Simon Calder: Didn't enjoy the flight? Demand your fare back

The man who pays his way

Alpha Bravo is brilliant white – a white elephant, say those who lived through the financial fiasco that was Concorde. Yet even on a misty October morning at the scruffy end of Heathrow, the slim, sleek body and extravagant plumage of the airport's sole surviving supersonic jet breathes style. Seven years after Concorde was grounded, G-BOAB is still idling in BA's backyard.

A newspaper claimed this week that the last Concorde waiting for a permanent home could be destined for the Thames, displayed on a floating platform beside the London Eye. An appealing notion. But RHWL, the architecture practice that came up with the project a year ago, told me the plan was dead in the water. To see the capital's last example of a jet that was as beautiful as it was ruinous, you need Envoy Way.



This is not a Foreign Office manual for ambassadors, but the eastern perimeter road at Heathrow airport – just a little north of Hatton Cross Tube station. Appropriately, the road is named after an unsuccessful British aircraft; the Airspeed Envoy was a 1930s attempt to emulate the DC-3. When I went there this week, Heathrow's sole surviving Concorde, still immaculate in BA colours, was parked beside the fence. A free bus service – the 285 or 423 – will drop you off beside her. Stand in awe of this beautiful machine, which took passengers to the edge of heaven – and onward to New York. Then look across to a couple more BA planes that are also parked up awaiting a new home. Remarkably, these old Boeing 757s were supposed to take up where Concorde left off.



ppp You probably know that British Airways runs a "son of Concorde" service – a business-class-only jet from London City airport to New York. But you may not be aware that BA also emulates the Concorde network from Paris through its OpenSkies subsidiary. This premium service connects the French capital with New York and Washington DC.



According to the original plans, OpenSkies should by now have gone beyond its Paris home and be flying BA's old 757s (like those parked beside Envoy Way) from "Brussels, Milan, Frankfurt and Amsterdam to New York". A link from Amsterdam was tested, but it lost heaps of cash and soon closed. The airline is now focused on Paris, and in a bid to entice new customers, has come up with an unprecedented proposition: "Try OpenSkies. If you are not 100 per cent satisfied, get your money back. Love everything or pay nothing."



Dale Moss, chief executive of OpenSkies, says the offer "mirrors the image of our company: innovative, exclusive and charting new courses for the industry".



ppp As you would expect, the money-back guarantee is not without its terms and conditions. It applies only to journeys booked to start in the US, from either New York or Washington, between now and the end of November. To get your money back, you must write in with a "clear explanation why the onboard travel experience was unsatisfactory". If the airline accepts your account, you end up paying slightly more than nothing, as taxes, fees and charges are not refunded. And the offer does not apply to flights disrupted by strikes, acts of God or weather.



Most reasonable travellers are happy when the plane touches down safely, in the right place at roughly the right time. But if thousands of dollars are at stake, might an OpenSkies passenger lower the threshold of irritation, and cite unhappiness about how long the drinks trolley took to reach row 12 or how well the steak was cooked? Apparently not. Since the scheme started last month, only three passengers have asked for refunds – which were promptly granted.



Passengers today, parcels tomorrow



The clock is ticking for anyone keen to test the OpenSkies money-back guarantee. Here's how to try it before the end of November. Fly on Kuwait Airways from Heathrow out to New York for under £300. For the one-way OpenSkies flight from New York to Paris, choose between a "Biz Seat" (around £1,100) or "Biz Bed" (£1,550) – those adept at finding fault may well opt for the latter, in anticipation of a larger refund. Then stump up all of €26 for the hop from the French capital to Luton on easyJet.



Time is also running out for anyone keen to fly on BA's remaining Boeing 757s. The final flight of the long-serving twin-jet will be from Edinburgh to Heathrow on 30 October. The jets that were intended by now to be shuttling across the Atlantic for OpenSkies are being sold off. Not to another airline, mind, but to a cargo company: once the last passengers are off, the seats come out and the parcels go in.





Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Day In a Page

    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

    Caught in the web of legal imperialism

    The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert