Civil Aviation

‘It was not a true luxury experience:’ Air Traffic Controller describes what it was really like flying on the Concorde Supersonic Airliner

Flying on the Concorde supersonic airliner was different, but not a true luxury experience.

The Aérospatiale/BAC Concorde was a British-French supersonic passenger jet airliner. It had maximum speed of Mach 2.04 (1,354 mph or 2,180 km/h at cruise altitude, over twice the speed of sound), with seating for 92 to 128 passengers. The aircraft entered service in 1976 and continued flying for the next 27 years.

Concorde, which was jointly developed and manufactured by Aérospatiale and the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) under an Anglo-French treaty, was built in twenty samples including six prototypes and development aircraft.

Air France (AF) and British Airways (BA) were the only airlines to purchase and fly Concorde.

The supersonic airliner flew regular transatlantic flights from London’s Heathrow Airport and Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport and Grantley Adams International Airport in Barbados; it flew these routes in less than half the time of other airliners.

Was the experience of flying aboard the Concorde much different from a regular commercial plane?

‘It was different, but not a true luxury experience,’ a Pilot (ATP) & Air Traffic Controller (FAA Terminal ATC-12) nicknamed Hachi Ko, explains on Quora.

British Airways Concorde cabin interior.

‘The interior of the airplane could best be described as premium economy, and even then, the seats were quite narrow. Concorde used 2×2 seating, due to its very narrow fuselage.

‘The performance of the aircraft was its biggest perk. If you were willing to take 2 – 3 more hours to cross the Atlantic, you could pay less for more luxurious experience on one of British Airways’ 747s.

‘BA did go out of their way to make it as luxurious as they could. Onboard meals and dedicated airport lounges were top-notch.

‘Acceleration on the runway was the most noticeable performance difference. Actually going Mach 1, you had to look at the display at the front of the cabin. Otherwise, exceeding the speed of sound is unnoticeable.’

The Concorde was eventually retired in 2003 after the crash of Air France Flight 4590 on Jul. 25, 2000, in which all passengers and crew were killed. The general downturn in the commercial aviation industry after the September 11 attacks in 2001, and the ceasing of maintenance support for Concorde by Airbus (the successor company of both Aérospatiale and BAC), also contributed.

Photo credit: Martin J.Galloway Dotonegroup via Wikipedia and Crown Copyright

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Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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  • Speed and top of the line service was the luxury experience. It's the difference between traveling in a relatively slow heavily armoured Mercedes Benz SEL and a fast unarmored AMG Mercedes Benz SEC.

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