British Airways Marks 70 Years of New York Service
Photo by Paul Thompson
British Airways is marking 70 years of service from London to New York City. The airline first launched its service on July 1, 1946 on a bi-weekly schedule. Back then, service to New York was scheduled for 19 hours and 45 minutes, including a fuel stop on the Atlantic coast. Today, the flights are flown nonstop, and are scheduled at about seven hours and forty-five minutes.
Back then, it was British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) who flew the flights, using a Lockheed Constellation from London Heathrow to New York’s La Guardia Airport. New York’s major international airport (now known as JFK) did not open until two years later.
Over the years, the BOAC evolved into what is now known as British Airways via a series of mergers between its subsidiary airlines, including British European Airways (BEA), British South American Airways (BSAA).
British Airways has been an innovator in commercial aviation throughout its history. Its predecessor airline BEA was the world’s first airline to fly a jet aircraft — which happened to be produced in the United Kingdom — the de Havilland Comet, beginning in 1952. Boeing didn’t deliver its first jet (the 707) until 1958.
British Airways helped bring us the Concorde, the famous needle-nosed supersonic jet, which was a collaborative development between the British and French. The plane had a cruising speed of Mach 2, and could fly from New York to London in under three hours. On board, passengers received the finest cuisine and champagne. The seats were configured two-by-two and were about the same width as the average airline seat.
The airline continued to innovate the passenger experience in the 1990s, by being the first in the world to offer First Class seats that folded out into a lie-flat bed. Then in May of 1999, British Airways also became the first airline to offer flat bed seats in their business class, known as Club World.
And while Club World hasn’t changed a significant amount since that time, First Class has continued to evolve and improve, keeping the airline among industry leaders. I found it outstanding when I experienced it on the airline’s new Boeing 787-9 from London to Austin last fall. The roomy, angled seat with aisle access and multiple storage compartments was complimented by the huge flat-screen TV from which I could choose among hundreds of movies and TV shows.
Each of British Airways’ new wide body jets features these updated cabins. July 4th marked the third anniversary of the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 joining its fleet. The carrier now has twelve A380s, eight 787-8s and ten 787-9s, according to the fleet information on its website. The airline also has the largest Boeing 747 fleet in the world, and the interiors of those jets are currently being renovated.
Looking to the future, BA has eighteen Airbus A350s on order, and rumors on the street say the new A350 may have a brand new Club World product.
Today, British Airways serves New York with twelve daily flights, including nine from London Heathrow, two from London City Airport, and one from London Gatwick using a variety of aircraft, including the Boeing 747, 777, 787 and the Airbus A318.
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