The jointly operated British Airways & Singapore Airlines service 1977 – 1980

Due to the fact that both British Airways and Air France were being denied landing rights at New York JFK, by the airports owners the Port Authority of New York. The two airlines needed to find new routes for their Concorde fleets. British Airways had another lucrative market apart from the North Atlantic routes; this was Asia, which included the British colony of Hong Kong, and the former colonies of Singapore and Australia.

During Concorde’s route proving flights around the world, before the aircraft entered into service. A lot of effort when into the routes to the Australia and the Far East, which was in preparation for eventual passenger service on these routes using Concorde.

British Airways and Singapore Airlines had originally announced their joint agreement for the thrice-weekly Concorde service between London and Singapore which was via Bahrain, on 26 October 1977.  On 9 December 1977, British Airways and Singapore Airlines commenced a service between London and Singapore – Paya Lebar via a stop over in Bahrain, bringing the travel time to only 9 hours. So British Airways had now managed to extend their original Bahrain service (which was started in 1976 using Concorde G-BOAA) to Singapore.

British Airways only used one aircraft on this route, the Concorde used was G-BOAD, which proudly displayed the Singapore Airways livery, but only on one side of the fuselage, as the other side was adorned with the British Airways Negus livery. This service set another first for Concorde; it was the first time that a Concorde had been flown in an airline livery other than that of British Airways or Air France. But the Singapore Airways livery gave them great free advert, and the route was always a combined BA /Singapore airlines route, with G-BOAD.

Originally British Airways had intended to fly supersonic through Indian airspace and some successful test proving flights had been completed earlier. However, by the time the service was due to commence, permission to overfly Indian Territory at supersonic speeds had been withdrawn by the Indian government. British Airways had to battle with the Indian government as they needed to gain this approval to fly supersonic over India, but in the end, Concorde was forced to avoid Indian airspace. This therefore added another 200 miles to Concorde’s route and 10 more minutes to its flight time, and therefore adding of course to increased fuel consumption during the flight. But it seems that the Indian government wasn’t objecting to the flight path of Concorde, they were using the situation to demand that in exchange for an approval of the flight path, Air India would gain further slots and 5th freedom rights at London Heathrow Airport.

But the service had only completed 3 flights before it was suspended owing to the Malaysian government withdrawing permission to overfly the Straits of Malacca. Concorde needed to fly at supersonic speeds over parts of its territory, this was finally resolved and the resumption of the service followed, Even though the service was not running the aircraft kept the Singapore Airlines livery during this time, giving them free adverts as the aircraft was utilised on other routes, including flights to the USA

The difficulties with the Malaysians were due to them trying to use the Concorde operation to help them negotiate a 5th freedom right out of London Heathrow. The service was withdrawn on 13 December 1977 after only 3 return flights, because of these complaints from the Malaysian government about the supersonic boom over the Straits of Malacca, which is on the West coast of Malaysia. But in the summer of the same year, Malaysia Airlines plans of further capacity increase on the London route were denied in order to protect British Airways and Cathy Pacific, which caused a clash between the Malaysian and British governments. In addition to these difficult relations, Singapore Airlines was a tough Malaysian competitor.

This was finally resolved and the resumption of the service followed on the 24 January 1979, but it was not considered worth the trade as by then as British Airways had enough work for their aircraft on the route it was designed for the North Atlantic. So the service only lasted for 20 months before the service was withdrawn on the 1 November 1980, which was reportedly losing around £2 million a year, apart from the main factors was quoted, the west-bound load factors were very low.
The Singapore-Bahrain segment was also critical for payload as high temps regularly limited the Take-off weight. Although this was normally compensated for by the ability to cruise to Mach2 at both ends with no delays or speed restrictions straight from take-off. The route was London – Bahrain – Singapore and including the one hour stopover in Bahrain it took Concorde 9 hour’s approx to reach Singapore. The route was always a combined BA /Singapore airlines route with just one Concorde.
The operation to Bahrain was a mixture of sub and supersonic flight, whilst from Bahrain it was supersonic all the way. The cool moist air of the tropics between Bahrain and Singapore increased performance slightly, adding up to a 200 mile range increase with 75 pax.

The Flight deck crews were always British Airways with the cabin crew alternated by sector between British Airways and Singapore Airways. The London Heathrow-Singapore service was 3 times per week, and ran from January 1979 to November 1980.

The cabin crew was either completely Singapore Airlines or British Airways, and the two sets alternated the sectors. This meant that BA cabin crews turned up in Singapore and Singapore Airlines cabin crew turned up in London. Some BA flight deck crews were based in Singapore and operated only the Singapore – Bahrain – Singapore sectors. London based BA Flight crew operated the London – Bahrain – London sectors.