Although Concorde made up just a fraction of the British Airway’s overall fleet, it did wonders for the company’s prestige. British Airways was actually the first company to offer Concorde charter flights to the public, and seeing the profit margin, Air France was quick to follow.
Apart from the more publicised transatlantic routes there were winter-only scheduled Concorde flights by British Airways to Barbados and, around the festive season, the occasional charter flight to Rovaniemi, Finland, the so called home of Santa Claus.
The more affluent charter passenger could also fly around the world on a series of global flights, flown by both British Airways and Air France Concordes. These were organised by companies such as Goodwood Travel, American Express, Kuoni, Prado Voyages, and Intrav. These flights were flown over several days, to allow for passenger sightseeing, but with a total flight time averaging a little over 30 hours, around half of which was flown at supersonic speeds. Many world speed records were established during these epic journeys, some of these records will probably remain unbroken for many years to come.
For the less affluent, the opportunity to fly supersonically became a reality with the introduction of the “Trip around the Bay” charters, both BA and Air France flew similar flights, from various airports in France and Britain that comprised a round-trip, including supersonic travel, to the Bay of Biscay. These flights became extremely popular, particularly with British enthusiasts and first-time fliers alike, as they enjoyed both the supersonic experience, and a taste of the luxury that went with it.
By the late 1990’s, BA were running around 300 Concorde charters per year, AF were not far behind despite a slightly smaller operation. But despite the charters, 90% of British Airways profits from Concorde were from the scheduled operations.
The charters ranged from the most common, short supersonic trips returning from the departure airport, be it London Heathrow or some other UK airport, sometimes also from airports abroad, to round the world charters. British Airways flew their final RTW (Round the World) in 1999, as this was planned at the time due to the age of their Concorde fleet, the plan was to start to limit these charters since most of the income from Concorde flights came from the scheduled services.
Below is a typical example of the BA Concorde operations in 1999, showing the mix of charters (Marked by a C at the end of the flight numbers), and the scheduled flights.
TIMES – FLIGHT NUMBERS – AIRPORTS CODES – AIRCRAFT
Friday 9th April 1999
0950 – BA9038C - LHR-TFS – G-BOAB
1030 – BA001 – LHR-JFK – G-BOAC
1150 – BA9020C – LHR-FZO - G-BOAA
1345 – BA002 – JFK-LHR – G-BOAF
1410 – BA9021C - FZO-FZO – G-BOAA
1525 – BA9039C – TFS-LHR – G-BOAB
1630 – BA9022C – FZO-FZO – G-BOAA
1815 - BA9023C - FZO-LHR – G-BOAA
1845 – BA004 - JFK-LHR – G-BOAC
1900 – BA003 - LHR-JFK – G-BOAF
Sunday 5th December 1999
0840 – BA9093C – LHR-JFK – G-BOAD
1030 – BA001 – LHR-JFK – G-BOAB
1245 – BA9010C - LHR-LHR – G-BOAA
1345 – BA002 - JFK-LHR – G-BOAC
1625 – BA9094C - JFK-LHR – G-BOAD
1845 – BA004 - JFK-LHR – G-BOAB
1900 – BA003 – LHR-JFK – G-BOAG
Concorde Spirit Tours (USA)
In 1989 Donald L. Pevsner, a prominent North Carolina aviation lawyer and consumer advocate, formed Concorde Spirit Tours. This company offered high-profile charter tours using Concordes from both the Air France and British Airways fleets.
Donald first chartered Concorde between November 16th and 17th 1985. When he charted the British Airways Concorde G-BOAG, this charter flew return from Miami/MIA to Aruba/AUA. He stated that it was such a consummate thrill that he later proceeded to operate two all-supersonic Around-The-World luxury Concorde tours using British Airways Concorde G-BOAF, this took place from April 1st -23rd 1989, and again from March 14th -April 7th 1990
On 12th -13th October 1992, in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first New World landing, Concorde Spirit Tours chartered the Air France Concorde F-BTSD, and circumnavigated the world in 32 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds This flew from Lisbon, Portugal, including six refuelling stops at Santo Domingo, Acapulco, Honolulu, Guam, Bangkok and Bahrain.
Concorde Spirit Tours was a well-established company in the field of promotional Concorde flights. In 1995, the company organized a record-setting round-the-world Air France Concorde flight sponsored by Coors Light Beer.
The Eastbound record was set by the same Air France Concorde F-BTSD under charter again to Concorde Spirit Tours, on 15th -16th August 1995. This special promotional flight circumnavigated the world from New York/JFK International Airport in a time of 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds, including six refuelling stops at Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Andersen AFB (Guam), Honolulu and Acapulco. Concorde continues to hold both of these records.
When this Concorde flight touched down at exactly 7:16 p.m, on Runway 13R at JFK International Airport in New York, setting a new round-the-world speed record of 31 hours 27 minutes 49 seconds elapsed time, the charter flight actually shattered two existing records. One of these was Concorde’s own westbound time of 32 hours 49 minutes 3 seconds set Oct. 12th-13th, 1992, and the previous eastbound record of 36 hours 8 minutes 34 seconds which was set by a Gulfstream IV business jet on February 26th-27th, 1988.
This charter dubbed the Coors Light Concorde, departed JFK at 11:49 a.m. on Aug. 15th, making refueling stops in Toulouse, Dubai, Bangkok, Guam, Honolulu and Acapulco. The flight covered 25,252 statute miles in an actual flying time of 22 hours 39 minutes 21 seconds, at an average speed of 1,114 mph. The record-setting elapsed time includes ground activity totalling 8 hours 48 minutes 28 seconds at the six intermediate stops.
Manning the controls of Concorde was a team of cockpit crew members headed by veteran Air France Concorde captain Michel Dupont. The cockpit crew was relieved by a series of backup crew members travelling on board the flight for the entire journey, while the six flight attendants were rotated on and off at selected stops.
The 98 passengers on this historic flight included 48 winners of the Coors Light Memorial Day sweepstakes, a doctor, an observer from the record-sanctioning Federation Aeronautique Internationale, and representatives from the sponsor, Coors Brewing Company; the organizer, Concorde Spirit Tours, and NatCom Marketing (both of Miami).
Goodwood Travel (UK)
Goodwood Travel specialised in that all their tours were on Concorde. The company was formed in the summer of 1981 by two men who had accumulated 26 years’ experience in the travel industry between them and had specific ideas on what the newly-founded business should aim for. A third partner subsequently joined who whose career in the City of London provided the business with essential financial expertise. Within one year the first Flight of Fantasy on Concorde had been planned and following that more than 80,000 people experienced the supersonic thrill of Concorde with Goodwood Travel. The company continued operating until 2003 when Concorde was retired.
The Company offered tours to New York and combinations of Concorde, Queen Elizabeth 2 and Orient-Express were also available.
During 2003, Goodwood Travel offered a selection of holidays and Concorde packages in New York. A one night holiday in New York including accommodation at the inter-Continental, complete with a chauffeur transfer to and from JFK airport started at £3935. The stay could be extended to 3 nights for an all inclusive price of just £4175.
On the 7th March 1987, Goodwood Travel also organized a second Concorde round the world trip.
Air France regularly ran a “Concorde Experience flight”. This was a day trip chartered by Goodwood Travel, and consisted of a 90-minute flight around the Bay of Biscay. These flights proved very popular, and at around one thousand pounds including the flight to Paris and back.
The partners attribute their success to their unwavering philosophy that, for each guest, a tour with Goodwood should be completely satisfying, totally unforgettable and one of the best things they have done in their life.
The two original members of the business personally supervised the organisation, from conception to completion, of all the Flights of Fantasy, and this was something that they carried out since the very first one back in 1982.
Goodwood Travel’s Concorde World Cruise brochure cover 1990
There was a French Travel company ALS (Air Loisirs Services) in partnership with Air France who used to charter Concordes on Saturdays for a CDG-CDG Round-the-Bay (Bay of Biscay) 1hour and 40 minutes flight, these flights didn’t reach Mach 2.The flight left about 4.30 PM and returned by 6.00 PM. These charter flights lasted until May 31st 2003, the very last day of commercial Concorde flights for Air France
British Airways also offered Aurora Borealis Charter flights on Concorde.
When the Disney Epcot Center opened in 1982, a British Airways and an Air France Concorde were chartered to fly to MCO. The two Concordes met up near MCO and they both did a simultaneous approach and landed on parallel runways at the same moment.
Back in the mid to late 80’s British Airways flew a couple of Concorde charter flights to IAH (Houston). One of the IAH charters in 1986 also flew to MSY (New Orléans). It was called a like a “flight experience” flight and went out over the Gulf of Mexico and went supersonic for an hour or so and then came back to MSY
An Air France Concorde was chartered by Stockholm Arlanda airport to celebrate its 40th anniversary. It flew up and down the Baltic at M2.2.
On the 7th November 2003, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair chartered a Concorde to fly to Andrew’s Air Force Base for a meeting with President George Bush. The flight was BA9093C and it was arguably the first filly commercial flight following the grounding of Concorde as the two earlier flights that day were inaugural flights sponsored by their operators.
Queen Elizabeth the Second has also flown in a chartered Concorde. On 2 November 1977 she flew BGI-LHR on return from her Silver Jubilee tour of the Caribbean. On 12 February 1979 she started a State Visit to the Middle East by flying in Concorde from LHR to KWI. She also flew to the USA landing at Bergstrom Air Force Base Texas on 20 May 1991 in Concorde:
The Nomads travel group in Michigan USA, also chartered a Concorde on a couple of occasions. In the 80’s they chartered 2 British Airways Concordes and in the 90’s a Concorde from Air France.
A local travel agency in Wichita USA also charted the aircraft once. The flight deadheaded from JFK to ICT. It spent the night in ICT, and left the next morning subsonic to JFK. It then flew to London.
Former French President FranÃ§ois Mitterrand used Concorde regularly for his official travels, as was also the case with President Valery Giscard D’Estaing.
Even President Georges Pompidou used Concorde for the first time in December 1971 to meet President Nixon in the Azores. Concorde was not yet in Commercial service at that time and the French President flew on the prototype 001 F-WTSS.
The Pope J.P II also flew Concorde from RUN (Reunion Island) to LUS (Lusaka/Zambia) in May 1989.
TMR did a lot of chartered Concorde flights. They have done two Round the World trips chartering the Air France Concordes.
TMR had also organized Concorde trips to Marrakesh, New Year’s Eve in New York and a visit to the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro with stays in prestigious hotels
There was another UK based company Superlative Travel, which like Goodwood specialised in Concorde charters. Typically, a one way to/from the U.S. or Canada on Concorde, including 3 nights’ hotel accommodation and ‘regular’ flights in the opposite direction cost £1,800 (circa $2,700).
On one occasion, for whatever reason, Superlative were advertising outbound flights on Air Canada to YYZ, three nights accommodation and return on BA Concorde for £999 (around $1,500). During this charter flight BA cabin crew announced strike action which just happened to coincide with our planned return from YYZ on Concorde. Superlative advised their passengers that they were still ‘in negotiations’ with BA and the day before our trip was due to depart; they were finally told that the Concorde leg would fly.
It flew to YYZ on a Tuesday evening using G-BOAC, flight number B762 for a three night stay. On the Thursday evening, they headed out to Pearson to watch the arrival of the inbound flight, F-BTSC (the later ill fated aircraft in the CDG crash) arrived and stayed over night at YYZ. It transpires BA had subcontracted Air France to carry out the charter on their behalf as their charter agreements with Superlative and Goodwood were worth many £’s and they didn’t want to risk losing them to Air France
There were also UK charters organised by “David Gladwin Concorde”, a former BA pilot. They operated sub-sonic flights (under 40mins) from EMA (East Midlands Airport) to LHR (London Heathrow) and Supersonic trips (approx 3 hrs) around the Bay of Biscay.
In 1998 and 99, there were Air France Concordes chartered to bring French tourists to YYT to go whale and iceberg watching as well as visit the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon.
Doug Fox Travel ran a LHR-SEA-LHR charter for a specific group program in 1989. The aircraft operated via JFK in both directions, going supersonic over the pond and subsonic on the JFK-SEA sector. Even at M0.95, it took only about 4 hrs to fly from JFK to SEA…normally the flight is just over five and change.
The Bell Inn, Bell Lane, Aldworth Charters Concorde
On 19 September 1978 one hundred regulars from the Bell made aviation history by chartering a British Airways Concorde to take them on their annual pub outing. Concorde flew from London Heathrow over the Bay of Biscay down to Spain and back. You can see the flight details on a certificate on the wall of the pub, and the special Bell Inn ‘Concord Charter Flight’ envelope.
This all came about because the Bell Inn just happened to be the local pub of the amazing Concorde Captain Brian Calvert. Brian, who wrote about this amazing story in his wonderful book “Flying Concorde”, said that this really showed him the public feeling towards Concorde.
The Bell’s proprietor, Ian Macaulay, was principally a farmer, and looked the part. He was a straightforward eccentric, if that was possible – large, bluff and full of original ideas for entertaining his customers, So Brain passed on his request, and a few month later the answer came back ( rather to the surprise of Brian) that BA could do this. Within a week, before Ian had got around to putting up a notice in the pub, he had 170 applicants for the 100 seats available on Concorde.
So in September 1978 the Bell Inn went supersonic, around the Bay of Biscay. The two-and-a-half hour flight carried a marvellous mixture of people – surgeons and tractor drivers, landowners and gamekeepers, grandmothers and young children. Brain flew them on their flight of a life-time and stated that it was “most purely happy flight that he had ever done”
Although they tried to keep it a secret, the new got out several days beforehand. First local, then national, then the world’s press zoomed in on the Bell. The whole idea seemed to them astonishing – this was an ‘elitist’ aeroplane, only presidents. Who were these people?
(Based on the words of Brain Calvert from his book “Flying Concorde”)
David Gladwin Concorde Limited (UK)
There were also UK charters organised by “David Gladwin Concorde Limited”
David Gladwin Concorde Limited specialised exclusively in Concorde experience flights from regional airports. David was a former British Airways Pilot and his co-director Wilma Gladwin, was a former nursing officer with Pan American Airways. The company was dissolved on 23rd October 2001.
Some of their charters were as follows:
A subsonic flight from London to Birmingham – fare £199
Supersonic flight from/to Birmingham – fare £499
A subsonic flight from Birmingham to East Midlands – fare £199
A subsonic flight from Heathrow to Birmingham fare – £199
A supersonic flight from/to Birmingham – fare £499
A subsonic flight from London to Birmingham – fare £499
A subsonic flight from Birmingham to London – fare £199
The supersonic flights lasted approximately one hour and forty minutes, and the subsonic flights were forty minutes.
The fare prices above were based on a booking made before the end of March 1992, any booking made after the first April faced a price rise of 8%, and meaning that a subsonic flight would cost £ 219 and a supersonic fight £ 539.
Dave Gladwin operated flights from Manchester, Birmingham, Heathrow, East Midlands, Glasgow, Exeter and Belfast airports. Some of their supersonic charters were to New York, Cairo, Paris and Lapland.