The Concorde was a joint Franco-British supersonic passenger jet that flew at impressively high speeds thanks to its sleek design and powerful engine.

Due to its unmatched speed, which greatly reduced travel times, the plane had extremely high ticket prices, which most passengers were unwilling to pay after its novelty wore off.

In the year 2000, an Air France Concorde crashed, killing all people on board and greatly reduced public trust in the plane.

The 9/11 attacks a year later further decreased public confidence in air travel.

As a result of rising costs, decreasing demand, and a lack of public trust, the Concorde was finally discontinued in the year 2003. 

What Happened to Concorde? (A Timeline)

  • 1973: Concorde makes their first transatlantic crossing
  • 1976: The Concorde is used for new routes, including from London to Bahrain, and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro. 
  • 1977: The Concorde is used for new routes, but its noise and operating expenses limited its service, leaving New York City as its only regular destination. 
  • 2000: A Concorde on a Paris to New York City flight suffers engine failure, engulfs in flames, and crashes into a hotel, killing all on board. 
  • 2003: Air France and British Airways both cease Concorde operations. 

Why Did Concorde Stop Flying?

These are the 3 main reasons why the Concorde stopped flying:

1. Few Routes & Operational Costs

Both Air France and British Airways experienced high operational costs due to the plane’s design and fuel costs/needs.

2. Reduced Demand

People lost interest in Concorde after its initial introduction due to its high ticket prices and few routes due to noise complaints from cities whenever Concorde flew overhead.

3. Air France Flight 4590 Crash

Air France Flight 4590 crashed, killing the 109 people on board and another 4 people on the ground.

As a result, people lost confidence in the plane.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the following year further deteriorated public trust in air travel. 

Was Concorde Considered a Failure?

Whether Concorde is considered a failure depends on how you evaluate success or failure.

Concorde was a failure in terms of longevity, with the plane ultimately taken out of service because of its high costs and low demand.

In that sense, it was a failure. 

From a revenue perspective, it’s more complicated.

The British and French governments never recovered their investments in Concorde, but the airlines made a profit.

British Airways earned between $37-61 million per annum at Concorde’s peak; Air France earned slightly less. 

How Fast Did Concorde Fly?

The Concorde’s maximum speed was 1,354 mph (2,179 km/h or 1,77kn).

In contrast, the Boeing 747 has a speed of 614 mph (988km/h or 545 kn), and the Airbus A380 has a speed of 903 km/h  (561 mph or 488 kn).

Related: How Fast Do Planes Fly?

How Did Concorde Fly So Fast?

The Concorde flew so fast because of its aerodynamic design.

The plane had a streamlined shape from its body to its wings, reducing drag.

The plane also cruised at an altitude of 60,000 feet, where air resistance is lower. As a result, the plane experienced even less drag. 

The Concorde also had an impressive engine with afterburners fitted with turbofans.

The same technology is used for fighter jets, and it gave the Concorde 50% greater thrust than other commercial airliners. 

Related: How High Do Planes Fly?

Routes Concorde Flew

The Concorde flew routes in these three regions. 

  • 1. British Airways Concorde routes in the Middle East and North America

The Concorde’s first route was from London to Bahrain.

British Airways subsequently flew routes to the United States, mostly to New York City and Dallas.

Lastly, British Airways also flew the Concorde to Barbados. 

  • 2. Flying to Asia with Singapore Airlines

British Airways had a joint service to Singapore with Singapore Airlines that had a stop in Bahrain. 

  • 3. Air France’s Concorde routes

Air France’s first Concorde route was from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.

They also launched a route to New York City. 

The Concorde was also flown on multiple routes in South America, including from Paris to Caracas and Mexico City via Washington. 

Related: 10 Longest Non-Stop Flights

Concorde Was Expensive

The price of a Concorde ticket increased the longer the aircraft was in service.

As the year 2000 approached, the average round-trip Concorde ticket was $7,000, which would be $12,000 today.

How Many Crashes Were Concordes Involved In?

The Concorde only had one fatal crash in its 31 years of operation.

Air France Flight 4590 crashed in the year 2000, killing all 109 people on board and four on the ground.

20 Concordes Were Built

Twenty Concorde aircraft were built, including six for development and 14 for commercial service.

All Concordes built have been preserved except for the Concorde destroyed in the Air France Flight 4590 crash, and one that was scrapped in 1994.

Will Concorde Ever Fly Again?

It’s highly unlikely that Concorde will fly again.

BAC-Aerospatiale, now Airbus, no longer supports these planes, and few people with experience working with the aircraft still work in the industry.

There May Be Supersonic Passenger Jets in the Future

It’s likely that there will be supersonic passenger jets in the future, though not for another 10 to 20 years.

Several aircraft manufacturers have proposed supersonic passenger plane designs.

Most of these planes remain in the pre-flight testing or prototype phase.

In conclusion:

  • The Concorde stopped flying because of its high costs, declining profitability, and loss of confidence due to a fatal crash in the year 2000.
  • The Concorde was profitable for British Airways and Air France, but experienced declining demand over time.
  • The primary issue with the Concorde was its high maintenance costs, caused by its design and fuel needs.
  • The Concorde flew multiple routes, mostly to North America and Singapore.
  • After the Concorde was discontinued, all models were sent to museums, and the plane will never fly again.
  • That being said, supersonic jet travel will likely revived in another 10 to 20 years.

Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.

Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.

Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.