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       October 2003



Cover Stories …


By Glen Stephens.


Concorde – the end of an era

The world’s first Concorde stamp - from 1969

 In late October 2003 the most superb looking aircraft ever built will make her final flight.

The Concorde will make her final paying passenger carrying journey on October 24, carrying call sign BA2, from New York to London.  (BA1 of course is the daily London – New York flight).

Air France Concordes made their last paying passenger flight on May 31st. Invited VIP’s made the farewell round trip on June 2/3.

I think all stamp collectors and dealers have imagined for years that taking a Concorde trip was out of their financial grasp.

I remember Melbourne stamp dealer Rodney Perry used to take paid Concorde flights in the heady days of the circa 1980 stamp boom.

Curiously there are hundreds of folks reading this who could readily take a trip tomorrow at no cost whatever.

As most reading this might know, I am an avid world traveller and have visited about 120 different countries worldwide. Many trip reports are up at with photos.

Most readers of this magazine have Qantas flyer points - or American Express or ANZ or Westpac credit card miles or Sheraton/Starwood hotel points that can be easily turned into Qantas points.

A friend and I each used 125,000 Qantas frequent flyer miles and took a Concorde flight from London – New York – London. In fact it was better than that as for those 125,000 miles we also got a free Business class return side trip from ANYWHERE in Europe we wished – a valuable trip worth $1000+ on its own. Whether that was Moscow, Casablanca, Cyprus or Istanbul etc it was part of the deal.

A one-hour Sydney-Melbourne free return business class ticket costs 30,000 Qantas points. I cannot believe folks use miles for cheap round trips like that and not for ‘impossible-to-afford-otherwise’ awards like a Concorde flight. Given a choice of 4 x MEL-SYD returns or a return Concorde flight with a free side trip to Moscow, it really was a no-brainer decision for me.

                  Still possible to get Concorde flights free


It is NOT too late to take a flight if you have the points – award inventory is mostly booked out of course, but if you do not ask you will never know. There is no ‘Concorde’ award as such, just a BA First Class transatlantic award – just be sure to have agent look for  seats on either BA1 or BA2.

I phoned British Airways and asked what such a trip would cost, and the answer was Euros €13,205 plus taxes, or around $22,000 at that time. I do not think 4 x SYD-MEL in a cramped 737 Qantas ‘business class’ is quite worth $22,000 to me.

Even if you did not have 125,000 Qantas points you could have effectively purchased them for much of 2002 for $US1,256 ( under $A2000 as I type this) via subscribing to a USA magazine who offered you flyer miles on each sub – there was no limit on how many subs you ordered. This little loophole I mentioned in a client newsletter, and many clients took advantage of the under $2000 round trip
Concorde flight.

‘Never has such a beautiful object been designed and built by man,’ said Air France President Jean-Cyril Spinetta at a news conference announcing the sad news of the cessation of the flights. ‘This aircraft is not going to stop because it continues to live on in the human imagination.’

Scores of countries have issued stamps depicting Concorde since the inaugural flight in 1969. Great Britain of course issued a beautiful set of 3 stamps in May that year.

  The Concorde Room London.


Concorde is not just about ‘getting there’.



Concorde is certainly not just about ‘getting there’. It is really about the whole EXPERIENCE.  From check-in to arriving at customs at LHR you really get the full-on 100% VIP treatment.

For those readers who do not manage to snap up some tickets using Qantas miles, you may be interested in some of my first hand observations about the experience. Many extra photos etc are on my website

The special Concorde lounges in both New York and London are of course superb. No need to check-in with the great unwashed here – you have you own special room to do all that …. Behind discreetly signposted doors. In the New York lounge there are tables with starched linen tablecloths and silver service, and personal butlers. You can have a decent meal with French Champagne BEFORE you fly if you wish.

Even the most jaded British Airways personnel perked up and became SUPER polite when they saw ‘Concorde’ on the itinerary – it really has a special place in their world. You get special metal Concorde baggage tags and a different kind of hard plastic as well if you wish. Special black boarding passes and other goodies.

  Dorky tourist in Concorde Lounge London

At Heathrow the beautiful bird was parked just below the superb lounge. Many of the passengers wanted their photo taken with Concorde as a backdrop, smiling and sipping champagne. The staff discreetly assist in this for anyone who looks interested.

Each plane has only 100 seats and most flights seem to have only about 30-40 passengers, hence the huge cost per ticket.

The seats are smallish – not unlike a business class seat on a 737 today.

These seats are largely unchanged from the 1970s when first launched into service.

  Seats really are no larger than most 737s.

And the loo is TINY! No personal TVs or audio systems at all – in a less than 3 hour flight you are so busy eating, talking and drinking who CARES. You are across the Atlantic before most of today’s movies would be completed anyway.

Take-off is very much like a normal plane – albeit faster. You do NOT hear or experience a sonic boom when the plane smashes through the Mach #1 speed of sound barrier.

The bulkhead wall of each cabin has a HUGE liquid crystal display showing 3 things – Mach air speed, height above ground, and ground speed.

  The huge bulkhead speed and height digital display

The Concorde starts off and arrives slowly when flying over populated areas due to noise restrictions. However for nearly all the flight over the Atlantic Ocean the digital speed display shows at Mach 2, or twice the speed of sound.

The flights generally reach 60,000 feet, which is over 11 miles above ground level. As British Airways say in their advertising: “only astronauts fly higher”.

This is about double a 747-400 typical cruising height. It is fun watching the large digital display on the bulkhead wall climb and climb and climb seemingly forever even though plane is doing Mach 2 all the time.

Passenger window gets REALLY hot. When Concorde reached 58,500 feet we touched the inside of our small cabin window. It was VERY hot to the touch. Quite a shock.

Like your car windscreen temperature if parked out in the open all day in summer. Given there were three layers of window glass and air in between, the outside temp of the Concorde must be amazing.

The entire plane expands about 6 inches in length at 60,000 feet than at ground level due to the bullet like Mach 2 speed - and the old truisms, ‘friction causes heat’ and ‘heats expands metal’.

At 11 miles above the ground you really DO see the curvature of the earth rather noticeably from the windows, in the cloud free sectors.

         The Concorde meals

This was just the ‘starter’ – note the little can of Beluga caviar at left!

The food and booze on board Concorde of course are legendary, and as you can see from Menus illustrated on my website - Beluga caviar, truffles, lobster etc all featured. The wine list I also have on website speaks for itself, and many of the bottles of Champagne sell retail for several $100 each.

BA load 48 bottles of the ‘featured’ champagne alone for each flight, and goodness know what quantity of the others. Anyway, being champagne drinkers my friend and I made a pretty big dent in the 48 bottles in each direction.

We drank 1988 (not 1998) Taittinger Comtes de Champagne all the way across LHR-JFK. Tough life. And same on the return journey.

In a really unusual bulbous based bottle I have never seen before. And the Beluga caviar was not bad either.

We asked politely for the ‘Concorde kit’ onboard – as others had told me such things existed. We both got one, and no-one else did that I noticed. Beautiful sleek Sterling Silver pen with a discreet Concorde logo, special notepaper and envelopes, and a Certificate signed and dated by Captain etc.

There is as you might imagine a wonderful ‘Concorde Duty Free Catalogue’ that I also retained. It had things like pure pashmina shawls for £395, Baccarat perfume for £560 a small vial, Salvatore Ferragamo men’s black belt for £230 ($A640) … you get the picture. And lots of much more affordable Concorde goodies in there too.

A few celebrities on our flight

Some pretty well known folks fly the Concorde as we all know. A friend took his flight a week before and had TV interview queen Barbara Walters and kooky Michael Jackson travelling separately in his cabin.

Bruce Springsteen and ‘Mr Mariah Carey’ - Tommy Mottola (CEO of Sony Music) were sitting in the 2 seats behind us. I ‘somehow’ kept the entire yard long flight passenger manifest.

It said ‘Famous pop singer’ next to Springsteen on the manifest ... duurhhh, you'd wonder who'd NEED to be told that! His son it seems was on board in row 2 as there was a Jimmy or whatever Springsteen in that seat too, but seated well away from Dad.

Upon arrival into JFK we flew over that morning to Las Vegas, via San Francisco for one night at the 5000 room Luxor, which I love, and back on Concorde the next day at 8.30am to Europe after arriving LAS-LAX-JFK on a red-eye about 6am.

The landing on Concorde is fast and abrupt, and that contrasted with takeoff, as being rather different to larger widebody jets.

Arriving into Heathrow is neat if a Concorde passenger. No lining up with the masses for customs and immigration.

A pukka young BA fellow with Eton accent discreetly extracts Concorde passengers from the masses of arriving hoi polloi and directs you to a special passport/immigration desk that appears to handle solely Concorde passengers. It could be easy to get used to this kind of travel!

From London to Amsterdam, and up to Bergen Norway, for a lovely overland trip to Oslo via train through the mountains, and mail steamers down the Fjords. Norway is a pretty place but soooo expensive. A couple of local beers in a small pub ran about $A35.

VAT taxes there are about 25% - and on booze there is a ‘super tax’ many times that I understand.

Then to Denmark, and then back to Holland and across to Dublin for a quick visit to the Guinness Factory which I had always wanted to visit! Then the long trip home via a fun stop in Kuala Lumpur.

                              Special crew signed covers created

                  I created some stamp souvenir covers for this exciting flight, and had both Captains
                                             and all flight crews in both directions sign them.



The Concorde is of course the top centre stamp. The ‘First Class’ rate – what else?! All 6 flight deck crew signed and dated each cover. Each is hand numbered by me on face, i.e. ‘Number #1 of #7’ and signed by myself.

I started off with 15 of these unsigned special FDC and wondered if I would be able to get any signed. I asked a flight attendant on first flight if it was possible. She raised her eyebrow and said plum-in-mouth: ‘I really do not THINK so Sir, as they are VERY busy up there, but I can only ask’.

She came back with a smile and said: ‘well, the boys have never seen those Airliner stamps and are all very interested in also having one of these. They have offered you a deal - if they might keep one each they will gladly sign the balance’.

I said 'YES' in a heartbeat of course, and we were all pleased. They invited us into the cabin at end of flight etc for a chat and gave me business cards etc. On the flight back across the Atlantic, I was having a drink of Vintage Champagne in the lavish Concorde departure lounge in New York, and who should be sitting there reading a magazine - clearly a Concorde Captain.

Seizing this moment of opportunity, I asked him politely if he and his flight deck companions might also like to assist and sign these covers on the flight back. And of course made the same offer - they were welcome to keep one if they wished.

Captain Owen also was delighted to help and took the FDC’s. Sure enough all were relayed back to me mid flight at 59,000 feet, by a rather bemused flight attendant.

These guys also invited us into the cabin. ‘Airliners’ First Day Covers are a powerful attention getter
even to pilots! I am not sure anyone at any time has obtained a stamp cover signed by complete crews both ways, as it is absolutely not the ‘done’ thing generally.

Concorde stamps and covers are highly collected. I have seven only of these special covers available on my website - numbered #1-#7.
There is even a ‘Lollini's CONCORDE 2004 Catalogue’ available.

Also shown on my website are the special black Concorde Boarding passes. I asked for an extra of each, so that when the gate reader machine gobbled up the large piece, I had more to retain for my collection than the tiny stub at end! 

This is the way to fly TransAtlantic!

So the final chapter in Concorde’s passenger flying days will be played out on October 24.
For the 5 days prior to that, Concorde will take short flights from UK cities. The cities Concorde will visit are Manchester, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

British Airways gave away hundreds of tickets to the public for these flights.

The lucky winners successfully answered the competition question; ‘To the nearest minute, what is the fastest ever recorded time between New York JFK and London Heathrow on Concorde?’ The correct answer is 2 hours and 53 minutes.

And THAT sums up Concorde rather well. We will all need go back to 7 hour 45 minute flights across the pond from the end of November
Special thanks for my frequent flyer friend Nathan Roemer for the use of four of his digital photos in this article -  see here for them and many more - in his own terrific Concorde flight website -


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