Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions on Concorde's retirement

Why is Concorde being retired?

It is all down to cost: the Airlines are not making back the money spent on the safety modifications and other upgrades. With some other big costs coming up (tens of millions, before any life extension programme), BA need to write off 84M now, rather than 150M in 3 or 4 years. Air France will write off a large sum of money too.

Airbus, the supporting Manufacturer, will also not support the aircraft after October 2003.

With the premium first class market as it is post 9/11, there is not even any hope of paying back the modification cost to start with, leave alone the further investment required to keep the aircraft in the air. Day-to-day the aircraft still breaks even, but it could no longer pay back any big expenditure items, so its days were numbered. It is a sad time, but the inevitable really only came forward 3  years.

We should celebrate what Concorde was and still is, the only profit making Supersonic Passenger Jet ever to go into service. The Americans could not even do it - that's how far ahead of its time it was...and still is!

How many Concordes are still flying?

20 Concordes were built and 14 entered airline service. There were 2 prototypes, 2 pre-production models and 2 "first off the line" production models. Of these, five are on show in museums and one has been stripped for spare parts.

British Airways have 7 Concordes and Air France now have 5. Of the other two production aircraft which were owned by Air France, one was withdrawn from service and used for spare parts from 1982 onward, and the other crashed in 2000.

British Airways currently have 5 operational Concordes based out of London's Heathrow Airport and Air France are presently flying 4 aircraft out of Paris Charles De Gaulle. The remaining 3 aircraft were not modified after the accident and will now not return to flight status with the imminent retirement of Concorde.

For full details see the Fleet section

Why is British Airways not grounding Concorde immediately?

British Airways are proud to have flown Concorde and want her to retire in dignity and in style. The special events that are planned between now and retirement will celebrate the aircraft and it is fitting that we do so. The airline also wants to give all those people who still wish to fly Concorde that once-in-a-lifetime experience. Some terrific offers will be available to enable that to happen while also earning valuable revenue for the company. In addition, BA will want to work with and support its staff, suppliers and other partners rather than just giving them no warning whatsoever.

Was it a mistake to re-launch after the accident?

No. At the time of re-launch, there was no way of knowing that the downturn in business and premium travel would take effect to the extent it has. Indeed, for a period after the re-launch, services were profitable. Modification work and testing programmes were virtually complete and paid for by the time of the tragic September 11 terrorist attacks, which also had a major negative impact on business travel.

Why can’t Concorde continue to fly on after October 2003?

Airbus is adamant that it will not support Concorde’s continuing operation beyond this October. Airbus’s chief executive Noel Forgeard is on the record as stating no other airline can operate Concorde without their support. Airbus is the key supplier in the Concorde operation. It’s a world-class company that not only built Concorde, it specifies the maintenance regime and supplies the parts which make it fly.

Why are Air France stopping 5 months before British Airways?

Air France have had very bad loads on Concorde an it is loosing a lot of money for them on a day by day basis. An incident reported in Fight International where an aircraft flying to New York lost 16 Tones of fuel from an engine fault, and had to divert to Halifax (Nova Scotia), was also part of their decision to bring forward their retirement.

How much profit did Concorde make for British Airways?

On average Concorde made and operating profit of £30-50 Million a year for British Airways in the boom years where many passengers were travelling first class. British Airways reportedly received £1.75 Billion in revenue for Concorde services against an operating cost of around £1 Billion. Air France made a much smaller profit.

Did the British Government give Concorde to British Airways for one pound UK sterling?

Claims in the Meida that BA paid £1.00 for the Concorde fleet or that it was given in trust are wrong.
British Airways predecessors (BOAC) paid the manufacturers more than £155 million for the Concorde fleet and over the following 27 years of operation British Airways has invested more than £1 billion on the aircraft. The Concorde book value was written down to nil in 1979, by the then labour governmanet, and subsequent capital investments in the Concorde programme to 1983 were also written off to nil.

In March 1984 the government ended its involvement with Concorde when British Airways assumed full responsibility for Concorde support costs. The British Airways Board paid £16.5 million to acquire the government’s stock of spare parts and was released from the profit share scheme under which the government collected 80 percent of Concorde operating surpluses. Within this agreement BA aquired the 2 Concordes that had been placed at its disposal in 1980 for abook value of £1 withing the £16.5M sum.

Does Concorde belong to the public, since it was bought when British Airways was a public corporation?

BA shareholders purchased British Airways from the government for over £900 million, this included the Airlines entire fleet of subsonic aircraft and its seven Concordes. British Airways is the owner and operator of the UK Concorde fleet.

The proceeds raised from privatisation, in excess of £900 million, more than covered the government’s investment in British Airways, including the Concorde fleet.

Could the full fleet still be flying in 20 to 25 years?

Airbus specifies the maintenance regime and supplies spare parts which make Concorde fly. Airbus has made it clear that it will not support Concorde operations, by any airline, beyond October 2003.
Noel Forgeard, Airbus chief executive is quoted recently in the Financial Times : "The costs of operating Concorde, and in particular maintenance and support, have become such that operations are unrealistic for any operator."

Did Concorde cost the British public billions of pounds to develop?

We do not know what it cost the governments - the development of Concorde was a joint decision taken by the French and British governments in the early 1960s.

Does Airbus have an obligation to maintain the fleet if another airline wants to take the plane over under the Anglo-French Agreement between Britain and France signed in 1962?

There is no such clause in the 1962 treaty between the French and British governments. This was puerly for the development and production of the aircraft, although interestingly it did include spares

Did British Airways offer to sell a redundant Concorde to a music industry figure?

The airline has not offered to sell Concorde to anyone, the fleet will be retired to Museums

Will Concorde ever come out of retirement - e.g. for a Coronation flypast or airshows?

As far as is understood it would be too costly to maintain for occasional use and needs the revenues of the scheduled services to sustain it operationally. The chairman of British Airways did however, not rule it out.

How many customers have travelled on Concorde?

More than 2.5 million since it started commercial passenger services in 1976.

How much profit did Concorde make for British Airways?

On average Concorde made and operating profit of £30-50 Million a year for British Airways in the boom years where many passengers were travelling first class. British Airways reportedly received £1.75 Billion in revenue for Concorde services against an operating cost of around £1 Billion. Air France made a much smaller profit.

How many flights have the British Airways Concordes made since 1976?

Just under 50,000.

How old is Concorde?

34 years old since its first ever test flights out of Toulouse and Filton in 1969, 27 years since the first commercial flight.


parts of this text are courtesy of British Airways