British Airways marks 85 years of in-flight service


Thursday, May 03, 2012    

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Last Tuesday, May 1, marked an important milestone for British Airways as it has been 85 years since the first in-flight meal service on a commercial aircraft. The food in the air industry has come a long way since then.

In 1927, Imperial Airways (predecessor to British Airways) introduced the Silverwing-branded air service on the London to Paris route. The flight offered the first luxury

on-board meal service. A male steward dressed in a smart white tunic served just 10 passengers on the flight, which took around two hours.

On-board was a small cabinet carrying four gills (servings) of whisky, a dozen bottles of lager beer, two siphons of sparkling water and 12 assorted bottles of mineral water. They also carried a packet of sandwiches or biscuits and one or two thermos flasks of hot water, within which the steward made coffee or beef tea to nourish the passengers during the flight. The service represented the height of luxury, as up until this time passengers had to fend for themselves, packing home-made snacks for the journey.

Eighty-five years on, British Airways' cabin crew serve around 100,000 meals a day to customers, often with more than one meal on an individual flight. The airline's 14,000 crew members are trained in the art of premium service. They are taught skills which include how to tell a Merlot from a Shiraz, how to cook the perfect scrambled eggs and how to recreate a five-star turndown service.

Bill Francis, British Airways' head of in-flight service, said: "At British Airways we have an incredible history. We've developed the service to our customers; and even as we've grown from small propeller aircraft to 747's, we've managed to maintain the magic that makes flying special." The British Airways Heritage Collection opened in November 2011 at British Airways' head office and is open to members of the public. Information from the collection can also be found online at



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