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Concorde Flights to End in November - 2003-04-10

The world's only supersonic jet, which has carried monarchs, movie stars and presidents, retires in November, after nearly 30 years in the air. French and British airlines announced the end to their Concorde service Thursday.

The end of Concorde flights closes a proud chapter in French and British aviation history, and ends hopes the jet would rebound after a deadly crash in July 2000. In separate statements, Air France and British Airways announced they were retiring the Concorde from service because of escalating operating costs, and a drop in passengers.

Both companies cited a global downturn in air travel, partly due in recent weeks to the war in Iraq. At the same time, the two companies said, fuel, maintenance and other operating costs were mounting.

British Airways said it would continue to operate flights between London and New York, and seasonal flights to Barbados, before ending all Concorde operations before November. Air France said it would suspend its commercial flights by the end of May, but could resume them for a few months if business picked up.

France and Britain worked jointly to develop the jet more than 40 years ago, and launched the first Concorde flights in 1976. Today, a London to New York flight takes just over three hours. Britain's Queen Elizabeth and French President Jacques Chirac have flown the Concorde. So have rock stars, such as Phil Collins and Paul McCartney.

But the jets were grounded, following a fiery crash of a Concorde taking off from Paris in July 2000. The accident, which killed 113 people, was blamed on a piece of metal that punctured the jet's tire and set off a chain of events that led to the crash.

Both British and French companies resumed Concorde service just over a year later. A parade of stars and politicians were on hand for the first flight from Paris in November 2001. Celebrity French chef Alain Ducasse created the Concorde's menu.

To mark the Concorde's last few months in flight, British Airways announced a discount, a one-way ticket from London to New York now costs just over $3,000, a savings of almost $4,000 from the average price of the ticket.

After its retirement, the British Concorde will be displayed in museums, allowing the less wealthy access to the luxury aircraft.