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Concorde services to end October

Passenger numbers have not recovered since the Air France crash.
Passenger numbers have not recovered since the Air France crash.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British Airways and Air France plan to stop Concorde flights from the end of October because they are not making enough money.

The supersonic airliner has struggled to attract passengers following the Air France Concorde crash in Paris, which killed 113 people in July 2000. British Airways, Europe's biggest airline, has seven Concordes and Air France five.

Both airlines announced the decision Thursday immediately after Airbus, which makes Concordes, said the planes would need an "enhanced maintenance programme in the coming years."

"British Airways has decided that such an investment cannot be justified in the face of falling revenue caused by a global downturn in demand for all forms of premium travel in the airline industry," the company said.

Concorde has a certificate to fly until 2009 but bookings are down, BA said.

"This is the end of a fantastic era in the world of aviation but bringing forward Concorde's retirement is a prudent business decision at a time when we are having to make difficult decisions right across the airline," said BA Chief Executive Rod Eddington.

The airline has been forced to cut more than 13,000 jobs since just before the September 11 attacks.

BA has been only flying half the service it used to following the Paris air crash. Concorde was out of service for more than a year after the crash.

BA has spent 17 million on modifications after it was found that a burst tire had ruptured the fuel tank on the Air France Concorde.

Air France said it would halt flights from May 31 but would restart them between May and October if the economy picked up.

Passenger numbers have fallen on the three-hour trans-Atlantic routes, where BA makes a big chunk of its profit, but the airline refused to break down the numbers flying on Concorde because that was commercially sensitive.

A return flight from London to New York can cost as much as $10,000 and from Paris to New York about $7,000. No other scheduled routes are flown.

Concorde, which entered service in 1976, has been plagued by technical problems recently.

In February, an Air France Concorde had to make an emergency landing in Halifax, Nova Scotia, after an engine malfunctioned.

And part of the rudder on the tail of a British Airways Concorde fell off as the supersonic jet approached New York.

Noel Forgeard, chief executive of Airbus, said: "Airbus's predecessors Aerospatiale and British Aircraft Corporation created Concorde some 40 years ago and we are proud of this remarkable achievement.

"But its maintenance regime is increasing fast with age. Thus, as an aircraft manufacturer, we understand completely and respect the decision of British Airways, especially in the present economic climate."

British Airways said retiring Concorde will result in 84 million write-off costs for the year ended March 2003.


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