People tend to get all misty-eyed about the Concorde. It was small, cramped, and featured seats so narrow seats they would shame Ryanair. The supersonic aircraft also offered a very noisy inflight experience by today’s standards. The Concorde was also horrendously expensive to fly on. A bit like contemporary first class airline products, people who could never afford to access the product lament the loss of the Concorde.
An expensive way to cross the Atlantic
The Concorde flew between 1976 and 2003. The best-known operators were British Airways and Air France. But both Singapore Airlines and Braniff International flew a Concorde for a short time on a wet-lease agreement.
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The Concorde mostly crossed the Atlantic to the Americas. There were exceptions and routes dropped on and off the radar over the years. In this article, we will unpick some of the routes the Concorde flew and look at how much it cost.
In 1976, four Concorde routes were rolled out. British Airways operated a London to Bahrain and London to Washington Dulles service. Air France also ran a service to Washington Dulles from Paris. In addition, Air France started a Paris to Rio de Janerio service via Dakkar and a Paris to Caracas flight via the Azores.
In 1977, it cost £431 to fly one way on the Concorde between London and Washington. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about £2,431 in today’s money.
How much is a good in-flight breakfast worth?
That same year, Braniff leased a Concorde to fly from Dallas Fort Worth to London via Washington Dulles. Those flights cost US$975 one way. Adjusted for inflation, that’s about $4,181 in today’s money. If you think that’s a bit steep and the cramped and noisy plane puts you off, the service made up for it. A writer for The New York Times landed himself a decent junket flight in 1979. He said of a Braniff’s Concorde breakfast;
“What followed the coffee was a breakfast of fresh papaya, guava, pineapple, strawberries and mangoes, croissants and brioche that might have come from a Paris bakery, a pretty good approximation of eggs benedict and a soufflé Gruyère, all washed down with Piper‐Heidsieck Cuvée Diplomatique. The china, of course, was Limoges.”
The high cost of fares was one reason the Concorde went out of business. As the years passed, the fares got higher. By the end of the 1990s, you’d be looking at US$6000 one-way fares to cross the Atlantic in a few hours. The Concorde rarely filled up at these prices. It’s said half the people flying Concorde were on freebies or upgrades. In the end, the Concorde became a costly promotional plane for British Airways and Air France.
Concorde became a costly promotional plane
In 1989, British Airways had a special deal for its employees on their Concorde flights between New York and London. The fare was $499, or just over $1000 in today’s money. Discounts were also available to the traveling public, although not at levels airline employees could access.
But when airlines start discounting their premium product, you know there’s trouble on the horizon.
With the demise of the Concorde in 2003, first class suites and Etihad’s Residence have cornered the glamor end of flying. Like the Concorde, they are not cheap, and even the most modern passenger aircraft is slower than the Concorde. But modern aircraft are far more comfortable to fly in.
Despite this, and despite the high fares, the Concorde retains a glamor few contemporary airborne products can match. Like a pair of too-tight shoes that look great but are hopelessly impractical, there were always people out there who would open their wallets to try on the Concorde, no matter what the cost.