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Concorde Grounded

LONDON — Marc Jacobs flew Thursday via Concorde from Paris to New York and was disappointed to learn after landing that it was one of his last supersonic flights. But he wasn’t surprised.<br><br>"I was one of only five or six people on the...

LONDON — Marc Jacobs flew Thursday via Concorde from Paris to New York and was disappointed to learn after landing that it was one of his last supersonic flights. But he wasn’t surprised.

This story first appeared in the April 11, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“I was one of only five or six people on the flight this morning,” he said of the supersonic plane that can carry 90 passengers. “It was really kind of empty.”

Fashion designers, executives and everyday jet-setters mourned the passing of the Concorde era this week, insisting that life just wouldn’t be the same without the little bird. As widely reported earlier this week, British Airways said it would be retiring its seven Concorde jets at the end of October. Air France announced a similar decision, saying its last flight would be May 31.

Both airlines, which operated their Concorde jets for more than 26 years, have blamed decreasing passenger revenue and increasing costs.

The Concorde was as much an elite club as a form of transportation, with tickets costing about $11,000 each. It has long been a magnet for fashion designers, celebrities and socialites who preferred speed to comfort (the plane could be noisy and was so low that taller passengers couldn’t stand fully erect in the middle of the aisle). Yet, in a canny parallel to the fashion world, passengers vied to be seated in the first row as a sign of their status and a badge of chic.

“With only 90 seats, it’s like a VIP cocktail lounge, where everyone is craning their necks to see where everyone else is sitting,” said the London-based banker Roslyn Braun.

High-fliers over the years have included Hubert de Givenchy, Donatella Versace, Luciano Pavarotti, Anna Wintour, Oscar de la Renta, Kal Ruttenstein of Bloomingdale’s, Nan Kempner and Yves Carcelle, head of Louis Vuitton. They opted for the plane’s speed — which cut the time of the transatlantic journey in half.

“I am an avid user of this service,” said Italian designer Roberto Cavalli, who lamented its loss. “I will really feel how much longer the trip will take.”

Jacobs, who lives in Paris and designs Louis Vuitton, jets frequently to New York to work on his signature collection. He said the Concorde was really convenient because it allowed him “a full day of work” upon arrival in the U.S.

Banker Braun said that thanks to the Concorde, she can shop or do a full day’s work in New York without feeling sick or jet-lagged — and then take the long-haul flight back to London that same night.

Jacobs took a philosophical approach: “Life goes on. I’ll just sleep more because sleeping on a plane has never been a problem for me. Maybe I’ll read more.”