If whatever reason the Concorde had hung around, would it have fit in today’s world? What sort of challenges would airlines face and could we see supersonic travel on the horizon once more?
Why did the Concorde stop operating?
Concorde was withdrawn from service due to a number of factors.
- The aircraft produced a sonic boom that was seen as an environmental issue – and thus banned from flying at supersonic speed over land in several major countries.
- High fuel consumption – during the oil crisis in the 1970s, the Concorde fell victim to the high price of airline fuel and thus was no longer economical to operate.
- High ticket prices only allowed a small group of people to travel, limiting the market.
- More air pollution than an entire Boeing 747 (roughly 2.5 times more).
- One Concorde crashed in 2000, resulting in expensive upgrades and a reputation of being unsafe.
- Airbus withdrew maintenance support for the aircraft.
If none of these problems had come to pass (perhaps one or two), then the Concorde might have survived and still been in operation today. The plane ran for 29 years and would be considered very old. We will assume that no other versions were built (Concorde neo aircraft) and that the originals are still in the sky today.
Who would be operating the aircraft?
We would expect the aircraft to only be in the hands of flag carriers that can support luxury customers and afford the fuel spend, such as British Airways and Air France. Although, we would also suggest that Middle-Eastern carriers would have a few, even if more for vanity than practical purpose.
Qantas may have completed its order for the Concorde and used it to fly over the Pacific or north to Singapore over the empty Australian outback. Singapore may have also used the Concorde, although it lacked the range to operate from the hub to US destinations. Lastly, Japan would have had a Concorde (and has been a big supporter of modern projects) and may have used it to fly to Hawaii.
We would not expect any US airlines to have picked up the aircraft, in the same way they never went for the Airbus A380.
Where else would it be flying?
The transatlantic route between New York and London would still have the Concorde as it has a healthy business market and it flies over an empty ocean, meaning no issues with the sonic boom.
The Middle Eastern carriers may have used the Concorde to operate flights over the ocean to India, and over the Mediterranean ocean to Europe (slowing down over France). Although the congestion of Europe’s skies would have made such a route slower than the Concorde would have suggested.
The Concorde would only fly from major hubs, as its cost would prohibit it from flying to smaller airports.
Will we see supersonic travel return?
A big question from this thought experiment is whether or not we will see supersonic travel return. While there is certainly an appeal for passengers to reach their destination faster than the current ‘slower-than-sound’ aircraft, the sheer costs and environmental concerns have always forbidden the restart of the project.
Current ideas for supersonic aircraft revolve around building a private business jet for ocean travel, allowing billionaires to have lunch in Europe and dinner in the United States. Apart from that market where cost is no object, supersonic travel is as good as done.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.