It was a lovely little nostalgic trip down memory lane for our national flagship carrier through a quaint collection of carefully selected archived footage and the fond recollections of pilots, crew and passengers. Last year a Channel 5 programme chartered the glorified history of British Airways from its distant grass roots in 1919 to the present day and now British Airways has a new star studded advertising campaign to mark this magnificent 100 year milestone! But in all honesty amidst the threat of a pilots strike and errors in flight cancellations causing disruption to thousands, what exactly are we celebrating?
It’s not even 100 years for a start. Officially the centenary is the 25th August but this aside, British Airways was really formed in 1974 through the merger of the two largest airlines, BOAC and BEA, so is this not really where the story should start? And if so, should we really be popping any champagne corks at all?
From the very early years of air travel with open cockpits, passengers sat in wicker chairs and zero on- board toilets we are seemingly not much better off in today’s world with seats smaller than a wicker chair, toilets which closely resemble your local park public conveniences (and that’s even in First Class!) and a flight deck which is a closely guarded, highly secure locked vault.
When I started to fly for British Airways as Cabin Crew, I was very proud to do so. It was THE airline to fly for! However, it didn’t take long for reality to set in. Gone were the days of glamour, sophistication, first class service for all and pride in flying for the airline. In its place there was a more sober plainness and superficiality along with frustration and disillusionment and distinctly more mediocre service as I daily trudged up and down the aisle with pre- packed meals, plastic cutlery and a waste bin on wheels to collect all the rubbish afterwards.
What a fabulous experience it must have been to be able to fly as a passenger and crew when times really were as good as portrayed in the programme! Such quality of service, attention to detail and sheer fabulousness of the golden age of travel! However, in light of the current MeToo campaign, stewardesses looking back fondly at the days where they were very much judged in terms of looks and status, isn’t perhaps as fabulous.
I understand that the aviation world has had to adapt and that the rising tide of low cost, budget airlines is now very much part and parcel of everyday life with air travel only for the elite very much in the past. However, what does make me sad, is hearing about a sole focus on profits, a stark decline in standards, lack of investment in key resources and staff and passengers alike feeling far from proud of the once iconic airline that is British Airways.
From where I’m sitting, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to celebrate at all. How about you?