The final Champagne-sipping trip signaled the end of Mach 1 jet-setting. But other companies want to resurrect a more eco-friendly supersonic experience.
With the promise of supersonic business jets about five years away, yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of the last Concorde flight. The joint project between Britain and France, which made its first flight on May 24, 1976, from London Heathrow to Dulles International Airport, launched a nearly 30-year era of jet-setting. With prices hovering around $10,000 for a round-trip ticket ($20,000 in today's dollars) the Concorde was equated with the wealthy and famous. Proponents pointed to ravel time between Europe and North America being cut in half.
In 1996, a British Airways Concorde crossed from New York to London in about two hours and 52 minutes—still the fastest trans-Atlantic crossing by a passenger plane. At its height, the Concorde hosted jet-setters such as Paul McCartney and Elizabeth Taylor, according to NPR.com. During the famous Live Aid concert in 1985, Phil Collins performed in London, jumped on the Concorde, and then played in Philadelphia on the same day. "I was in England this afternoon," Collins said to the crowd as he took his seat behind the piano. "Funny old world, isn't it?"
Though many other airlines placed orders for the aircraft, in the end only Air France and British Airways—operating seven aircraft each—flew the Concorde. JFK became the most regular route from London and Paris, but London to Bahrain, London to Dulles, and London to Miami via Washington also became common. Dallas also had service from Washington, but it was subsonic. London to Barbados, on Saturdays, was perhaps it most unusual route.
But the Concorde always had critics. It consumed four times more jet fuel than a Boeing 747, which could carry 500 passengers compared to the Concorde's 100. The supersonic jet's round-trip price was about $10,000 in the 1990s, or about twice that in today's dollars. The sonic boom garnered global criticism, with Congress and many other governments banning overland supersonic travel.