Last updated: 11:30 AM ET, Wed September 23 2015

British Airways Carries 800-Year-Old Passenger

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | September 23, 2015

British Airways Carries 800-Year-Old Passenger

Photo courtesy of the British Consulate General

British Airways delivered its oldest, and arguably most important, passenger ever on Monday.

The 800-year-old Magna Carta.

One of the world’s most important documents — if not the most important, since served as the basis for virtually every subsequent formation of democratic government — is on tour now in several countries.

Over the course of four months, an original version of the document from 1217, accompanied by the only surviving 1215 King’s Writ from Runnymede, will pass through seven countries, across four continents and 25 time zones, traveling a total of approximately 65,000 miles.

British Airways flew the document across the Atlantic in the airline’s first-class cabin with a dedicated security guard. On loan from Hereford Cathedral in England, both documents will continue from New York to tour stops in China (including Hong Kong), Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, and Singapore, where it will be displayed at a number of public venues.

The “Magna Carta 800: Sharing the Legacy of Freedom” exhibition at the New York Historical Society, one of America’s pre-eminent cultural institutions, will run from September 23 through September 30, 2015. It is the first and only U.S. stop on the global tour, and the documents will be on display alongside key papers relating to the creation of the United States from the New York Historical Society Library.

British Airways Captain Ian Aird, who flew the special document from London Heathrow to New York’s JFK airport, called the Magna Carta and the King’s Writ “definitely one of the most precious pieces of cargo we’ve ever had the honor of carrying. The news that we had such an important piece of history on board certainly created a buzz in our First Class cabin.”

“The Magna Carta is a hugely important part of our history and stands as a beacon for our values today,” U.K. Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire said in a statement. “The tour is a fantastic way of enabling people from America to Asia to see it first hand, and to reflect on all that it stands for.”

The Magna Carta has played a key role in the history of democracy around the world and still forms part of British law today. The tour will demonstrate its international resonance while also showcasing British influence across trade, law, international values and democracy.

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