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.
Her Majesty The Queen has a long history with BA and its predecessor airlines.
On 31 January 1952, The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, bid farewell to King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at London airport before departing on a BOAC Argonaut “Atlanta” G-ALHK aircraft with Prince Philip for a world tour of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.
The aircraft routed via RAF El Adem (Libya) for refuelling and a change of crew. This trip was cut short following the unexpected death of King George VI. Princess Elizabeth returned a week later from Kenya via El Adem on the same BOAC aircraft as Queen Elizabeth II.
BA has the original telegram received on the flight home from the Queen Mother to her daughter, which read:
To: Her Majesty The Queen
All my thoughts and prayers are with you.
The message was received over the radio, written directly into the Captain’s log book and then copied out by hand onto a BOAC signal form, before being presented to Her Majesty.
BEA, BOAC and BA have flown The Queen on many state visits and tours.
These include the 1953 and 1954 Commonwealth tours (on a BOAC Stratocruiser), Canada and the US in 1957 (on a BOAC DC-7C aircraft), Bermuda and Jamaica 1963 (on a BOAC Stratocruiser), New Zealand in 1974, Japan in 1975, the Commonwealth Silver Jubilee tour 1977 (on Concorde), the Middle East in 1979 (on Concorde), a state visit to China in 1986 (Lockheed L-1011 Tristar) and Australia in 2011 (non-stop from London to Perth on a Boeing 777).
Those crews who have flown with The Queen are of course bound by strict confidentiality agreements, but it is known that aircraft are specially configured for The Queen’s use.
The Queen also officially opened London Heathrow Terminal 1 in 1969 and Terminal 5 in 2008 and Gatwick’s North Terminal.