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.
If there’s one route more important to BA than any other, its London – New York, linking two major global financial centres.
BOAC operated its first commercial flights from London to New York, with stops in Shannon and Gander, in July 1946:
Good news for British commercial flying, with the opening at Heathrow of BOAC’s constellation air service between London and New York. These super airliners are even equipped for showing films during the Atlantic crossing. Passengers go on board for the first flight of the new service, a service only made possible by the British pioneers of the past, who’ve turned a high adventure into an everyday affair.
In 1950, BOAC introduced a dedicated “Monarch” service to New York, initially with the Stratocruiser aircraft. This was extended to other aircraft such as the Comet 4.
In 1958, BOAC beat Pan Am to operate the first transatlantic jet flight to New York.
In the late 1960s, BOAC boasted of five flights a day to London on either the VC10 or Boeing 707 aircraft.
By the mid 1990s, BA operated seven services a day to New York.
London Heathrow – New York JFK is a route BA historically prioritises for newly refurbished aircraft and cabins. It was the first route to be guaranteed to operate with flat beds in Club World in 2000.
Today, BA flies to New York up to 12 times a day, largely with Boeing 747s each configured with 100 First and Club World seats. It is the only long-haul destination BA serves from all of London City, Gatwick and Heathrow.
It is one route where BA always faces new long-haul competitors, including now defunct airlines eos, Laker Airways and Silverjet as well as current rivals Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian. The one retrograde development is that it is of course no longer a route where you arrive before you leave.
BA did also recently lose the title of the largest international airline at New York to Norwegian, but with Norwegian now focused on cutting routes and profitability, that may change very soon.
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