CNN

100 years ago: The first scheduled international passenger flight departed

Aug 26, 2019, 5:38 AM
On August 25, 1919, the first regular international passenger air service took place between London...
On August 25, 1919, the first regular international passenger air service took place between London and Paris, France. Full Credit: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

(CNN) — On August 25, 1919, the first regular international passenger air service took place between London and Paris.

This fledgling flight, operated by Air Transport & Travel Ltd (AT&T) — a forerunner of British Airways (BA) — took off from Hounslow Heath, not far from what’s now Heathrow Airport, the British aviation hub where some 80 million passengers took to the skies in 2018.

Clearly, international flights have changed a lot in the past 100 years, so let’s take a look back at where it all began.

Aviation milestones

1919 was a pretty action-packed year for aviation milestones; on June 15, British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight, paving the way for the popular London to New York route passengers use today.

Still, 100 years ago, aviation was often the sole realm of brave adventurers and experienced aviators, so the daily London to Paris passenger flight, although it also transported mail and parcels, represented a new era in commercial flying.

AT&T’s marketing poster depicted iconic landmarks in each city: London’s St Paul’s Cathedral and Paris’ then-relatively new Eiffel Tower.

The glamorous ad also stressed the frequency of the new service — it departed daily, which seemed rather incredible at the time.

Paul Jarvis, the late curator of the BA Heritage Collection, who spoke to CNN Travel about his book “British Airways: 100 Years of Aviation Posters” in 2018, said marketing the first passenger air services was important.

“The very early days it was very much just about persuading people to fly at all,” Jarvis says. “There were quite a lot of people who thought flying […] was just a passing fad.”

After all, the first non-stop flight from London to Paris took place only seven years earlier, and the first powered flight took place just 16 years earlier.

Aviation was still a new game.

Early days of flying

The De Havilland DH4A G-EAJC aircraft, built for combat during the First World War and reimagined as a civilian airplane, made its way across the English Channel in a fairly swift two hours and 30 minutes. It was powered by a single Rolls Royce Eagle piston engine.

If you’re imagining a plane full of Brits ready to sample Paris’ baguettes and cheese, think again — it was a pretty small aircraft with limited, but intriguing, cargo.

Piloted by RAF veteran Lt E. H. “Bill” Lawford in an open-air cockpit, on board was one passenger, George Stevenson-Reece who was a journalist for London’s “Evening Standard” newspaper, plus a consignment of leather, two grouse and a few jars of Devonshire cream.

Stevenson-Reece paid 20 guineas for the journey (£21).

If that sounds like a good deal, bear in mind £21 in 1919 is equivalent to over £1000 ($1225) in today’s currency.

Weather conditions were apparently not particularly favorable, but the aircraft was greeted with enthusiasm by reporters and photographers upon landing in Le Bourget.

Later, flights on the service held up to 14 passengers.

Hot on the heels of the Brits, in 1920 Dutch airline KLM started flying aircraft between London and Amsterdam, and commercial aviation grew intermittently in the next few decades.

Still, it wasn’t until after the Second World War, Rolls Royce historian Peter Collins tells CNN Travel, that there was a “mindset change” that led to people embracing flying as a commonplace mode of transport.

“Although there were scheduled flights and aviation is developing and growing, it’s not massive […] It’s still for the well-off people,” he said.

Correction: This story has been updated to show the Alcock-Brown flight occurred in 1919.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team. here.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner, who was detained at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and later...
Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Jeremy Herb and MJ Lee, CNN

WNBA star Brittney Griner released from Russian detention in prisoner swap for convicted arms dealer

The Biden administration repeatedly made offers to get Whelan released as part of this deal, even after Russia made clear only Griner was acceptable.
17 hours ago
...
Jeff Zeleny, Eva McKend and Gregory Krieg, CNN

Georgia voters once again have the last word during election season

During a campaign rally for Warnock in Atlanta last week, former President Barack Obama stressed the immediate impact of Democrats potentially winning a 51st Senate seat.
3 days ago
This photos shows the gate to the Duke Energy West End substation in Moore County, N.C. on Sunday, ...
Nouran Salahieh and Hannah Sarisohn, CNN

Tens of thousands still in the dark after ‘targeted’ attacks on North Carolina power substations

With no suspects or motive announced, the FBI joins the investigation into power outages in a North Carolina county.
3 days ago
Man who shot Lady Gaga's dog walker...
Taylor Romine and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Man involved in shooting Lady Gaga’s dog walker sentenced to prison

The dog walker, Ryan Fischer, was walking Lady Gaga's three French bulldogs on February 24, 2021 when he was accosted and shot.
3 days ago
goblin mode...
Christian Edwards, CNN

‘Goblin mode’ chosen as Oxford word of the year for 2022

According to OUP, the term refers to a behavior which is "self-indulgent, lazy, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations."
4 days ago
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19:  The U.S. Capitol is shown as a looming government shutdown threatens ...
Manu Raju and Phil Mattingly, CNN

Defense bill likely to include end to military Covid vaccine mandate, source says

A massive bill setting defense policy is likely to end the military Covid vaccine mandate, a source familiar with the negotiations tells CNN.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 game day snacks for the whole family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
100 years ago: The first scheduled international passenger flight departed