How things change! BA reveals history of British aviation

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Aviation was an entirely different beast in the so-call ‘golden age of flying’, as demonstrated in a collection of posters recently published by BA in a new book

With low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair providing bargain flights to destinations across Europe, and good deals to be found on trips around the world, it’s fair to say that many of us take flying for granted these days.

But this wasn’t always the case. For the vast majority of the aviation industry’s existence, flying was solely the preserve of the wealthy.

Flights generally used to cost a small fortune, and were uncomfortable – even more so than the worst no-frills flights of today – not to mention very dangerous.

But that didn’t stop a brave and glamorous few from embarking on flights across the world, spurred on by the promise of strange and distant lands that were a million miles away from the developed world of Britain.

Aviation was an entirely different beast back then, as demonstrated in a collection of posters recently published by British Airways in a new publication.

British Aviation Posters: Art, Design and Flight features posters dating back to the Edwardian era, designed to entice the wealthy into flying with pictures of exotic locations and luxury travel.

“It’s incredible to see the years of history we have stored in our collection so beautifully presented for everybody to enjoy,” said Paul Jarvis, curator of the British Airways Heritage Collection.

“The book captures the magic of flying and the incredible history behind British aviation, of which we’re so proud.”

While we’re used to seeing adverts for flights proclaiming low prices above all else, the campaigns of yesteryear focused on luxury above all else. Here are some of our favourites:

Luxurious travel
(c) British Airways Heritage Collection/Tom Purvis

Comfort in the air

This poster from 1931 was typical of those at the time: classy design, and highlighting the luxurious nature of flying.

Advertising flights with Imperial Airways, British Airways’ predecessor, the scene in the poster looks more like the luxury dining car of a train rather than a plane’s cabin.

Flights to Australia
(c) British Airways Heritage Collection/Hayes


The nature of flying may have changed over the years, with flights now accessible to the masses rather than simply the wealthy elite, but this poster shows that some things never change.

From 1956, this poster from BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) extols the virtues of life in sunny Australia.

This was part of a campaign to appeal to the British, showing the vigorous and exotic nature of life in the former colonies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Flights to South America
(c) British Airways Heritage Collection

South America

Despite all of our progress in the field of aviation, South America is still seen as an exotic destination – far less travelled than the likes of Australia and Thailand.

So imagine what it must have been like in 1959, when this colourful poster first made an appearance. Created to promote BOAC’s re-established South American service after a four year hiatus, the poster highlights the vibrant nature of the continent with the Rio de Janeiro Carnival.

According to the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, the public had “never had it so good”, though the vast majority were still unable to afford a trip south of the equator.

A different kind of Games... London 1948
(c) Estate of Abram Games

London 1948

It wasn’t just at home that BEA (British European Airways) was promoting the idea of air travel. Keen to cash in on the international aspect of the Olympic Games, a series of posters for the 1948 Games was designed to entice passengers.

London 1948 was an entirely different affair from the London 2012 event that we all enjoyed so much recently. The Second World War had left the UK crippled financially, so austerity was the name of the Games (and Wenlock and Mandeville and the other Olympic mascotswere a distant dream…).

Queen's Coronation
(c) British Airways Heritage Collection

The Queen’s Coronation

The power and appeal of the British monarchy has always been the jewel in the British tourism crown, with the Royal Wedding and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee showing just how popular the Royals are in the current climate.

It was no different in 1953, the year of the Queen’s Coronation. BOAC was quick to jump on this special event, using the Coronation to lure tourists to the UK.

How things change! BA reveals history of British aviation was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Oonagh Shiel
Author: Oonagh Shiel (3252 posts)

Content Manager at Cheapflights whose travel life can be best summed up as BC (before children) and PC (post children). We only travel during the school holidays so short-haul trips and staycations are our specialities!