British Airways - Singapore Airlines joint services

BA Picture of first flight to Singapore
Adrian Meredith / British Airways

Air Nikon Picture of Alpha Delta in 1978, when it wasn't even flying the Singapore route!

Picture - Air Nikon

Flight Sim version of the Singapore Concorde

Since Air France and British Airways had been denied landing authorizations at John F. Kennedy airport by the Port Authority of New York both airlines were searching for routes to operate their Concordes on. An important and lucrative market to BA, besides North America, was Asia and its former colonies, such as Singapore (SIN), Hong Kong (HKG) and the 'Kangaroo Routes' to Australia - more specifically Sydney (SYD) - where 747-200s making the long journey had to make two stop-overs.

During the route proving flights, before entry into service, a great deal of flight time was spend on trips to the Far East and Australian in preparation for Concordes eventual use on these routes.

The first step of a Concorde route to South-East Asia and Australia was the inaugural BA Concorde flight between London - Heathrow (LHR) and Bahrain (BAH) on 21 January 1976 by G-BOAA

Unfortunately, the route was mainly overland, forcing the Concorde to fly at subsonic speeds on large portions of the LHR-BAH flight. But the aircraft still managed to save around two and a half hours over the regular flights with a M.95 cruise speed during these segments. The supersonic operations over the Saudi desert had to be dropped after some complaints from nomads whose camels reportedly stopped breeding because of the supersonic boom!

The choice of Bahrain as stop-over for the Concorde operations was due to the ideal location en route to South-East Asia. Furthermore the engines had an improved performance at 55-60,000ft, where the air is colder around the tropics. The better conditions could add up to 200 more miles range to the aircraft with 75 passengers on board

On 26 October 1977, BA and Singapore Airlines announced an agreement for a thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Singapore via Bahrain. On 09 December 1977, BA and Singapore Airlines started a service between LHR and Singapore - Paya Lebar via Bahrain, bringing the travel time to only 9 hours.

This service basically was a very early form of code share/alliance between both airlines. The technical crew and operations were supplied by British Airways while the flight attendants were 50/50 between the two.

BA had battled hard with the Indian government to gain the approval to fly supersonic over the country, which the Concorde was forced to avoid, adding more flight time and increasing the fuel consumption. The Indian government had demanded that in exchange Air India (AI) would get more slots and 5th freedom rights at LHR.

The Concorde assigned to the Singapore route was G-BOAD (c/n 210), The airplane was easily identified, as it had been repainted with the Singapore Airlines' livery on its left side, while BA's was kept on the right side.

The Singapore - Bahrain leg against the headwinds was sometimes payload-restricted because of the temperature at Paya Lebar Airport, even though the Concorde could accelerate straight after its take-off to M2.02.

The service was withdrawn on 13 December 1977 after only 3 return flights, because of complaints from the Malaysian government about the supersonic boom over the Straits of Malacca, on the West coast of Malaysia. But in the summer of the same year, Malaysia Airlines plans of further capacity increase on the London route were denied in order to protect BA and Cathy Pacific, causing a clash between the Malaysian and British governments. In addition to these difficult relations, Singapore Airlines was a tough Malaysian competitor.

Even though the service was not running the aircraft kept the Singapore Airlines livery during this time, giving them a free adverts as the aircraft was utilised on other routes, including flights to the USA

On 24 January 1979 the service was resumed with new routings avoiding Malaysia and a recommended take-off from runway 02 at SIN to avoid flying over the Malaysian state of Johore.

The service was ended for good on 01 November 1980, mainly because of falling traffic on the route, which was reportedly losing around 2 millions a year. The loads had been very low, especially on westbound flights. The operations, especially at subsonic speeds, were extremely expensive, demanding load factors that could not be achieved.

Based on an article by Alain Mengus at Air Transport Business