British Airways is celebrating 60 years since its inaugural trans-Atlantic jet flight. To mark the occasion, it hosted a celebratory event earlier this week. For guest Peggy Thorne, the occasion afforded the opportunity to take a brief look back at the glamor and the great meals of the early age of jet travel.
British Airways (BA) is marking 60 years since its first trans-Atlantic jet flight and while the golden age of air travel may be in the past, the occasion has – thanks to the memories of one woman – offered passengers of today the chance to vicariously relive the glamorous early days of trans-Atlantic travel.
Back then, the carrier now known as BA was the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and it was in competition with Pan American Airways (Pan Am) to offer the first trans-Atlantic jet flight. Peggy Thorne, now 91, served as a member of cabin crew onboard BOAC’s inaugural flight from London to New York, which departed on October 4, 1958.
Commenting on the flight, which was undertaken in a de Havilland Comet 4 craft, Thorne was quoted in a statement by the carrier as saying, “It was marvelous. We were used to travelling to New York on Boeing Stratocruisers which took up to 20 hours. We couldn’t believe the flight was possible in such a short time.”
At the same time that Thorne’s flight was making its crossing, a second BOAC de Havilland was operating in the opposite direction.
Further reminiscing at a celebratory even hosted by BA earlier this week, Thorne said, “It was so exciting to be the first – it was wonderful. There were all sorts of dignitaries on board, press and the chairman of BOAC. It was a thrilling experience.”
Thorne also took the time to describe the in-flight eating options, saying, “We served customers madeira biscuits and coffee when they came on board, followed by cocktails and canapés, and then a five-course lunch with wines. Petit fours followed and then there was afternoon tea! Our customers loved it – they ate and drank from when they got on board until the time they got off.”
But, as Thorne’s account illustrates, in-flight dining isn’t the only thing to have changed as the jet age progressed. “It’s overwhelming. The technology and the number of aircraft training cabins – we had nothing like this in our day,” she said.