Concorde takes early retirement

British Airways announced today the retirement of its Concorde fleet of seven aircraft with effect from the end of October 2003.

The airline said that its decision had been made for commercial reasons with passenger revenue falling steadily against a backdrop of rising maintenance costs for the aircraft.

Discussions over an extended period with Airbus, the aircraft’s manufacturer, confirmed the need for an enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years, the carrier added.

British Airways has decided that such an investment cannot be justified in the face of falling revenue caused by a global downturn in demand for all forms of premium travel in the airline industry.

The downturn has had a negative impact on Concorde bookings and is set to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the airline.

Rod Eddington, British Airways’ chief executive, said: ‘Concorde has served us well and we are extremely proud to have flown this marvellous and unique aircraft for the past 27 years.

‘This is the end of a fantastic era in world aviation but bringing forward Concorde’s retirement is a prudent business decision at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions right across the airline.’

Noel Forgeard, president and chief executive officer of Airbus, said: ‘Airbus’ predecessors Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation created Concorde some 40 years ago and we are proud of this remarkable achievement.

‘But its maintenance regime is increasing fast with age. Thus, as an aircraft manufacturer, we understand completely and respect the decision of British Airways, especially in the present economic climate.

‘It goes without saying that until the completion of the very last flight, we will continue to support the airline so that the highest standards of maintenance and safety are entirely fulfilled.’

Mr Eddington added that today’s announcement is not a direct result of war in Iraq.

He said: ‘While the threat of war and resulting military conflict have had a further impact on premium travel demand, the decision to retire Concorde has been based on a long-term revenue and cost trend rather than recent events.

Retiring Concorde will result in £84m write-off costs for the year ended March 2003.

For the next few months, British Airways will continue to operate its Concorde services between London Heathrow and New York JFK and seasonal services to Barbados.