manufacturers over £155 million for the aircraft. Over the course of the succeeding 27 years, British Airways has invested in excess of £1 billion into the Concorde operation."

Making reference to an arrangement between the British Airways Board and the Government dated 17 January 1980 in which the airline provided an audited detailed statement of Concorde's operations, Lord Marshall said: "This arrangement with Government was terminated in March 1984 with the payment by British Airways of a further sum of £16.5 million for the remaining spares inventories.

"Since then, there has been no current statement on the results of the Concorde operation to which Sir Richard refers.

"Everyone at British Airways is sad that Concorde will no longer be in the air beyond October 2003."


Branson wants to share Concorde with BA - 30/4/03

In another twist of the Concorde tail, Richard Branson has told BA he will put Virgin Atlantic's competitive agenda aside and operate Concorde together with BA to ensure she stays in the air where she belongs.

The offer came on the UK television programme, "Richard and Judy", when the Virgin boss told BA he would operate the aircraft with them, funding jointly the cost of the engineering work that is otherwise going to put the aircraft out of service this October, as it is too expensive.

In return for a share of the profits, or losses, one side of the aircraft would be painted in a Virgin Atlantic livery while the other side would be in a BA livery. This would be an operation similar to the way BA operated the aircraft with Singapore and Braniff airlines in the late 1970s and early 80s. The airlines would jointly market upwards of 4 daily flights to New York and other destinations.

With Virgin Atlantic also marketing the aircraft the 5 remaining Air France aircraft could also be operated to provide additional destinations.

In an interview on the programme, BA chairman Lord Marshall said that, although this was the fist time he had heard of the offer, he would "give consideration to it," if hypothetically the manufacturers were willing to continue supporting the aircraft after October if the funds were available to pay for the minor, but expensive, upgrades to the aircraft that would keep it in the air till the end of the decade.

A viewer phone-in poll run on the show suggested that 97% of the public support Richard Branson in his case, although it was suggested by Lord Marshall that a similar vote would have been seen if the question had been "should BA continue to fly Concorde?".


Air France rumoured to be stopping Concorde services– European press agencies - 8/4/03

According to reports in several respected European press agencies, Air France will stop scheduled Concorde in 2007. This date have been rumoured in the industry as the time they would stop services since before the Paris accident in July 2000.

The French government, who are the majority shareholder of Air France, will respect the decision of the airline management for the future of the Concorde:

"Any decision which Air France will make will be accepted by the current principal shareholder", declared Mr. Bussereau Secretary of State for Transport.

"If decision to stop of services is made, the government, like all the country, would shed a tear ", he added.

" am a fan of Concorde", underlined Mr. Bussereau, "this does not prevent me appreciating the technical difficulties which currently arise, along with the problems of filling the aircraft". "the English have the same difficulty", he said.

There have been several conflicting stories to the Air France position, with some media outlets saying the are confirming the end date, with others saying that they are denying that any decision has yet been made.

Like British Airways, Air France have had a few well publicised technical problems on the aircraft, that although minor, have been blown out of all proportion with a media hungry for a story.

" In 2002, for 590 flights and 1,812 hours of activity by Air France, eight incidents required a return to the originating airport, a diversion or an aborted take-off", indicated at the Minister for Transport Gilles de Robien. M Robien has asked for a "detailed report" on these Concordes incidents since the aircraft returned to service in late 2001.

The war in Iraq has led to un-certainties and a further decline in passengers, whose confidence in the aircraft has been dented by some of the recent incidents.

The Air France Concorde load levels fell "around to around 20%" since the beginning of conflict in Iraq, against approximately 50% loads before this, the French AFP agency learned from trade-union sources:

It is understood that both airlines are under contractual obligations with each other and the aircrafts manufacture to 2005, making it prohibitively expensive to stop service before this time. It is known that Air France have been planning for the 5 remaining fleet to be in use till 2007, a date when a large sum of money would be required to be invested to extend the airframe life. Later this year the airline will retire Concorde F-BVFA and a few months later return Concorde F-BVFF to service following and 18 month Major "D" check

In the UK British Airways, running with the current operational fleet of 5 aircraft, can easily fly at their current service levels till 2007. To fly for a few extra years or with other services such as the BA003 and BA004 flight would mean they would definitely have to return a 6th aircraft to service and carry out a 2nd round of D checks (24,000hr), on a their lead airliners in the fleet.

Recently British Airways had been forced to cancel a small number of services to allow them to fit new re-enforced cockpit doors to the aircraft. These had to be in place for all flights flight to the USA after the 7th of April 2003.

A few recent flights were limited to an advance booking limit of 50 passengers, so that in the event that an aircraft door modification had not being completed, the airline could accommodate these passengers in the first class cabin of a subsonic service. So far no additional service have had to been cancelled and the aircraft has recently been performing very well for the airline both in terms of functionality and loads, the later not being as effected by the conflict in Iraq as their French counterparts.

British Airways told Reuters on Wednesday 9th, that a decision on the fate of its supersonic Concorde fleet was imminent, amid reports that the aircraft could soon be pulled from service:

" We are looking at when the Concorde will be retiring. The process is at an advanced stage, but it is.....very much watch this space," said a spokesman for BA.

Air France Picture - Yevgeny Pashnin


BA stopping scheduled New York flights at end of September 24/4/03

According to the British Airways website, Scheduled Concorde services to NewYork will cease on Sept 30th 2003. This will possibly leave them the whole of October to fly the aircraft around the UK and possibly the world as a farewell.

This would also allow the airline to fly a number of LHR-LHR flights that would take passengers around the Bay of Biscay on a 1hr 40min supersonic flight.

Even though, as reported below, Air France Concorde bookings have been very good in the run up to the aircrafts retirement, it looks likely that they will stop scheduled Concorde flights on May 31th. This will be their final JFK to CDG AF001 service and the long planned Saturday CDG-CDG charter. It is understood that both these flights are fully booked.

One of the reasons that airline will stop at the end of May is the lack of trained pilots. The last training session at Chateraux was cancelled due to a lack of aircraft earlier in April and this will now not be carried out.

A small team of engineers and pilots will be retained to allow the aircraft to ferry to museums around the world.

It is not known yet if the Airline will operate a joint service with British Airways in late October to simultaneously mark the end of Concorde passenger flights, in a symbolic fashion to the way services started in January 1976.