A precursor to today's British Airways - Aircraft Transport and Travel - began flying from London to Paris one hundred years ago in tiny bi-planes.
Today British Airways have unveiled their luxurious 'Club Suite' cabins aboard the hulking double-decker long haul Airbus A350.
Stunning images chart BA's journey from biplanes to the first transatlantic flights in the Boeing 377 Stratocruiser and the glorious days of 'Jumbo Jet' flying, with decadent lounge cabins full of cigars and vintage wines.
The historic pictures show the progress made by Aircraft Transport and Travel, through to the days of the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA), and the BA jets we know today.
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In August 1919 Aircraft Transport and Travel (AT&T) became the first British airline offering commercial flights which had a regular service from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, London, to Le Bourget, Paris. They gained a reputation for reliability, although weather conditions across the English Channel for the De Havilland biplanes could make flying difficult. As well as the service to Paris, they began operating a flight from London to Amsterdam in 1920 on behalf of KLM. By 1921, three British and three French airline companies were operating flights over the Channel, with the French operators being subsidised by their government. In protest to their lack of government support, the British airlines stopped operating. British Airways can trace part of its legacy to AT&T following a succession of mergers and takeovers
The Boeing 377 Stratocruiser was originally developed for military transportation and was based on Boeing B-28 Superfortress, a propeller driven bomber which was flown in WWII and the Korean War by the United States Air Force (USAF). British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) - British Airways precursor - acquired the planes at the end of 1949, using them for revolutionary transatlantic crossings to New York. In 1951, BOAC introduced the luxury 'Monarch' service to New York on March 1 using the Stratocruiser sleeper service.
The First Class cabin viewed from the bar located in the galley of the 1951 BOAC 'Monarch' service to New York on the Stratocruiser sleeper service. Oysters as well as fine wine can be seen laid out for the executive passengers, while the barman pours a cocktail. Smoking cigars and cigarettes was commonplace and passengers could relax on large sofas. A spiral staircase led to this ‘club in the sky’ which was called the Monarch lounge and was exclusive to First Class customers.
In April 1971, BOAC launched commercial operations with the iconic Boeing 747-136, initially to New York. They were the first wide-body 'Jumbo Jets' in history, featuring a luxurious double-decker First Class cabin at the front of the plane. The BOAC livery colour scheme featured a blue stripe from the front to the rear, with a two-tone white and chrome paint-job to the top and bottom of the fuselage respectively. The 'speed bird' logo on the tail-fin was first used by Imperial Airways in 1932 before being taken up by BOAC. Today's BA ribbon which features on its aircraft is a distant echo of the 'speed bird' design.
Passengers on a BOAC Boeing 747 in the 1970s, champagnes, white wines and clarets are laid out on the table along with canapes during dinner service on the luxury jet. The innovative top-deck is seen here, with the front of the plane being sectioned off into the cockpit. Passengers could descend and ascend the stairs to access further amenities on board including a bar with a broad selection of wines and spirits
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Pilots aboard the jet in the hulking Boeing 747. The huge plane was conceived in the glory days of commercial jet travel as a predecessor to the Boeing 707. In the earlier models there were no specific plans for seating in the space behind the cockpit - the upper deck had only been created to allow access to the hold through a compartment in the nose. Initially they designed the area as a lounge area with sofa seating and a bar before permanent seating options were incorporated
A British European Airways (BEA) Sikorski S51 helicopter. A scheduled commercial service using the S-51s - which were originally deployed for mail transportation - was operated between Cardiff, Wrexham and Liverpool in 1950. Later the service was expanded to include Southampton Eastleigh, Heathrow and Northolt Airport. The service was expanded in the 1960s with newer aircraft, offering helicopter flights to off-shore oil rigs in Aberdeen into the 1970s. Towards the end of the 1970s the helicopters were used as a high speed shuttle to deliver passengers from Gatwick to Heathrow for connecting journeys. In April 1974, BEA merged with BOAC to form British Airways.
BEA air stewardesses in their uniform designed by Hardy Amies in 1972. He created them to allow the expression of individuality achieved by interchangeable colours of the blouses and scarves based on the strong red, white and blue theme associated with BEA. The short Tutankhamun hat is in French blue, trimmed with BEA red Petersham ribbon and was designed to be worn on the back of the head. It was adopted as the first uniform of the newly-created British Airways.
An information card for the BOAC Douglas DC-7C describing its radar and radio equipment, pressurisation and air-conditioning, sound level and fuel systems. The American Douglas Aircraft Company built the planes between 1953 and 1958 - they were the largest piston engine aircraft before their jet engine DC-8 began flying. BOAC acquired ten of the planes to compete with Pan Am's putting the planes into service in the mid-1950s. They were used in transatlantic crossings, such as from Manchester to New York Idlewild (today known as JFK)
The BOAC Douglas DC-7C ('Seven Seas') was touted for its triple-pane windows and use of modern acoustics to reduce noise levels, at the time 'one of the world's quietest airliners.' The wings were based on those of the DC-4 and DC-6 aircraft which were designed for military transportation in WWII. Since the end of the 1940s, the Douglas planes had made a handful of non-stop transatlantic flights, but it was the DC-7C which made the crossing possible despite whatever wind speeds might have been encountered on the crossing.
In 1952, BOAC bought 14 de Havilland Comets. The original Comet