Travel buyers' cost cutting speeded Concorde demise

30 October 2003
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30 October 2003 | Liam O'Brien

Travel buyers seeking greater cost savings helped kill off Concorde, which had its last scheduled flight earlier this month.

British Airways said restrictive corporate travel programmes meant the supersonic aircraft was no longer attracting enough passengers paying up to £6,000 for a transatlantic crossing.

Jonathan Counsell, head of strategy and performance at BA, said the airline had to fill almost 60 per cent of each Concorde flight to break even. "But the 50 or so major companies that used Concorde were cutting back on their travel costs," he said.

British Airways' purchasing department played a key role in getting Concorde airworthy again after the aircraft was grounded following a fatal Air France crash outside Paris in July 2000.

But the predicted ticket demand for the aircraft failed to materialise after flights restarted in November 2001.

Philip Carlisle, chief executive of the Guild of Business Travel Agents, said travel buyers had found alternatives that were adequate and cheaper.

Tom Stone, chairman of the Institute of Travel Management, said Concorde was a victim of changes in the market. "Our members tell us that even organisations that used first-class and business class on an everyday basis are downgrading."

Airbus Industrie, the aeroplane's spare parts supplier, had told BA and Air France that costs would escalate in the first decade of this century.

Bryan Mitchell, BA's procurement manager for Concorde, said the aircraft was too costly to keep in the air. "We were facing increasing supply chain costs, which complicated the problem."


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