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Concorde - The end of an era

London April 10, 2003: British Airways announced today the retirement of its Concorde fleet of seven aircraft with effect from the end of October 2003.

The airline said that its decision had been made for commercial reasons with passenger revenue falling steadily against a backdrop of rising maintenance costs for the aircraft.

Detailed discussions over an extended period with Airbus, the aircraft’s manufacturer, confirmed the need for an enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years, the carrier added.

British Airways has decided that such an investment cannot be justified in the face of falling revenue caused by a global downturn in demand for all forms of premium travel in the airline industry.

The downturn has had a negative impact on Concorde bookings and is set to continue for the foreseeable future, according to the airline.

Rod Eddington, British Airways’ chief executive, said: "Concorde has served us well and we are extremely proud to have flown this marvellous and unique aircraft for the past 27 years.

"This is the end of a fantastic era in world aviation but bringing forward Concorde’s retirement is a prudent business decision at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions right across the airline."

Noel Forgeard, president and chief executive officer of Airbus, said: "Airbus’ predecessors Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation created Concorde some 40 years ago and we are proud of this remarkable achievement.

"But its maintenance regime is increasing fast with age. Thus, as an aircraft manufacturer, we understand completely and respect the decision of British Airways, especially in the present economic climate.

"It goes without saying that until the completion of the very last flight, we will continue to support the airline so that the highest standards of maintenance and safety are entirely fulfilled."

Mr Eddington added that today's announcement is not a direct result of war in Iraq.

He said: "While the threat of war and resulting military conflict have had a further impact on premium travel demand, the decision to retire Concorde has been based on a long-term revenue and cost trend rather than recent events.

"I would like to place publicly on record my sincere thanks and appreciation to all our staff, past and present, who have made the Concorde story one of the most compelling in the history of commercial flight.

"Our pride in the aircraft will never wane and I am determined that we make its final six months in the sky a time for celebration."

Retiring Concorde will result in £84m write-off costs for the year ended March 2003.

The airline is already planning to make its Concordes available for the public to view in museums.

To honour the past 30 years of supersonic travel, British Airways will announce shortly a programme of special events and promotions for air travellers.

For the next few months, British Airways will continue to operate its Concorde services between London Heathrow and New York JFK and seasonal services to Barbados.

Notes to Editors:

· To mark today’s announcement, British Airways is offering a range of special Concorde fares. The offers, on sale from today in the UK until April 17 for travel until the end of August, are:
£1,999 for one way Concorde, one way World Traveller
£2,199 for one way Concorde, one way World Traveller Plus
£2,999 for one way Concorde, one way Club World
£3,499 for one way Concorde, one way First
£3,999 Concorde return

· Passengers can book by calling 0845 77 333 77 or visiting your local travel agent. Fares are subject to a Saturday night stay restriction and cannot be changed or refunded.

· Concorde is the world’s only supersonic passenger aircraft, cruising around 1,350 miles per hour, and at an altitude of up to 60,000 feet (more than 11 miles high).

· Concorde travels at twice the speed of sound and can cross the Atlantic in just over three hours.

· More than 2.5 million passengers have flown supersonically on British Airways’ Concordes since the aircraft entered commercial service in 1976.

· Concorde wowed the London crowds in June 2002 as it spearheaded the Red Arrows in a special flypast for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

April 10, 2003