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July 15, 2010

BA's new business service evokes Concorde luxury, if not speed

By Robert Klara on Thu Jul 15 2010


Come September, the venerable British Airways will inaugurate a new, all-business service from New York to London City Airport. (That's the airstrip favored by the private-jet crowd because it's only about seven miles east of downtown, not 45 minutes in the limo from Heathrow.) The new service is plenty nice, using Airbus A318s that will feature cuisine developed at London's acclaimed Roast restaurant. But it's a small detail in the press release that makes us slightly nostalgic. The jets will use flight numbers BA001 and BA004—designations once assigned to the Concorde. 

  "It is an experience," the Concorde marketing materials said back in 1976, "that cannot be fully appreciated until it has been lived through." Most of us didn't, of course. Attractive as that three-hour transatlantic flying time might have been, the round-trip ticket price that hovered around $10,000 just didn't fit with most travel plans—business ones included. The problem, of course, was the fuel efficiency. Supersonic flight required an extremely narrow fuselage, which permitted only about 100 seats in the average SST. While the Boeing 747 could get 91 passenger miles for every gallon of jet fuel, the Concorde barely managed 14. Even with heavy government subsidies, it couldn't last. And it didn't.
  BA's customers on the decidedly less swank-looking A318s will have to use their imagination if they want to pretend they're on the Concorde, but the carrier has gone to great lengths to restore the panache. BA has thrown in complimentary health-club access at the West India Quay to allow passengers to "freshen up," and each plane has 32 "fully flat" beds that'll make for easy slumbering.
  Good thing, too—because that flight is now back to six hours.


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