Air France says adieu to Concorde

Following steps by British Airways to retire Concorde, Air France will discontinue Concorde operations after 31 October 2003. All Concorde flights will be suspended as from 31 May 2003.

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By  Justin Etheridge Published  April 13, 2003

Following steps by British Airways to retire Concorde permanently, Air France has confirmed its decision to discontinue all Concorde operations after 31 October 2003. However, Air France has also decided to suspend Concorde flights as from 31 May 2003.

“Right from the beginning, both British Airways and Air France have kept up constant exchanges on Concorde operations,” said Jean-Cyril Spinetta, Air France Chariman.

“The reasons behind this are simple. An aircraft, which is operated by only two airlines, and in a limited number at that, has naturally led to technical collaboration and constant communication on operations between the two airlines.”

“This close cooperation, which has never been brought into question, was further reinforced by the work required to get Concorde back in the air on 7 November 2001,” continued Spinetta.

“Services were simultaneously resumed between London-New York for British Airways and between Paris-New York for Air France. Since that date, technical exchanges between Air France, EADS, the manufacturer, and British Airways have been ongoing. Very rapidly we came to a joint conclusion. Maintenance costs for the aircraft have spiralled.”

Aircraft unit costs per available seat kilometer before flights were suspended were € 0.218. But these have now increased to €0.33 per available seat kilometer since flights were resumed on 7 November, a rise of just over 50%, with maintenance costs accounting for over half.

“These maintenance costs have risen by 72%,” explained Spinetta. “If we compare them with flight hours, taking into account that the aircraft flies less and special flights have been suspended, then we are forced to note that maintenance costs per flight hour have doubled.”

“These are the reasons behind our decision: on the one hand, from an economic point of view, a structurally loss-making aircraft and on the other hand, an outlook given by the manufacturer, which will be increasingly demanding just to maintain equivalent safety levels.”

Spinetta’s second announcement confirmed the decision to suspend all flights as of 31 May 2003: “Flights were resumed against a difficult economic backdrop, in the wake of the September 11th tragedy and just as the United States were experiencing an economic downturn, closely followed by Europe.”

“Air France, which has just recently announced a cost-cutting programme for the entire company, has no choice but to take the difficult decision to suspend Concorde services before 31 October 2003, if it is to shoulder its economic responsibilities.”

Why 31 May 2003? “Because we felt we had to have sufficient time to organize the aircraft's retirement," said Spinetta. "Primarily for those in Air France, the maintenance staff, the cabin crews and the flight deck crews who are responsible for the aircraft's operations."

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