Concorde was an iconic aircraft that made the dream of supersonic transatlantic travel a reality for the small percentage of passengers who could afford it. The Anglo-French jetliner is best known for being flown by, rather appropriately, British Airways and Air France. But did you know that two other airlines also briefly operated Concorde on short-term leases? One of these was Singapore Airlines.
Supersonic journeys to the Far East
Concorde began flying commercially in January 1976, with its first route with Air France being from Paris CDG to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (via Dakar, Senegal). Meanwhile, British Airways launched the jet on services between London Heathrow and Bahrain. Later that year, the carriers began their flagship supersonic transatlantic flights to Washington Dulles, with New York JFK following in 1977.
1977 also saw British Airways expand its Concorde services eastwards, when it partnered with Singapore Airlines. This venture saw Singapore Airlines fly a British Airways Concorde from Heathrow to its homeland as an extension of the UK flag carrier’s existing route from London to Bahrain International Airport (BAH).
Having stopped in Bahrain, the iconic supersonic airliner would continue to the Far East, where its destination was Singapore International Airport. Singapore’s present Changi Airport (SIN) replaced Singapore International in 1981. It was at this point that the older facility subsequently became known as Paya Lebar Air Base.
Why did the program not last?
As part of this scheme, British Airways allowed Singapore Airlines to paint the left-hand side of the aircraft involved, G-BOAD, in its own livery. Meanwhile, the right-hand side retained its existing British Airways colors, in an unlikely hybrid combination. This was among the most unique liveries that Concorde saw during its 27 years of commercial service, along with Air France’s Pepsi scheme.
Photo: Getty Images
Unfortunately, this curiously asymmetrical paint scheme it wasn’t a livery that could be seen for very long. Indeed, according to the New York Times, Singapore Airlines was forced to suspend its supersonic London-bound services after just three rotations due to noise complaints made by the Malaysian government.
The carrier was allowed to restart the program in 1979, having found a route that bypassed Malaysian airspace. However, just a year later, it ran into further trouble with another country en route, namely India. A dispute led to India banning the aircraft from supersonic flight in its airspace, which left the route unviable.
This forced its closure later in 1980, and reporting at the time by the Montreal Gazette noted that the last of these services would take place on November 1st of that year. As such, it has now been exactly 42 years since the last flight. Concorde remained active for another two decades before halting operations due to a crash in Paris. They did resume, but its story ultimately came to an end in 2003.
Photo: Getty Images
Braniff: Concorde’s other non-European operator
Much like Singapore Airlines, Braniff also leased Concorde on a short-term basis in its early years. The airline would operate the type on subsonic flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Washington Dulles. The aircraft would then continue to London or Paris as the existing supersonic British Airways or Air France flight.
In total, Braniff leased 11 Concordes over an 18-month spell, which spanned from December 1978 to May 1980. Five of these were from Air France, with the other six being from British Airways. However, low load factors of 50% or less on the Dallas-Washington legs rendered their operation economically unviable. This ultimately led to their suspension after just a year and a half, and the jets returned to Europe.
What do you make of Singapore Airlines’ brief involvement with Concorde? Did you ever fly on one of its supersonic flights via Bahrain? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
Sources: Montreal Gazette, New York Times
- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Airline Type:
- Full Service Carrier
- Singapore Changi Airport
- Year Founded:
- Star Alliance
- Goh Choon Phong