Life aboard Concorde: Experiences of passengers and crew

Imagine eating lobster on fine china while traveling Mach 2.0
  • Even before stepping onto the plane, the experience of traveling with Concorde was like no other
  • Passengers were treated to gourmet meals, champagne, and unique perks like joining the pilot in the awe-inspiring cockpit
  • Crew members viewed it as the ‘best job in the world’, getting to stay in top hotels and meet celebrities in the sky

Published on Apr 26, 2024 at 4:42PM (UTC+4)

Last updated on Apr 26, 2024 at 4:42PM (UTC+4)

Edited by Tom Wood
Life aboard Concorde: experiences of passengers and crew
John Tye

Flying Concorde was an experience like no other, whether you were a passenger or a pilot.

The supersonic jet combined world-class service with unparalleled speed, allowing travelers to fly twice the speed of sound in luxury.

As we hurtle forward into the next chapter of supersonic flight, we’re looking back to learn from the experiences of passengers and crew of this icon of the skies.

Supersonic flight as a passenger

Even before passengers had stepped foot on Concorde, the experience was like no other.

Passengers would skip the queues and head for the private lounge which was decorated with custom furniture and artworks by famous designers and artists.

Most travelers were businesspeople, like the salesman who flew supersonic twice a week.

This meant the lounge was kitted out with the latest technology, which, at the time, included fax machines and telephones, as well as a secretary.

Once on board, passengers experienced world-class service and a unique and exciting atmosphere.

Multiple people have reported they were able to hang out in the awe-inspiring cockpit with the pilots.

It wasn’t unusual to see celebrities too, including Paul McCartney, Princess Diana, and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who always bought an extra seat for his cello.

Considering the mammoth cost of a ticket, this was quite a bold move.

According to one-time passenger Robert van der Linden, the prized seats were in the forward cabin.

“I was told several tales of temper tantrums by disappointed rock stars, who had been assigned seats in the rear cabin,” he said.

Van der Linden also shared a perhaps surprising fact: flying faster than the speed of sound was pretty calm.

“I watched as our speed increased, anticipating some kind of bump that would signify we had gone supersonic,” he said.

“I was pleasantly disappointed.”

Many have reported that the view from Concorde was not what one would expect.

Firstly, the windows were ‘passport-sized’ and clouds would obscure the view of anyone hoping to catch the curvature of the Earth.

However, the dark purple sky was apparently something to behold.

But passengers had to be careful: the windows and ceilings were hot to the touch, as was the gallery and the toilets.

The major perk of Concorde was its speed: when traveling from London to New York, you’d actually arrive before the time you had departed.

One passenger took this route while his mother chose a regular plane on an earlier flight, as she wanted more space.

“After arriving at JFK, I went to the hotel, up the Empire State Building, grabbed a bit to eat and still had an hour at the hotel before she showed up!” he said.

One of BA’s offerings was a day trip to Barbados where passengers could eat breakfast in London before heading for a day of swimming in the Caribbean sea, returning home by 8 pm.

The food served aboard Concorde was not your regular airplane fare.

Passengers have reported that there was a cart, especially for serving caviar and champagne.

And rather than choosing between chicken or beef, passengers had gourmet options such as medallions of rock lobster with crab sauce or foie gras with chutney and carrot jelly.

Meals were served on fine china with engraved glassware and silverware, while the knives were plastic for safety.

Flying Concorde as a pilot

Such a unique planet needed a unique cockpit to match.

Firstly, there were three chairs instead of two, as every flight needed to have a flight engineer in addition to the two pilots.

Secondly, the right wall was completely covered in switches and gauges.

John Tye, a retired pilot who was lucky enough to fly this supersonic jet, states that it was the best gig in the business.

His days would start at 7:30 am, driving against traffic towards Heathrow.

His crew consisted of another pilot, a flight engineer and six cabin crew.

At 10:30 am they would depart from Heathrow to fly to New York, one of the plane’s most popular routes.

Once in New York, Tye and his team were treated to lavish lunches and put up in the city’s top hotels to rest up for the flight back the next day.

The luxurious layover was mostly necessary as the plane had a turnaround time of 28 hours.

Piloting Concorde was a thrill, with every bump on the runway amplified.

“It was the best job in the world,” Tye said.

With the future of supersonic flight looking as promising as it does, it’s likely pilots and passengers will get to experience this thrill again pretty soon.

Whether they travel in the same luxury is another thing.

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