How about flying from UAE to London for just £84 – one way. Seems impossible now, right? But this was the airfare of the British Airways’ – or should we call it Imperial Airways – first flight that landed in Sharjah, UAE, back in 1932.
This was also the first aircraft that landed in the UAE.
The aircraft – with around 20-odd passengers – reached the UAE after six days travelling through Kuwait, Iraq and other countries. But, interestingly, now flying period has reduced from six days to just over six hours between UAE and London. British Airways used to fly to the UAE once a week – flying from London Saturday and reached Sharjah on Thursday.
This was revealed by the BA officials at the press conference in Dubai on Wednesday to celebrate its 80th anniversary of flights to the Middle East.
The airline’s first flight to the region touched down in Sharjah on October 7, 1932, under the banner of Imperial Airways, a predecessor to British Airways. The Handley Page HP42 aircraft took off from Croydon, just south of London, on October 2, 1932 and took six days to reach Sharjah. The aircraft travelled at just 160kmh and carried fewer than 20 passengers.
Today, 80 years later, a British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Dubai on a Boeing 747-400 takes approximately six and a half hours, travels at 988kmh and can carry up to 345 passengers across four classes.
At a press briefing, British Airways Chairman Sir Martin Broughton said: “The growth of the aviation industry has been one of the most significant developments in travel and we are especially proud to have been a part of it in the Middle East. British Airways has always been committed to using our expertise, experience and knowledge to make flying an enjoyable and exciting experience for customers. We’ve pioneered many aviation firsts and are currently two years into a £5 billion investment plan that includes new aircraft, smarter cabins, elegant lounges and new technologies.”
Imperial Airways began flying to Dubai in October 1937 – 75 years ago this month. The C-Class flying boats flew from Southampton to Karachi, via Marseilles, Rome, Brindisi, Athens, Alexandria, Tiberias, Habbaniyeh, Basra, Bahrain, Dubai and Jiwani. BOAC - which stood for British Overseas Airways Corporation and was the result of a merger with Imperial Airways – started services from London Heathrow to Dubai in 1966. Two years later, BOAC began flying to Abu Dhabi.
The airline’s Concorde service flew between London Heathrow and Bahrain from 1976 to 1980. In February 1979, Queen Elizabeth flew to Kuwait on Concorde at the start of a three-week Middle East tour that also included Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The Concorde flight from Heathrow to Kuwait took less than four hours. “As the aviation industry in the Middle East continues to grow, we look forward to being a part of its development for the next 80 years and beyond,” De Renzis said.
British Airways is also launching a special fare offer for Middle Eastern travellers to coincide with the 80th anniversary. Customers can fly to London with BA for just Dh2,770 and must before October 31.