BA100: 99. The First Flights

100 Years Of British Airways: The first international flights on 25 August 1919.

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Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd, British Airways "Aviators" Advert 2011
Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd, British Airways “Aviators” Advert 2011 (Image Credit: Bartle Bogle Hegarty for British Airways)

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

It was on 25 August 1919 that the first international passenger services began between London and Paris.

According to The Times newspaper on 26 August 1919, three aircraft operated the route on the day.

The first flight to leave London on the day was a Handley Page aircraft which departed at 08:40. It was piloted by Major Foot and carried 11 passengers, most of whom were newspaper journalists.

The weather conditions were described by a journalist for The Times as dull and showery. The interior of the aircraft was described as fitted with comfortable chairs in a silk lined cabin. The journey was considered to be made under comfortable conditions, save for some bumpy conditions over French soil. The aircraft arrived in Paris shortly after 1pm. It was due to return to London on the same day, but arrangements for refuelling were not made in time.

A second aircraft, an Airco 4, owned by Aircraft Transport and Travel Company, left Hounslow Heath at 09:10, arriving at Le Bourget Paris on time at 11:40.

The aircraft was piloted by Lieutenant Lawford and carried just one passenger, a journalist from the Evening Standard. It also carried a full load including daily newspapers, a consignment of leather, several brace of grouse and a number of jars of Devonshire cream. The aircraft left Paris one hour after arrival, returning to Hounslow at 14:45. It is this flight that BA regards as the start of its operation.

The third and final aircraft, also owned by Aircraft Transport and Travel Company, was an Air 16 piloted by Major Cyril Patterson left from Cricklewood at 12:30 and arrived in Paris at 14:45.

Aircraft Transport and Travel Company claimed the route as an operational success with the service shortly reaching daily with few operational incidents. A rival airline Handley Page would soon also launch a service to Brussels.

However, with competition soon arriving from airlines in mainland Europe, Aircraft Transport and Travel Company folded in 1920 and its successor airline Daimler Airways merged with a number of other airlines to form Imperial Airways in 1924.

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