Trip Report with Photos by The Travel Scholar (Page 2 of 8)

Cabin Accommodations

After boarding, I turned right to find my seat. The first thing that I noticed about Concorde was her narrow body, low ceiling, and elongated galleys. Seats were 2x2, with 25 rows of 4 seats separated into two cabins: 10 rows in the forward cabin, and 15 rows in the aft cabin, and rows are numbered 1 through 26 with row 13 omitted. It was already a markedly different plane to the typical "long-haul" wide body aircraft in which I'd flown before.


Concorde Cabin Interior (Aft cabin, front view)


Concorde Cabin Interior (Aft cabin, rear view)

I made my way back to row 11, seat D, the starboard window seat in the aft cabin bulkhead row. I had specifically asked for a seat in row 11 at check-in for a clear view of the bulkhead information displays, which show the Mach airspeed, altitude, outside air temperature, and MPH ground speed during flight. Overhead lockers were relatively small, but most passengers were carrying relatively small carry-on bags. Any pieces that did not fit in the overhead lockers were happily stowed by flight crew in the valet closets.


Seats 11 C & D


Bulkhead information displays showed
"Welcome to Concorde" until after takeoff.

Party on Concorde

I'd like to take a moment now to describe a bit more of the atmosphere onboard Concorde. Concorde provided not only a departure from everyday aircraft, but also from everyday travel experiences. What was evident from the excited conversations of first time Concorde passengers in the lounge continued throughout the entire flight. New Concorde flyers, like myself, were eagerly snapping photos here and there and talking happily about how this flight was in celebration of this or that, or how they've always wanted to fly Concorde and this was the realisation of their dream, or how they needed to fly her "just once" before her retirement. I remember overhearing one passenger seated a few rows behind me tell a flight crew member, "I've wanted to fly her since I was four, and this is it!" Even the "regulars" seemed very content and happy to be on the flight, and the cabin and flight crew were all caught up in the excitement as well, volunteering to take photos for passengers, talking about how much they love working on Concorde, and some even getting a bit teary-eyed at the mention of Concorde's retirement. There were no complaints that I heard, but plenty of conversation, laughter, fun, and enjoyment. I've heard others describe some Concorde flights as "one big party," and I agree with them--all the way!

The Concorde Takeoff

We pushed back from the gate on-time at 9:00am and began our taxi to our runway for takeoff. During the taxi, the captain made a few announcements about the flying time, weather in London, and how the Concorde takeoff was different than that of other aircraft. The flight attendants also passed through the cabin to take after-takeoff drink orders and provided a hot towel service.

I've recorded bits of the captain's announcements for you to hear. Due to the 60 second limitation of my digital camera and the time it takes to write the files to the memory card, I was unable to capture the announcements in their entirety. I hope, however, that you will still be able to hear some interesting points. The following files are in .wav format:

As we pulled up to the end of our runway, I could sense the anticipation of my fellow passengers. The takeoff, itself, was exhilarating. The afterburners were switched on and the Concorde raced across the ground at a much higher speed than other aircraft before she actually left the ground. Once in the air, the afterburners were cut, and there was a significantly noticeable reduction in noise and thrust as the aircraft flew toward the clouds at a steep incline whilst performing a hard left turn. The best way I can describe it is as a normal jet takeoff with the G-forces exaggerated to the point where it's actually FUN! :-) As we rocketed down the runway, slightly pressed against our seats, video cameras of some passengers were rolling, anticipation turned to excitement, and smiles on many faces grew from one ear to the other. I could tell that everyone was very pleased with this speedy start to their Concorde flight.

I was able to shoot a 60 second video clip of the Concorde takeoff by pointing my small digital camera out the small window. The runway was bumpy, and it shows in the footage, but hopefully this will give you some idea of what the experience looked and sounded like. Here's the movie in QuickTime format:

A few minutes into the flight, the cabin information displays were activated. Here are a few photos during Concorde's subsonic climb.


Mach 0.88, 21000 Feet

Temp -19 C, 620 MPH

After a few minutes of flying, we were just above the clouds and generally flying like any other aircraft.


The Travel Scholar standing inside Concorde.

After we cleared the coastline and were flying over the Atlantic, the captain announced that we had been cleared to switch on the afterburners for a second time to achieve supersonic speed. He explained that the afterburners would be switched on in pairs and that we could expect to feel two bits of extra thrust when this happened. At an altitude of just under 28,000 feet, we broke the sound barrier and achieved a speed of Mach 1.0 (i.e., one times the speed of sound).

At this point, I also took notice of the clever branding of Concorde. The characteristic British Airways "speedwing" logo appeared on the seatbelt buckle and the backs of the seat headrests. Drink glasses and mats were all branded as well. As a design-oriented person, I appreciated this attention to detail.


Mach 1.00, 28000 Feet


BA "speedwing" branding of Concorde seat belt buckle.

Meal Service

Once into our supersonic cruise, the flight attendants passed through the cabin to distribute menus for brunch and to serve our drinks, along with champagne and canapés. The menus were quite stylish--blue embossed card stock covers and heavyweight paper pages bound with a blue binding string fastened with a silver ball. Here are the menu selections from my flight:

Concorde - The Ultimate Experience

Welcome to Concorde.
British Airways ultimate flying
experience showcases fine dining
inspired be the collective contributions
of the British Airways Culinary Council.

This team of renowned chefs
Michel Roux, Shaun Hill,
Richard Corrigan, Liam Tomlin,
Mark Edwards and Claudia Fleming
has risen to the highest challenge - creating
the ultimate in-flight menu. Despite
space and time constraints, the Culinary
Council has developed superior quality
menus without compromising
individual culinary styles

We trust that their creations
will please the eye, delight the palate
and, most importantly, make your journey
on the Concorde the Ultimate Experience.

Brunch

Appetiser

Ballontine of salmon with crème fraîche

Entrées

English breakfast featuring back bacon,
scrambled eggs, pork sausage, tomato and
mushrooms

Lamb fillet with mustard and herb crust,
spinach and sea salt roasted new potatoes

Grilled sea bass with caviar cream sauce,
Swiss chard and wild rice

Oriental style vegetable and noodle salad with
chilli and ginger dressing

Dessert

Banana tart

OR
Cheese

Stilton, Chevre and Pont L'Eveque

Selection of bread rolls

Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, a selection of tea
with chocolates

As an alternative to the full menu, we are
pleased to offer a selection of freshly made
sandwiches including ham and cheese, egg
and bacon, rocket with goats cheese

 

Wine List

We have great pleasure in introducing the
Concorde Cellar - a unique collection of fine
wines, specially chosen for Concorde,
from some of the finest vineyards in the
classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and
Champagne. These wines have been
purchased, sometimes several years in
advance, and cellared until ready to drink.
The wines listed here are just a part of the
entire cellar - the rest are gently maturing at
the châteaux for your enjoyment
in years to come.

British Airways wine consultant is Jancis
Robinson M.W. Her expertise and knowledge
have been instrumental in the continued
success of the Concorde Cellar.

As a journalist Jancis Robinson was the first
person outside the wine trade to qualify as a
Master of Wine. Now she is the wine writer
for the Financial Times, editor of the Oxford
Companion to Wine and, with Hugh Johnson,
co-author of the latest edition of the World
Atlas of Wine. She is also an award winning
television presenter and today writes
principally for her website jancisrobinson.com
which has subscribers in more
than 25 countries.

This list features the wines chosen from the
Concorde Cellar for today's flight.

Today's Selection

Champagne

Pommery, Cuvée Louise, 1989
This, the top deluxe cuvée from Pommery, is
named in honour of the widow Louise who
took over on the death of her husband and
raised the House of Pommery to new heights.
With magnificently sited vineyards in the
Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Blancs,
Pommery enjoys an abundance of high quality
fruit from which they create this wonderful
vintage champagne. This is a stylish wine, full
in flavour yet bone dry, powerful yet elegant
and totally representative of the excellent
1989 vintage.

White Wine

Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
1996, Labouré-Roi
Legend has it that the wife of the Emperor
Charlemagne persuaded him to drink only
white wines from the hill of Corton, as the red
wine stained his white beard in an unseemly
manner. Whatever the truth of this, no-one is
in any doubt about the quality of these superb
wines. The wonderful aspect of the hill of
Corton gives chardonnay of great
concentration and elegance from which are
made some of the world's finest white wines.
1996 was an excellent vintage and this
example from Labouré-Roi is at its peak, its
steely citrus fruit flavour combining with spicy
vanillin oak to give a complex lingering finish.

 

Today's Selection

Red Wine

Corton-Pougets Grand Gru 1994
Château de Corton André
The vineyards of Corton, in the charming
village of Aloxe Corton, are the sole grand cru
appelation for red wine in the Côte de
Beaune. When young their wines are dense
and closed, showing nothing of their potential
yet give them time to develop and they can
give immense pleasure, the perfect expression
of the Pinot Noir grape. A beautiful fragrance
of fresh ripe berries is the hallmark of great
red burgundy. The wines of Corton combine
this with a flavour that has suppleness,
complexity and weight but also a lovely silky
texture and great elegance.

Port

Warre's 1982 Colheita Port
Warre's 1982 Colheita is a blend of the very
highest quality wines from the 1982 harvest,
using traditional Portuguese grape varieties
and a centuries old method of vinification.
Colheita ports must be matured in wood for a
minimum of seven years - in practice it is
usually much longer.
The wine has a fine amber tawny colour. On
the nose it has complex and intense aromas
of orange peel, walnuts and almonds. The
flavour is deliciously sweet, smooth and
elegant with a long and lingering finish.

 

The Concorde Cellar

Champagne

Krug Brut Grande Cuvée
Alfred Gratien Cuvée Paradis
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchhill 1986
Krug Clos du Mesnil 1986
Jacquart Cuvée Nominée de Jacquart 1988
Pommery Cuvée Louise 1989
Lanson Blanc de Blancs 1990

White Burgundy

Meursault 1er Cru Poruzot 1996
La Grande Famille des Domaines
Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Champs Gain 1996
Labouré-Roi
Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 1996
Labouré-Roi
Chablis Grand Cru Bougros 1997
Jean-Marc Brocard
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Vergers 1997
Charton et Trebuchet
Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeot 1998
Domaine Vincent Girardin
Meursault Les Narvaux 1999
Domaine Vincent Girardin

 

The Concorde Cellar

Claret

Château Pape-Clement 1994
Grand Cru Classé Pessac-Léognan
Château Gruaud-Larose 1994
Grand Cru Classé Saint Julien
Château Pichon Lalande 1994
Grand Cru Classé Pauillac
Château Smith Haut-Lafite 1994
Grand Cru Classé Pessac-Léognan
Château La Lagune 1995
Grand Cru Classé Medoc
Château Branaire Ducru 1995
Grand Cru Classé Saint Julien
Château de Fieuzal 1996
Grand Cru Classé Pessac-Léognan

Red Burgundy

Volnay 1er Cru Les Chevrets 1990
Domaine Jean-Mac Boillot
Corton-Pougets Grand Cru 1994
Château de Corton-André
Le Corton Grand Cru 1996
La Grande Famille des Domaines
Pommard 1er Cru Les Chanlins 1997
Domaine Vincent Girardin

Port

Warre's 1982 Colheita Port

Bar Service

Aperitifs

Tanqueray No. Ten Gin,
Smirnoff Black Label Vodka,
Bacardi Carta Blanca Rum,
Martini Sweet and Dry Vermouth,
Tio Pepe Fino Sherry,
La Concha Amontillado Sherry,
Campari Bitters,
Canadian Club Rye Whisky,
Glenfiddich Ancient 18-Year-Old
Single Malt Whisky,
Johnny Walker Blue Label Whisky,
Woodford Reserve
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky.

Cocktails

Prepared to your choice from the range
of beverages carried on board.

Soft Drinks

A selection of traditional and modern soft drinks
Fresh orange juice, tomato juice, apple juice,
Highland Spring Still or Sparking Mineral Water,
Schweppes - Tonic, Bitter Lemon, Soda Water,
Malvern Mineral Water, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke,
Canada Dry Ginger Ale, Sprite

Beers

Lager - Grolsch, Stella Artois, Holsten Pils,
Fuller's London Pride Ale

Digestifs & Liqueurs

The Concorde Selection
Martell XO Cognac,
Drambuie, Cointreau, Grand Marnier,
Tia Maria, Baileys, Amaretto di Saronno

Shortly after champagne service, we achieved our maximum cruise speed of Mach 2.0, or twice the speed of sound. The captain here explained that Concorde was most fuel efficient at this speed, and that "the worst thing you could do for Concorde's fuel efficiency is to slow her down."


Mach 2.00, 49000 Feet


Temp -62 C, 1320 MPH

Here are some photos of meal service at 49000 feet and Mach 2.0, followed by some additional comments:


Champagne, canapés, & sparking mineral water.

The salmon appetiser.

The sea bass brunch selection.


Banana tart with tea and chocolates.

Let me start by saying this: Don't fly Concorde for the food. Fly Concorde for the experience, and enjoy some pretty decent food and a satisfied stomach when you land.

The meal service was friendly, efficient, and fairly good when considering the time and space constraints on board. The canapés were a good accompaniment to the champagne. I found the appetiser to be okay, but not wonderful, and the same could be said of the sea bass. For what they were, I thought they could have been a lot more flavour-intensive. Passengers sitting across from me chose the lamb fillet, and it looked and smelled significantly better. Given a second chance, I would try the lamb over the sea bass. The selection of breads was quite good, and the dessert and chocolates were very tasty.

Even though Concorde is British Airways' flagship, the meal service on Concorde didn't compare with that on traditional long-haul international flights when flying in first class, and arguably, some business classes. Serving a premium meal service to up to 100 passengers within a short amount of time has it's limitations, one of which is the use of already prepared meal trays rather than individual service on place settings. And, whilst post 9-11 security measures have forced many airlines to use plastic knives in their cutlery, British Airways have chosen to present all utensils in plastic. For any premium service, and especially a flagship service like Concorde, this was a bit disappointing. If it weren't for the bone china plates, silver napkin ring, and nifty salt and pepper grinders, one might have mistaken Concorde meal service for an airborne picnic.

Whilst the food and service was far from what one might expect as part of "The Ultimate Experience," I did find them to be adequate for such a brief flight when combined with the other joys and perks of Concorde. The party vibe (which I described earlier), the positive mood of passengers and crew, the thrill of supersonic travel, and the view from fifty-five to sixty thousand feet all picked up where the meal service fell short. Speaking of the view, after the meal service we had climbed to 55,000 feet where it was well worth having another look out the window...

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