Singapore Airlines used to operate Concorde. Well, half of it anyway. We take a look at what Singapore Airlines were doing with Concorde, why it was in their fleet and where it’s ended up now.
When you hear the story of Concorde, it’s always all about Air France and British Airways. But did you know that Singapore Airlines also operated a Concorde? Although it wasn’t for long or particularly successfully, seeing the big pointy bird in SQ livery is really something special. Let’s find out what happened to Singapore Airline’s Concorde.
A plane of two halves
The Singapore Airlines Concorde was jointly operated between themselves and British Airways. The aircraft, G-BOAD, was a true joint venture, with both airlines taking equal responsibility (and glory) for operating the flights.
It was one of the earliest examples of a codeshare/alliance type partnership in aviation. Although the flight deck crew were always British Airways, the cabin crew alternated by segment between British Airways and Singapore Airlines.
Most interestingly, the aircraft itself was a plane of two halves. The left or port side was adorned with the Singapore Airlines livery, while the right or starboard side was in the British Airways Negus livery. It depended on where you were standing whose plane you thought you were on!
Why was it flying to Singapore?
Back at the beginning of Concorde’s story, both Air France and British Airways were denied landing slots at JFK. This meant both needed to find other routes on which to operate their new aircraft. For British Airways, a speedy Kangaroo Route had always been hugely attractive, so this is where they set their sights.
Concorde, of course, couldn’t fly right to Sydney in one go, therefore BA needed to pave a route across the continents. They began with a direct route to Bahrain, which would then connect up with Singapore before finally heading on to Sydney.
London to Bahrain was originally launched in 1976, running three times a week using G-BOAA. The next stage of this was to extend the service into Singapore, and having SQ on board with this would make everything a whole lot easier.
SQ and BA worked together to launch the service, and announced its commencement on 9th December 1977, taking the flight time from London to Singapore (including the stop in Bahrain) to just nine hours.
What went wrong?
G-BOAD had only made three flights from the UK to Singapore when the service had to be suspended. The problem was with Malaysia. The Malaysian government withdrew permission for the aircraft to fly at supersonic speeds over the Straits of Malacca. They cited issues with the supersonic boom and environmental concerns as the reason for the removal of rights.
However, many believe that this move was more of a political swipe by the Malaysians, who were at the time trying to secure additional landing slots at Heathrow as well as fifth freedom rights. They weren’t the only nation to see this opportunity either.
Back when the service had launched, India refused to allow the aircraft to fly supersonic over its airspace. They too cited problems with the boom but were similarly angling for slots and rights at the busy London airport. This had added 200 miles to Concordes flight path, which only increased the journey time by 10 minutes, but of course, added fuel consumption costs to the route.
Resolutely determined to make the route a success, BA and Singapore resumed flights on 24th January 1979, this time avoiding Malaysian airspace as well as Indian. This added further complexity and cost to the route, which was to ultimately be its downfall.
On 1st November 1980, the service was ended for good. The carriers cited decreasing traffic as one of the reasons, with the route estimated to be costing the operators around £2m a year.
So where is it now?
G-BOAD is not your average Concorde (as if any Concorde could be deemed to be average). It was a record-breaker in many respects, and not just for its half and half livery. G-BOAD made the fastest transatlantic crossing of any Concorde in 1996, traveling from JFK to LHR in just 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
Out of all 20 Concorde ever built, G-BOAD racked up the most air time. In total, the plane flew for 23,397 hours, more than any other Concorde with either Air France or British Airways.
The aircraft’s last flight was on 10th November 2003, when it flew from London Heathrow to JFK where it was transferred to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York. It’s still there today, so do call in and say hi if you’re in the area.