Concorde was an iconic aircraft that made the dream of supersonic transatlantic travel a reality for those who could afford it. The British-French jetliner is best known for being flown by, rather appropriately, British Airways and Air France. But did you know that two other airlines also briefly operated Concorde on short-term leases? One of these was Singapore Airlines.
Supersonic journeys to the Far East
Concorde began flying commercially in January 1976. Its first route with Air France was Paris – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (via Dakar, Senegal). Meanwhile, British Airways launched it on services between London Heathrow and Bahrain. Later that year, and in 1977, the carriers began their flagship supersonic transatlantic flights to New York JFK and Washington Dulles.
1977 also saw British Airways expand its Concorde services eastwards, when it partnered with Singapore Airlines. This venture saw Singapore Airlines fly Concorde from Heathrow to its homeland as an extension of the existing Bahrain route.
Having stopped in Bahrain, the iconic supersonic airliner would continue to the Far East, where its destination was Singapore International Airport. Singapore’s present Changi Airport replaced Singapore International in 1981, after which it became known as Paya Lebar Air Base.
Why did the program not last?
As part of this scheme, British Airways allowed Singapore Airlines to paint the left-hand side of the aircraft involved, G-BOAD, in its own livery. Meanwhile, the right-hand side retained its existing British Airways colors. This was among the most unique liveries that Concorde saw during its 27 years of commercial service, along with Air France’s Pepsi scheme.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a livery that could be seen for very long. After just three return flights, Singapore Airlines was forced to suspend its supersonic London-bound services due to noise complaints from the Malaysian government.
The carrier was allowed to restart the program in 1979, having found a route that bypassed Malaysian airspace. However, just a year later, it ran into further trouble with another country en route, namely India. A dispute led to India banning the aircraft from supersonic flight in its airspace, which left the route economically unviable. This forced its closure later in 1980.
Braniff: Concorde’s other operator
Much like Singapore Airlines, Braniff also leased Concorde on a short-term basis in its early years. The airline would operate the type on subsonic flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Washington Dulles. The aircraft would then continue to London or Paris as the existing supersonic British Airways or Air France flight.
In total, Braniff leased 11 Concordes over an 18-month spell spanning from December 1978 to May 1980. Five of these were from Air France, and six were from British Airways. However, low load factors of 50% or less on the Dallas-Washington legs rendered their operation economically unviable. This ultimately led to their suspension after just a year and a half.
What do you make of Singapore Airlines’ brief involvement with Concorde? Did you ever fly on one of its supersonic flights via Bahrain? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!