Why Did The Concorde Stop Flying?

Ken Hyde

By Ken Hyde

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Building a supersonic aircraft capable of breaking the speed of sound is an incredible feat. However, keeping it relevant over the long term is even twice as difficult, as evidenced by the case of Concorde!

After decades of reigning as the pinnacle of aviation speed, the Concorde eventually ceased its flights altogether. Let’s see why.

5 Reasons Why They Stop Flying The Concorde Plane 

High fuel costs and too-expensive tickets (which turned the general public away) put much pressure on the company’s financial situation.

Concorde in the sky

However, the disaster only truly began when a tragic crash in 2000 brought public unease and ruined its decades-long reputation. Then, just a year later, the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks loomed over the entire aviation industry and put the last nail in Concorde’s coffin.

1. Extremely High Costs Of Fuel

Despite its incredible speed, the Concorde faced a significant drawback: extremely high operational costs due to poor fuel efficiency. 

After all, while other modern aircraft prioritized fuel economy very early on, Cocorde only focused on supersonic travel and disregarded almost everything else. So, naturally, as time passed, the fuel efficiency challenges only became more apparent. 

For instance, just taxiing to the runway could use up to 2 tons of fuel, and its takeoff process was also very fuel-intensive. Using afterburners for BOTH takeoff and breaking the sound barrier guzzled the fuel at over 32 liters per second. 

Thus, by the time it reached Mach 2, the Concorde had already consumed about 50% of its total fuel. British Airways even reported specific figures: the Concorde could hold 26,286 Imperial gallons (or 119,500 liters) of fuel and burned through an average of 5,638 Imperial gallons (or 25,629 liters) per hour. 

The ridiculous fuel consumption and maintenance costs make its operation increasingly more challenging over time.

2. It Never Clicked With The General Public

Given its high operating costs, the plane never became accessible to the masses.

For example, a ticket for a one-way trip on the Concorde from London (England) to Washington (America) used to cost £431 — about $2,800 today — in the 1970s. Twenty years later, a roundtrip on this supersonic passenger jet between Washington and London could set you back $10,000! 

Of course, the Concorde still attracted wealthy business people, celebrities, occasional aviation fans, and adventure-seekers who saved up for a ticket. But overall, it remained a small niche exclusively reserved for the rich.

Hence, unsurprisingly, Concorde struggled to fill its seats, and it became increasingly difficult to draw in enough well-off passengers to make operations profitable. 

In fact, the 14 Concorde aircraft completed only 50,000 flights since their first transatlantic trip in 1973. Air France and British Airways suffered such a huge financial struggle that they eventually limited Concorde’s regular flight schedule to New York only.

3. Its Deafening Sonic Booms Were Considered Noise Polluters

The Air France Concorde on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center
The Air France Concorde on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Its blazing speed is widely recognized but has also led to numerous significant restrictions in many other countries. Since its launch day, the plane had been considered “unfit” for supersonic air travel over land and could only fly over water. 

British Airways’s decision to fly the Concorde on the London to Sydney route faced a huge backlash from Indians and Malaysians due to its loud sonic boom. In 1976, the Port Authority of New Jersey and New York even barred the Concorde from docking at JFK Airport (though the ban was overturned one year later). 

Both Air France and British Airways still managed to operate Concorde to and from numerous other destinations, including South America, Singapore, Bahrain, etc. Still, given its noise limitations, the plane couldn’t gain as much widespread appeal among major airlines as with other carriers.

4. The 2000 Crash Burnt Its Legacy To Ashes

The Concorde’s decline was already evident as the 21st century began. Still, the shocking crash of the 4590 flight from Paris (France) to New York (U.S.) on 25 July 2000 only marked the downfall as irreversible. 

The Concorde caught fire near Paris on July 25, 2000
The Concorde caught fire near Paris on July 25, 2000

Despite its previously excellent safety record, photos of the plane’s power engines on fire and the death of 109 passengers onboard (plus 4 other people on the ground) deeply shook public confidence. This disaster significantly destroyed Concorde’s reputation and likely hastened British Airways and Air France’s decision to retire the iconic jet from service.

5. The 9/11 Terrorist Attack Was The Final Blow

The aviation industry has always been known for its ups and downs, but it doesn’t change the fact that these 9/11 attacks were truly an unprecedented challenge. 

According to the IATA (International Air Transport Association), U.S. commercial airlines suffered a combined loss of $8,000,000,000 in 2001 alone, and it took 3 years until 2004 for revenues to recover to pre-9/11 levels.

Amid these new pressures, the Concorde lost even more appeal among travelers and its operators. As their airlines grappled with financial stability and often resorted to job cuts, both Air France and British Aircraft Corporation realized the Concorde’s domination era was drawing to a close.

The Concorde’s Last Flight Was In November 2003

Concorde’s last passenger flight was to Bristol on 26 November 2003. Before landing, the plane gracefully tilted one of its wings towards the famous Clifton Suspension Bridge. This final journey lasted just 1.5 hours.

Earlier, on 24 October 2003, crowds gathered to witness the last passenger-carrying Concorde flight from JFK Airport (New York, U.S.) to Heathrow (London, England). This event coincided with 2 other Concorde commercial flights from Scotland (Edinburgh) across the Biscay Bay.

Surprisingly, that wasn’t the last of Concorde. Just last year, in August, the plane returned to the skies for the first time in two decades to make a symbolic flight over New York’s Hudson River.

Where Is The Concorde Plane Now?

Concorde in Aerospace Bristol Museu

Several Concorde planes found homes in museums worldwide, while others were disassembled, with some of their parts auctioned to collectors and wealthy aviation enthusiasts. The last model ever built, numbered 216, was on display in 2017 at the Aerospace Bristol Museum.


It’s quite clear that Concorde’s incredible speed came with very costly trade-offs. Still, although it no longer graces the skies, the model will always be remembered as one of history’s most iconic aircraft.

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Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde is the founder of The Wright Experience™. He is passionate about antique airplanes and has restored many of the Wright brothers' planes, including the 1918 Curtiss Jenny and the 1903 Wright Flyer. He is also a pilot and mechanic who has worked for Capital Airlines, Bendix Corporation, and American Airlines.

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