What If Virgin Atlantic Had Operated The Concorde?

DID YOU KNOW? Back in 2003, Virgin Atlantic had offered British Airways £5m each for their retired Concorde aircraft? It’s true. Sir Richard Branson put forward the offer which was rejected by British Airways’ Lord Marshall – the Chairman of BA at the time. The rejection was indicative of the uneasy tensions between the two airlines at the time (even if it seemed like more of a publicity stunt). So what if Virgin Atlantic had operated the Concorde?

Six British Airways Concorde aircraft
The last Concorde was retired in 2003. Photo: British Airways

Found in a 2003 article by The Independent, a spokesperson for British Airways said the following with regards to the deal:

“Concorde will not fly commercially again. Airbus says it will not support the continued use of the planes because the maintenance would be too expensive and it is just not viable.”

However, if the plane had been sold to Virgin and hypothetically had the technical support of Airbus, then the airline would have secured a truly unique attraction in its fleet.

The route

If Virgin were to keep the Concorde in commercial service then it would have likely remained on transatlantic service between Virgin’s hub in London, and New York City. It is commonly known that supersonic air travel – and the sonic boom associated with it – is extremely noisy. Thus, the Concorde was not permitted to fly over land in Europe.

Whatever route Virgin would have flown the Concorde, it would have attracted people from all over the world. It would not have been considered a mode of transportation as much as an experience of a lifetime and/or tourist attraction. Perhaps there would have been a few business travelers on board as well…

Airbus, British Airways, Concorde
The Concorde is an icon of the aviation industry. Photo: Airbus

The unique monopoly the airline would have secured with the Concorde would make tickets easy to sell. However, the profits would also be offset by the extremely high cost of maintenance that these jets would have required.

Virgin may have been shut down by British Airways over 15 years ago, but that might not be the end of the story…

Virgin A350 flying
For now Virgin will have to rely on its brand new Airbus A350s to attract passengers. Photo: Virgin

Is supersonic travel a thing of the past?

Aerotime reports that in recent years, various start-ups are working towards aircraft that will perform the Concorde’s three-hour flight between New York and London. In particular, Virgin Atlantic and Japan Airlines are investing in a company by the name of Boom Aviation. Reports also show that Boeing is partnering with a company called Aerion Supersonic as it works towards producing a supersonic business jet.

Speed isn’t about going really fast. It’s about closeness. It’s about making far away places feel like they’re right around the corner. -Boom Aviation

In fact, Boom promises travel times of three hours and 15 minutes between London and New York. For Los Angeles to Sydney, the flight would take six hours and 45 minutes.

Overture Airliner
Rendering of Overture. Photo: Boom Aviation

Boom says that its Overture aircraft is in the early design stages. In fact, the company says its targeting “the mid-2020s” for flight testing. “We will pursue rigorous airworthiness testing and FAA certification on an aggressive timeline, and we will never compromise on safety or cut corners” the airline says.

Conclusion

So with Virgin Atlantic as an investor in supersonic travel, we may still see the airline operate the Concorde – or at least something very similar to it. It might just be another 10 years or so.

Would you have flown a Virgin Atlantic Concorde? Or will you in the future if and when Boom produces a certified commercial jet? Let us know in the comments!

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