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.

™ & © 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.


FILE - U.S. Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., holds a miniature American flag that was presented to him a...

By Gregory Krieg, CNN

The race is already on for Santos’ New York seat as Hochul prepares to announce special election date

George Santos is gone from Congress, but his disastrous tenure will not be forgotten by party leaders as they prepare for what is expected to be a fiercely contested and expensive special election to replace him.

1 hour ago

**This image is for use with this specific article only** Price hikes and spending cooled last mont...

Alicia Wallace, CNN

Price hikes and spending cooled last month, Fed’s preferred inflation gauge shows

The Commerce Department on Thursday delivered an early present to the Federal Reserve: The central bank’s favorite inflation gauge fell to its lowest level since the spring of 2021, and consumers lifted their foot off the gas pedal.

1 day ago

Passenger climbs on to Southwest Airlines wing...

Shawn Nottingham, CNN

A Southwest Airlines passenger opened an emergency exit and climbed onto a plane’s wing while the aircraft was at the gate

Police responded to a disturbance on Southwest Airlines plane in New Orleans when a passenger climbed on to the plane's wing.

3 days ago

Young Thug trial...

Christina Maxouris, CNN

Prosecutor says Young Thug was ‘proclaimed leader’ of violent street gang at racketeering trial openings

Prosecutors accused Young Thug of leading a gang that committed murder & a slew of violent crimes during his his racketeering trial.

3 days ago

Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his security detail depart the company's local office in Washington, U.S. J...

Oliver Darcy, CNN

Major brands are not only pausing ads on Elon Musk’s X. They’re stepping away from the platform altogether

A number of media brands have not only paused their paid marketing campaigns on Elon Musk's X but have ceased posting on it altogether.

4 days ago

Palestinians walk through damaged buildings in Gaza City....

Mostafa Salem, CNN

Deal reached to extend Israel-Hamas truce by two days, Qatar says

Qatar says, deal reached to extend Israel-Hamas truce by two days.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Human hand holding a protest banner stop vaping message over a crowded street background....

Prosperous Utah Communities

Utah’s Battle to Protect Youth from Vaping Epidemic Faces New Threat as Proposed Rule Threatens Progress

Utah's strict standards of nicotine levels in vaping products are at risk, increasing health hazards associated with use. Read more about how you can advocate for a better future for Utah's youth.

Aerial photo of Bear Lake shoreline with canopies and people camped out on the beach...

Visit Bear Lake

Last-Minute Summer Vacation Planning? Check Out Bear Lake!

Bear Lake is the perfect getaway if you are last-minute summer vacation planning. Enjoy activities with your whole family at this iconic lake.

100 years ago: The first scheduled international passenger flight departed