The former chief executive of British Airways who went on to lead European airline group IAG and who recently took over as Director General of the world’s largest airline industry association has scoffed at United’s plans to operate supersonic passenger planes.
United Airlines has generated reams of press coverage since announcing a deal with Boom Supersonic last week to buy as many as 50 of the manufacturers ‘Overture’ carbon-neutral supersonic passenger planes.
Slashing flight times, Boom and United claim the planes would be capable of flying from Newark to London in just 3:30 hours and to Frankfurt in as little as four hours. A flight from San Francisco to Tokyo would clock in at 6 hours – more than four hours faster than current flight times between the two cities.
“We’ll watch with interest but no, I wouldn’t be buying it,” Walsh commented about the United deal at an airlines conference on Thursday. “I’m not convinced that supersonic transport is the right move going forward.”
Walsh does at least have some experience in this field. He became chief executive at British Airways in 2005, just a few years after Concorde operated its last flight for British Airways on October 24, 2003.
Concorde’s retirement came after more than 27 years flying scheduled passenger services for British Airways and Walsh says that if it hadn’t already been grounded by the time he was appointed CEO, he would have pulled the plug on the plane.
“I have the nice position of having seen what the profitability of Concorde was before I joined British Airways,” Walsh said on Thursday. “It wasn’t a profitable operation,” reports Reuters.
The return of supersonic passenger flight is still years away even with the United deal. The first Overture jet set to roll off the production line in 2025 before taking its first flight the following year.
If all goes well, supersonic passenger travel could again be possible by 2029 but only if Overture “meets United’s demanding safety, operating and sustainability requirements”.
If it doesn’t, United can simply walk away from the deal.
Walsh now leads the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which represents the vast majority of airlines around the world, including United.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.