Concorde refit is last hurrah of unfulfilled aviation dream: Champagne by request and a minimum of caviare
Monday 28 June 1993
British Airways is trying to lose that impression of glitter. Concorde, says Peter Liney, its brand manager, is a business tool which enables people to travel to New York and do a day's work there. Or fly out at 10.30am from London, spend four hours in New York, and catch the afternoon plane back.
The revamp was partly prompted by customer dissatisfaction with the dated image. Payloads were down to under 50 per cent because of the recession; businesses now question whether the pounds 5,030 return flight is justified for cutting the seven-hour flight in half. The luxury is therefore surreptitious. There is as much champagne as you want, but you have to ask for it. The only caviare is in a small tart.
Most of the pounds 1m has gone into fitting out the cabin in an elegant grey, with more hand-luggage room and improved seats. Mr Liney points to the matching grey trolley: 'That's been completely redesigned.' Passengers might be put off by a tatty trolley with stickers on it, he says.
While the service in the rather cramped cabin may not quite match the best of first class, the flying experience is still incomparable. Concorde flies more like a rocket than a plane, at 1,350mph. The pilot alerts us to when we are going supersonic. Cruising at about 57,000ft, the flight is smooth as it is above most turbulence, and BA has installed very expensive headphones to compensate for the extra noise.
You arrive feeling that you have been on a short-haul flight to Europe and not an intercontinental odyssey. It was only slightly disconcerting that as we came into land the in-flight display still showed 1,350mph.
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