A right royal history
Since her accession to the throne, Her Majesty The Queen – who has visited 116 countries – has flown with British Airways for her most historically momentous trips. Here, High Life takes a look back at some of those unforgettable moments
On 14 November 1967, the Queen and Prince Philip disembarked a BEA Trident for the start of a three-day state visit to Malta. Greeted by Archbishop Michael, the couple were back on familiar soil, Malta having been their home for three years between 1949 and 1951 while Philip was stationed there as a naval officer before his wife became Queen. It is said to have been an extremely happy time for the young couple. During 70 years marked by unprecedented social and political changes, the Queen’s schedule of foreign diplomatic duties endured until 2015. Fittingly, her last international trip was also to Malta – for the 24th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
Although Concorde had taken its maiden flight in 1969, it wasn’t until 1977 and the Silver Jubilee tour that Queen Elizabeth travelled supersonic – on a British Airways Concorde flight home from Barbados. Here, she is seen looking at a map during that flight, on 2 November. Her Majesty was to fly on Concorde another five times (Kuwait in 1979, Barbados again in 1987 and 2003, the Middle East in 1984, the United States in 1991), and so it was perhaps appropriate that Concorde was given its own commemorative tea towel moment as it flew past the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations in 2002.
BRITISH AIRWAYS HQ, 2019
On 23 May 2019, the Queen visited British Airways’ headquarters at Waterside, Heathrow, as part of the airline’s centenary celebrations. As well as meeting various BA colleagues, she was taken on a trip down memory lane at the on-site museum, The Speedbird Centre, where artefacts and memorabilia from her historic trips with the airline were on display. These included photos of her and her family on various British Airways aircraft over the years, as well as scale replicas of some of the planes. She also met with members of staff who worked on the company’s charity initiative, Flying Start, unveiled a plaque and was given a model of the BOAC Stratocruiser that she flew on in 1951.
When the King and Queen waved Princess Elizabeth off on her 1952 Commonwealth tour, it would be the last time George VI saw his daughter. While in Kenya, Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, was told by an aide of King George VI’s death. The royal couple returned to London immediately in the same BOAC (the precursor to British Airways) airliner that had flown them to Africa. A small plane took them to Entebbe airport in Uganda, from where the BOAC Atlanta left just before 9pm on Wednesday 6 February, flew 2,260 miles across the Sahara to Libya, where it refuelled, then continued, arriving late the following afternoon. The entire British nation had followed Elizabeth’s progress as she flew home as Queen – eventually to be the longest reigning monarch in British history. As the BOAC manager of the royal flight later put it, “She was a Princess when we took her out there and the Queen when we brought her back.”
When Elizabeth II departed London in October 1986 on a British Airways Lockheed L-1011 Tristar Aircraft, it was the start of one of the most important royal tours undertaken. She was the first British monarch to visit China, and it was a critical piece of diplomacy, coming after testing negotiations between the UK and the People’s Republic of China: in 1984 Prime Ministers Zhao Ziyang and a reluctant Margaret Thatcher had signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration, under which the Chinese would resume sovereignty over Hong Kong from 1997.
On 12 October 1957, Pathé News carried images of the Queen and Prince Philip walking through the early morning mist to board a BOAC aeroplane, as crowds waved goodbye. This time the destination was the USA, marking Queen Elizabeth’s first visit in her capacity as monarch. Hosted by the 34th US President, Dwight D Eisenhower, the State trip lasted four days, during which she visited New York City, Washington, D.C. and Williamsburg in Virginia. Eisenhower had first met Elizabeth when she was a young princess, and the reunion was poignant.
To celebrate the Platinum Jubilee, British Airways invites Gold Executive Club members to enjoy an exclusive jamboree at Heathrow T5’s First lounge. The lounge will be transformed for the occasion and feature a replica Regent Street and St James’s, as well as featuring various British tipples and treats from iconic British brands, including The Crown Estate. British Airways’ celebrations take place in Heathrow T5’s First Lounge from 27 May to 26 June.
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