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Concorde: fast and beautiful -- but costing a bundle

Concorde may be fast and beautiful. But the Anglo-French supersonic airliner is struggling to become a popular and profitable plane. The sleek aircraft was already in financial trouble. Now a series of developments in Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and the United States has compounded the problem.

The Saudis are incensed over the screening of the British television film "Death of a Princess," which put the Saudi royal family in a poor light. British Airways have gotten sudden word from the Saudis that no more supersonic flights will be allowed over their country.

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The Saudi ban means a large chunk of the London-singapore route is having to be flown at subsonic speeds. It extends the journey time. Sharply reduces Concorde's passenger load. Wipes out any chance of profit.

Lebanon has also banned supersonic flights over its territory. this is forcing the British national carrier to negotiate another eastern route through Egyptian and Saudi Arabian airspace.

In the US, the Texas-based airline Braniff has decided to end its Concorde feeder service between Washington and Dallas-Fort Worth.

Braniff's termination of its feeder flights is a bitter blow. The rich Texas market was thought likely to boost Concorde toward profitability. Braniff found it could not justify operating the plane.

The setbacks come at a time when overall losses on Concorde amounting to some

To get Concorde into the black, BA executives are planning to add more flights to New York and Washington. By late this year BA will be operating seven Concordes.

The airline has flown more than a quarter of a million passengers on its Concordes. It is convinced there will always be demand for seats. But there are few hopes that the plane will ever be more than marginally profitable.

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Overall development and operating figues are even more depressing. Since the early 1960s Britain has spent close to L900 million designing, building, and flying it.

Concorde's commercial career began in 1976, with BA and Air France concentrating on North Atlantic routes. French officials are encouraging Air France to fly it to Latin America as well.

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