Will the Concorde's Comeback Take Off?

Both airlines had taken to leasing out Concordes for charter flights — including the group aboard the plane that crashed last year — at more than $40,000 per hour in use, although Lampl says British Airways will not resume charter flights until its regular trans-Atlantic schedule has been restored.

So in an attempt to make sure that passengers return, British Airways has also spent $40 million refurbishing the interiors of their Concorde jets, which featured relatively spartan decoration despite their luxury cachet.

British Airways also hired British designed Terence Conran, known for founding the Habitat chain of furnishing stores, to redesign the Concorde flight lounge at New York's John F. Kennedy airport, and hopes their efforts will add to the plane's appeal.

Fast Plane, Slow Economy

It remains to be seen, though, if safety improvements and interior decorating will be enough to ensure that the business leaders and high-end jet-setters who have comprised the Concorde's core clientele will want to keep flying, especially in the midst of a worldwide economic dip.

The global economy has slumped considerably since the Air France crash, and most airlines have had a difficult year, as business travel has dropped sharply. But in theory, the demand for luxury goods is relatively unaffected by economic slowdowns. Will that apply to Concorde tickets as well?

"Business class has been affected by the economy," admits the Air France official. "But travel in first class hasn't fallen off, because they [high-end passengers] are always going to buy first class."

The official acknowledges that some business executives began using the Concorde during the economic boom of the late 1990s, but concludes, "They're not our consistent clients, like the World Bank or fashion designers. Those people are always going to be there."

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