Owned by just two airlines, British Airways and Air France, Concorde was most famous for its classic route between Europe and New York. Yet in its earlier years, the aircraft was flown on several routes around the world by both airlines. Let’s take a more in-depth look at the routes the Concorde flew.
British Airways scheduled flights
The first scheduled flight of a British Airways (BA) Concorde took place on January 21st, 1976, between London and Bahrain. Scheduled passenger flights to Bahrain operated twice-weekly. Bahrain was selected as it offered connections to other BA flights, which allowed it to act as a mini-hub.
Following its inaugural flight, BA’s Concorde expanded its services to include the US a few months later. Although Concorde is famed for flying to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, New York was not the first destination in the US to receive its services. In May 1976, both BA and Air France (AF) began operating services to Washington. BA flew three times weekly to Washington Dulles International Airport.
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The arrival of Concorde services at JFK was delayed amid concerns about the noise. However, by November 1977, these concerns had diminished enough to allow regular service to begin. BA’s other routes included Miami, three times weekly via Washington, which began in March 1984 and seasonal routes, including Barbados during the winter.
For just over a year, BA teamed up with Braniff International in the US, to offer scheduled supersonic service between Dallas (DFW) and Europe. This partnership was the first of its kind involving a United States carrier and foreign airlines.
Singapore Airlines offered a joint service with BA for a brief period from 1979 for flights between Bahrain and Singapore. The Concorde aircraft used had a Singapore livery on one side, and a BA livery on the other.
Air France scheduled flights
AF’s inaugural flight also took place on January 21st, 1976, and was operated between Paris and Rio de Janeiro via Dakar. This route was flown twice a week between 1976 and 1982. In April of the same year, AF began weekly flights to Caracas in Venezuela, via Santa Maria airport in the Azores.
Like BA, AF also began operating flights to Washington in May 1976. The airlines offered daily to Washington. In November 1977, this was expanded to include flights to New York five days a week. From 1978 to 1982, AF also operated a Concorde service twice a week to Mexico via Washington or New York.
Unfortunately, the high cost of operating these flights, coupled with low demand, meant that these flights were unsustainable. In 1982, the carrier withdrew from all routes except for a single daily flight to JFK.
Aside from their scheduled flights, both BA and AF saw an opportunity to increase their operations through charter flights. Charter flights became extremely popular with enthusiasts and the rich and famous alike, and by the late 1990s, BA was running around 300 charters per year. AF was not far behind.
For those that could afford it, both airlines offered chartered flights that were operated by independent tour operators. Passengers could fly around the world on a series of charter flights that were flown over several days to allow time for sightseeing. The total flight time was a little over 30 hours, half of which was operated at supersonic speeds. Package tours were also offered by some travel companies that combined a transatlantic crossing on the Concorde with a return trip on the Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner.
The airlines also offered short trips to allow passengers to experience supersonic flight and the luxury first-class treatment that all passengers on board Concorde flights received. These “Trip around the Bay” charters left from various airports in France and Britain to the Bay of Biscay. These flights were extremely popular, especially with British enthusiasts and first-time flyers, for both the supersonic experience and the luxury they afforded.
Despite the popularity of the charters, 90% of BA’s profit came from scheduled flights.
The Concorde was retired from service in 2003, with Air France operating its last scheduled flight in May, followed by British Airways in October.
Did you fly on one of Concorde’s charter flights? Let us know in the comments.