Concorde heads for permanent landing
By Marilyn Adams, Byron Acohido, Chris Woodyard and Ellen Hale,
For 27 years, the Concorde represented all that the Jet Age seemed
Looking more like a space shuttle than a jetliner, it rocketed
celebrities and tycoons across the Atlantic with supersonic speed
and style. It lifted air travel to high art, made New York and Paris
almost neighbors, and compressed time and space in a way that suggested
anything was possible. Concorde prototypes flew the same year the
United States reached the moon.
This year, a century after the Wright Brothers' first flight, British
Airways and Air France will retire their Concordes because of falling
demand and rising costs. The jets will be turned over to museums.
Thursday's announcement comes three years after a catastrophic
Concorde crash in Paris killed all aboard. The decision to park
the planes seems tied to today's painful business realities: Trans-Atlantic
travel is off 25% from a year ago. The Iraq war has ratcheted up
fuel prices. The 100-seat Concorde uses as much fuel as a Boeing
747 jumbo jet that has four times the passenger capacity. The Concorde
requires three specially trained pilots; most modern wide-body jets,
Meanwhile, advances in other technologies have outdistanced aerospace
innovation. The seemingly endless abilities of the Internet have
made doing trans-Atlantic business in person less critical. Companies,
even the rich, find it hard to justify spending more than $6,000
for a 3 1/2-hour Concorde flight when a 6- or 7-hour flight can
be bought for as little as $200 round trip in coach, and even business
class from New York to London is $3,800.
Economically, airlines can't justify the Concorde anymore. This
sleek symbol of the future has become an anachronism in an era when
saving money seems more important than saving time.
"It's a sad day in many ways," British Airways CEO Rod
Eddington told the BBC. "Concorde changed the nature of commercial
However, "if you're laying people off and telling people in
your business to tighten your belt, senior executives find it inconsistent
to go to the airport and get on a Concorde rather than subsonic
British Airways is offering a sale to try to fill the plane's remaining
flights. Round-tripfares range from $2,999 to $5,499, which includes
one way on the Concorde and one way on a conventional jet.
The Concorde also appeared in many movies.
"I think it's rather sad" that the Concorde's days are
near an end, said actor Roger Moore. As James Bond, Moore flies
from Paris to Rio de Janeiro on a Concorde in the 1979 film Moonraker.
Moore says he flew the Concorde 20 or 30 times, and what he'll miss
most is the speed, but adds, "The caviar was always a little
(USA Today 10/04/2003)
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