Perhaps it’s an anniversary only the industry and aviation geeks can appreciate, but it’s significant nonetheless.
Some 100 years ago today, Sunday, Aug. 25, the first scheduled international passenger flight took and landed safely. It was a fledgling moment, coming just 16 years after the Wright Brothers flew their first test flight on a North Carolina beach.
This was as equally primitive.
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The two-and-a-half-hour flight took place between London and Paris from Hounslow Heath airstrip on a place operated by Air Transport & Travel Ltd. with just one passenger – a journalist from London’s Evening Standard – on board.
A hundred years later, the same flight over the English Channel is 45 minutes, Hounslow Heath became Heathrow International Airport, Air Transport & Travel Ltd. became British Airways, and the one passenger is now hundreds – talk about changes.
Earlier in 1919, two British men made a nonstop trans-Atlantic flight from London to New York, but carrying paying passengers was unheard of. And if it wasn’t, air travel was mostly for wealthy customers.
Paul Jarvis, the late curator of the BA Heritage Collection, who spoke to CNN Travel about his book “British Airways: 100 Years of Aviation Posters” in 2018, said marketing the first passenger air services was important.
“The very early days it was very much just about persuading people to fly at all,” Jarvis says. “There were quite a lot of people who thought flying […] was just a passing fad.”
Oh, and don’t feel bad about that queasy feeling you might get when you fly. George Stevenson-Reece, the journalist who was on the first flight, was said to have gotten sick during the trip – in his hat.
A year later, in 1920, Dutch airline KLM started flights between London and Amsterdam, slowly kicking off the advent of commercial aviation.