Trip Report with Photos by The Travel Scholar (Page 1 of 8)

This trip report contains contains photographs and personal commentary about my experience flying British Airways Concorde service. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about what you see here. Click on any photo for a larger view, and enjoy the report!!

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BACKGROUND: The dream of a frequent flyer...

When I earned my first frequent flyer mile on a US Airways flight back in 1996, I had one thing on my mind: I was going to Disney World. But as my miles grew more plentiful and my flying grew more frequent, I began to have some great experiences in the sky. Passing through the first class cabin on that flight as a teenager, I never thought I'd get to fly in those bigger seats "up front." But thanks to complimentary upgrades to First Class as a frequent flyer program elite member, I've since managed to prove myself wrong, taking several long-haul trips (and short hops, too) in premium cabins. Even so, one thing seemed to remain completely out of reach: Concorde.

At more than $10,000 for a full-fare roundtrip, I never thought a flight on Concorde would be possible for me. Even using frequent flyer miles seemed like a long-shot, despite having more than 1 million miles at my disposal, since I earned most of those miles by flying US-based airlines that had no affiliation with British Airways. Nevertheless, I dumped every possible extra mile into British Airways' Executive Club frequent flyer program to build upon miles I received from one roundtrip on BA in 1998, including Diners Club Rewards points, Radisson Goldpoints, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. By the fall of 2002, my Executive Club account balance totaled 66,000 miles--a far cry from the 125,000 miles needed to fulfil my quest for a Concorde award. Then, along came a very special deal...

I frequently read, an Internet bulletin board community of frequent flyers. On 02 April 2002, FlyerTalk member, PHL, posted what would become the key to my success. At the time, the Starwood Preferred Guest program allowed members to transfer Starpoints to Qantas Frequent Flyer miles on a 1:2 ratio, effectively doubling the value of Starpoints used in this manner. Starwood also added another 5,000 points for every 20,000 points transferred, which meant that for every 20,000 Starpoints redeemed, Starwood would transfer a total of 25,000 Starpoints, and members would receive a total of 50,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer miles. The good news? Qantas miles could be redeemed for a British Airways Concorde award ticket via their partner relationship through the OneWorld Alliance!! Upon hearing this news and confirming others' success stories on FlyerTalk, 52,500 of my Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints quickly became the 125,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer miles that I needed for the ticket of my dreams. (Thanks, PHL!!)

NOTE: As of 01 January 2003, Starwood Preferred Guest changed it's Qantas Frequent Flyer transfer ratio to 1:1.

CONCORDE: The end of an era...

With the miles in place and award seat availability wide open, all I needed to do was to wait for the right time to take the trip. That time came sooner than I expected. On 10 April 2003, British Airways and Air France announced the retirement of Concorde from October 2003, citing the aircraft's inability to turn a profit due to rising maintenance costs and falling passenger loads. When I heard the news, I panicked with the thought of rapidly vanishing British Airways' Concorde award tickets. Phoning Qantas straight away on the 10th was a prudent decision, as Concorde availability was already next to gone. After telling the Qantas agent that I could travel anytime that there were Concorde seats still available, I managed to book BA 002, the Concorde flight from New York (JFK) to London Heathrow (LHR) on 01 May 2003, returning 04 May 2003 in First class on a 777 subsonic flight. Total cost: 125,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer miles, plus $102.16 USD for taxes and fees. Not quite the roundtrip Concorde ticket of my dreams, but at this point, I was grateful that Concorde availability hadn't disappeared altogether.

I later managed to upgrade my 777 subsonic return flight to Concorde at the airport for an additional charge, thus accomplishing a complete round-trip Concorde itinerary and the trip of all trips for this frequent flyer. The dream of this frequent flyer was about to come true!


Check-In and Departure Lounge

British Airways flights depart from Terminal 7 at New York's John F. Kennedy airport (JFK). Upon entering the terminal from the departures curbside, the main BA check-in was straight ahead on the left-hand side. However, there was dedicated check-in for First Class passengers in a separate hall to the far left, and just beyond that, another area for Concorde check-in directly across from the security check-point.

I presented myself for check-in at about 7:00am for my 9:00am departure. Check-in agents were very friendly and efficient. After asking for some extra Concorde luggage tags for souvenirs and taking a few photographs, I was on my way through security to the Concorde Room.

The main British Airways check-in counters in JFK's Terminal 7. Concorde check-in was to the left down the hall next to the American flag.

Concorde Check-In at JFK

After passing through the security checkpoint, the Concorde Room was straight up the hallway on the left and serves as the departing lounge for Concorde passengers. The reception staff checked my boarding card for entry and offered to take any coats or garments that I would like hanged. I didn't have anything for hanging, but with this service, they would board coats to the plane and return them on arrival in London.

The Concorde Room was well-appointed with ample comfortable seating, including partitioned seating areas, a dining area, and some chairs situated around a television. For our 9am departure, the Concorde Room opened just before 7am. Once inside, a full English breakfast buffet was available along with a full compliment of juices, sodas, liquors, wine, and champagne.

For those who needed connectivity in the lounge, I was surprised that there were no computers available for an Internet connection. There was a very small business centre with copy and fax services, and the use of telephones for local and toll-free calls was complimentary throughout the lounge.

Here are some photos of the Concorde Room at JFK.

The entrance to the Concorde Room at JFK.

There were plenty of these partition seating areas in the lounge. I heard several excited conversations by first-time passengers in anticipation of their Concorde experience.

Standing at the entrance hallway, the left side of the lounge with the partitioned seating areas.

The right side of the lounge hosted the dining area, along with a selection of reading material, a coat rack, and some more seats.

The dining area was fairly small. However, passengers were more than willing to share tables. A full English breakfast buffet was available, as well as a full bar for drinks.

I put this breakfast plate together for myself, and was joined for breakfast by another passenger. Fresh toast and a few other items were also available by special request.

Boarding Announcements

At about 8:20am, an announcement was made in the lounge that boarding would begin shortly. They introduced the names of the pilot, co-pilot, and flight engineer for the flight, gave the estimated flying time and current weather conditions in London, and advised passengers to choose reading material (newspapers, magazines, etc.) from the stand in the lounge, as none would be offered onboard due to Concorde's space limitations. They also provided information about car services that were available upon arrival in London (for a fee) and offered a last call for coats to be hung onboard.

A few minutes later, they announced boarding for flight BA 002 to London through gate G6. Gate 6 was only a short walk from the Concorde Room. Unfortunately, the windows nearby didn't offer a very good view of the plane. However, one of the agents on the jetty offered to snap a photo for me from outside.

A photo of the Concorde from the windows adjacent to Gate 6.

Concorde, from outside the gate Jetty, taken for me by a very friendly British Airways ramp agent.


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