What Happened To United Airlines’ Concorde Order?

The launch of the Concorde caused shockwaves throughout the globe, with supersonic travel slated to transform commercial aviation. United Airlines was primed to be a customer of the jet, but its orders were canceled before the plane’s introduction.

The Concorde was a truly unique passenger aircraft, but there was a lot more potential to be had when it came to orders. Photo: Getty Images

A mood shift

According to Heritage Concorde, in June 1966, United placed an order for the option of six Concordes from the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC). However, by November 1972, these were all canceled.

It is not surprising to learn that there was interest for such an aircraft from United. Several other US carriers were also keen to get their hands on the jet despite Boeing also working on a competitor.

Many stakeholders in the aviation industry were expecting supersonic travel to take the world by storm. Therefore, airlines wanted a slice of the pie before being left behind. Nonetheless, in hindsight, this type of transport did not take off as expected.

Subsequently, there were cancellations for all Concorde orders by US carriers in the early 1970s. This process caused a ripple effect in the market.

There was a global economic crisis during this era. Changes in circumstances, such a jet as the recession of 1971 and the rising cost of jet fuel, made the plane inefficient to deploy.

Boeing 2707 Jet
The US wanted to take on Europe’s Concorde and was keen to implement its own solution in the form of the Boeing 2707. Photo: Getty Images

Alternative solutions

United’s counterparts, such as Pan Am claimed that aircraft had become increasingly expensive, as the price rose from under $20 million per plane to well over $45 million in 1970 dollars.

Moreover, there was the introduction of the now-iconic Boeing 747 in 1970. This widebody revolutionized long-haul operations and opened the door for several new markets. For many passengers, traveling on the superjumbo was the first time that they were in the air.

The Concorde burned two to three times more fuel than the Queen of the Skies. United took on the jumbo in the same year that it entered passenger service. Therefore, the Chicago-based airline may have felt that its long-distance needs were fulfilled by this more efficient aircraft.

Boeing 747
The Boeing 747 swiftly became a favorite among airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Not the right time

Altogether, supersonic passenger aviation in the US did not meet the buzz that surrounded it. Even Boeing’s 2707 did not come into fruition. So, United’s cancellations may have just been a symptom of the overall climate in the country. Nonetheless, there could be life for supersonic jets once again, with a handful of companies serious about introducing new technologies.

Simple Flying reached out to United Airlines for comment on its Concorde orders. We will update the article with any further information once we have it.

What are your thoughts about United canceling its Concorde orders? Do you feel this was a good move for the carrier? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.