This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
Note many articles have been updated since they were first published.
Even over the past two decades, air travel has changed beyond recognition.
Whether it is due to advances in technology, security requirements, changing social attitudes or simply cold hard economics, there have been any facilities and services withdrawn over the past few decades.
1. Peruse a printed timetable
Sadly, these were withdrawn many years ago. Of course, you now have searchable timetables online, but sometimes it is easier to just browse the printed page. Printed timetables do of course also serve as a permanent historical record. Here’s one of, if not the last, printed timetables from 2007/2008.
2. Rock-up at the gate without a ticket 10 minutes before your flight
It’s unthinkable today, but in the era of BA’s Shuttle Service on UK domestic routes you could just turn up at the gate 10 minutes before departure without even a ticket and be guaranteed a seat on the aircraft
3. Check-in downtown
It wasn’t until that long ago you could check-in for your flight (and in some cases luggage) at Paddington and Victoria stations.
BA also used to offer Club Europe passengers the ability to check-in at parking and car hire facilities. At some airports you could also check-in in the lounge or at the departure gate.
4. Check-in by telephone
No, not on your phone. But as in literally calling up BA.
5. Make a run for your flight
Running late for your flight? Caught up in traffic or just missed a Heathrow Express train? Hoping to make a run for the departure gate and catch the flight just as the aircraft doors are closing?
Today, not a chance, at least at Heathrow Terminal 5. The opening of Terminal 5 introduced the concept of “conformance” whereby you have to clear security 35 minutes before your flight departs or you will be automatically offloaded from the flight.
Although many passengers viewed this as an aberration and BA admitted at the time it would require giving passengers difficult messages, it has been maintained.
6. Lounge anywhere at BA’s expense
BA used to have a rather generous “Open Doors” lounge policy for Gold Executive Club cardholders. This allowed you to use a BA lounge without a BA ticket regardless of which airline you were flying on. This, no doubt in part due to the rise of easyJet at Gatwick, was withdrawn more than ten years ago.
7. Smoke on board an aircraft
After being progressively withdrawn from certain routes, smoking was banned on all BA aircraft in March 1998.
8. Knock back a complimentary G&T in Euro Traveller.
After years of progressive cuts to complimentary food and beverage in Euro Traveller, BA withdrew complimentary catering in the cabin entirely in early 2017. So no more unlimited free G&Ts to numb the pain of short-haul travel. Contrary to BA’s predictions, its major network rivals in Europe did not follow suit and the jury is still out on whether it was the right move.
9. Visit the flight deck mid-flight
By the far the best views from on board a flight are from the flight deck. Following the events of 11 September 2001, flight deck doors are now secured before take-off. Concorde flights in particular used to be known for passengers being invited to the flight deck with a glass of champagne in hand.
10. Join the Junior Jet Club
If you were a young flyer on BOAC or BA, you used to be able to join the “Junior Jet Club” for a nominal fee and receive special pin badges and a log book which the pilots could complete for you each flight. Alas, this is no longer the case.
If you would like to receive all future articles published by London Air Travel directly by e-mail, then enter your e-mail address below: