A look at Concorde from a passenger’s perspective

Passenger cabin interior of Concorde G-BOAG
Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography from Netherlands, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the annals of aviation history, one name stands out as a symbol of luxury, speed, and innovation: Concorde. From 1976 to 2003, this supersonic passenger airliner graced the skies, proudly operated by British Airways and Air France.  

It was a marvel of its time, boasting the unique ability to fly at Mach 2, twice the speed of sound. Today marks the anniversary of the last commercial flight of Concorde BA001 from London to New York on 23 November 2003.

So, what was it like to experience Concorde as a passenger, compared to a traditional non-supersonic airliner? 

The Distinctive Cabin 

Concorde’s passenger cabin was a distinctive departure from modern airliners. Unlike today’s spacious, multi-aisle interiors, Concorde featured a more intimate setting.  

The cabin was compact, with a single aisle and a two-two seating configuration.  

Even the windows were notably smaller, a design necessity to withstand the extreme temperatures and pressures experienced during supersonic flight. 


Photo Credit: Clemens Vasters from Viersen, Germany, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Passenger Capacity  

Concorde offered flexibility when it came to passenger capacity. Depending on the configuration, it could seat between 92 and 128 passengers.

In broad terms of layout, the passenger cabin had a forward cabin section, a mid-section containing lavatory facilities and a rear cabin section. 

British Airways and Air France both opted for a single-class configuration, providing room for approximately 100 passengers. Both forward section and rear sections were configured the same in terms of facilities offered – this was not a ‘business class/economy class’ outfit! 

However, other configurations were potentially possible, reflecting the adaptability of this unique aircraft. 

The forward cabin of Aerospatiale Concorde 216, British Airways G-BOFA, at Aerospace Bristol. Photo: Hugh Llewelyn from Keynsham, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Balancing Space and Luxury 

Concorde’s passenger dimensions were comparable to that of a Bombardier regional jet aircraft. The relatively smaller cabin was a result of several factors.  

The engine and wing configuration was a dictating design factor, and the fuselage had to be robust enough to endure the rigors of supersonic travel.  

However, this spatial constraint was thoughtfully balanced with the desire to offer passengers a luxurious and spacious experience.  

G-BOAB about to go supersonic on Heathrow – Cairo route, March 1984. Photo: M McBey, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Passenger Experience

Despite its compact size, Concorde’s cabin offered remarkable comfort. Passengers enjoyed wide seats with ample legroom and recline options.  

Beyond the physical comforts, the experience was elevated with gourmet meals, champagne, and in-flight entertainment.  

However, it was also a noisy environment, in comparison to the experience in a traditional airliner. 

Given the shorter flight times due to its incredible speed, combined with top-notch in-flight service, passengers very likely found themselves happily trading space for luxury. 

Flying on Concorde was a departure from the typical airline experience of its time. Passengers felt like esteemed members of an exclusive club, receiving a level of service that was unparalleled in the aviation industry.  

The boarding process was efficient, and the cabin crew, highly trained and attentive, ensured passengers’ needs were met promptly.  

Concorde cabin at the Bristol Aero Collection, Kemble Airfield, England. Photo: MilborneOne, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Supersonic Thrill

Concorde cruised at an altitude of 60,000 feet (18,290 meters), while non-supersonic airliners typically cruise at altitudes of 30,000 to 40,000 feet (9,144 to 12,192 meters). There are a few reasons for this difference: 

Supersonic flight: Concorde was designed to fly at supersonic speeds, which requires a higher cruising altitude. This is because the air is thinner at higher altitudes, which reduces drag and allows the aircraft to fly faster. 

Efficiency: Concorde’s engines were more fuel-efficient at higher altitudes. 

Smoothness: The air is less turbulent at higher altitudes, which provides a smoother ride for passengers. 

Non-supersonic airliners, on the other hand, do not need to fly at such high altitudes in order to achieve their cruising speeds. Additionally, they are not as fuel-efficient at high altitudes as Concorde was. 

Flight at 60,000 feet

Flying at 60,000 feet also gave Concorde passengers some unique benefits, such as: 

Stunning views: From 60,000 feet, Concorde passengers could see for hundreds of miles in all directions. This provided them with breath-taking views of the Earth below. 

A sense of exclusivity: Concorde was a very unique and exclusive aircraft, and flying at 60,000 feet added to passengers feeling like they were part of an elite group. 

A faster flight time: Concorde’s cruising speed was twice the speed of sound, which meant that transatlantic flights took less than half the time as they do on non-supersonic airliners. 

Once Concorde reached its cruising altitude, passengers were treated to a truly unique experience. The view from the windows was nothing short of breath-taking, and the sensation of traveling at supersonic speeds was exhilarating.  

For those fortunate enough to have been aboard Concorde, the thrill of speed combined with the unparalleled scenery created lasting memories. 

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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 6 Min Read
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