© Image British Airways
British Airways has created magic by sending its special BOAC retro painted Boeing 747 centenary aircraft out to Los Angeles for one special customer
Earlier this year the airline re-painted four of its aircraft in iconic liveries from its 100-year history which have created a real stir among customers. One customer, Judie Parr Graham-Bell who had heard about the special fleet got in touch with British Airways as she wanted to share her special memory.
Judie’s late husband, Philip Graham-Bell, worked for BOAC, the forerunner to British Airways, for 28 years. Philip started his career in the Royal Air Force before holding various roles at BOAC. In 1951, Philip was promoted to be the Charter Manager, with responsibility for organising flights around the world for the Royal Family.
The first flight that he was responsible for planning was for HRH Princess Elizabeth (now Her Majesty The Queen) on 8th October 1951, when she travelled to Montreal via Gander. Judie explained that Philip had told her that this was one of the greatest honours in his life. Judie believes that Philip’s motos of “doing your homework” and “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse” meant that he was successful in this role at BOAC.
© Image British Airways
Philip changed roles in 1958, where he became responsible for the BOAC operations on the West Coast of America and this is where he would meet his wife, Judie. Judie, who had recently moved from Australia to San Francisco, was invited to a travel lunch event on the first day in her new job. It was at this event she would meet her husband Philip.
Judie said: “I had just started a new job that morning and the director asked me to go to a lunch which BOAC was hosting at the Top of the Mark Hotel. When I was introduced to Philip I knew it was love at first sight and it was the start of the rest of my life”
“Philip would always tell stories from his days at BOAC, he was so proud to work for the airline, as he appreciated the skills he learnt and the experiences he had. He always spoke very highly of the level of talent and dedication of his colleagues.”
“I always had a dream of seeing the BOAC livery on a plane up close and when I saw that British Airways had painted the BOAC livery I knew I just had to see it. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up at the airport to be told that British Airways had sent this one special jumbo jet to Los Angeles especially for me!”
Judie contacted the British Airways museum as she wanted to donate items that her husband, Philip had received from the Royal Family and wanted to know if it was possible to see the BOAC aircraft during on stopover in London on her way to Budapest. The Museum told her the BA Magic team at British Airways of her story.
British Airways’ #BAMagic100 campaign is a commitment to 100 acts of kindness across the world to celebrate the airline’s centenary year. As part of the project the airline secretly swapped the usual jumbo jet planned to operate Judie’s flight for the heritage BOAC aircraft and upgraded her to First class so that she could have a taste of the world, her husband had been a part of.
© Image British Airways
Commenting after the flight, Judie said: “The surprises that British Airways planned were amazing, to see the BOAC livery on the 747 up close brought back so many memories of Philip, it was overwhelming. The crew on board were fantastic and treated me like I was a Princess.”
Gillian Tracy, the cabin crew Customer Service Manager on board said, “It was such an honour to have Judie on board, she shared some amazing stories about Philip’s career with the crew. It was lovely to hear about her life with Philip and it made us all so proud knowing that British Airways is still such an important memory and a part of her life.”
When Judie touched down at Heathrow she was met at the aircraft by Jim Davies, a curator at the British Airways Heritage Centre, where she donated correspondents that Philip received from the Royal Family for his work.
Jim Davies, volunteer at the British Airways Speedbird Centre said, “It was a pleasure to meet Judie on her arrival from Los Angeles and receive the gifts she kindly donated to the museum. We welcome visitors to our museum on a regular basis and it’s always such a pleasure to hear from people who have such incredible stories to share.”
The British Airways BOAC livery 747-400 will remain in service until 2023 and its part of a fleet of four heritage aircraft specially designed to mark the airline’s 100 years.
A potted history of BA:
- On August 25, 1919, British Airways’ forerunner company, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris.
- In 1924, Britain’s four main fledgling airlines, which had by then evolved into Instone, Handley Page, Daimler Airways (a successor to AT&T), and British Air Marine Navigation Company Limited, merged to form Imperial Airways Limited.
- By 1925, Imperial Airways was providing services to Paris, Brussels, Basle, Cologne and Zurich. Meanwhile, a number of smaller UK air transport companies had started flights and in 1935, they merged to form the original privately-owned British Airways Limited, which became Imperial Airways’ principal UK competitor on European routes.
- Following a Government review, Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalised in 1939 to form British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Continental European and domestic flights were flown by a new airline, British European Airways (BEA) from 1946. BOAC introduced services to New York in 1946, Japan in 1948, Chicago in 1954 and the west coast of the United States in 1957. BEA developed a domestic network to various points in the United Kingdom, including Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
- From 1946 until 1960, BOAC and BEA were the principal British operators of scheduled international passenger and cargo services – and they preserved Britain’s pioneering role in the industry. The 1950s saw the world enter the passenger jet era – led by BOAC, with the Comet flying to Johannesburg in 1952, halving the previous flight time.
- Additional airlines began to pass into BEA’s ownership and in 1967, the Government recommended a holding board be responsible for BOAC and BEA, with the establishment of a second force airline, resulting in British Caledonian being born in 1970.
- Two years later, the businesses of BOAC and BEA were combined under the newly formed British Airways Board, with the separate airlines coming together as British Airways in 1974.
- In July 1979, the Government announced its intention to sell shares in British Airways and in February 1987 British Airways was privatised.
- In January 2011 the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) was formed when British Airways and Iberia merged. IAG has since also become the parent company of Aer Lingus, and Vueling and in 2017, IAG launched LEVEL a new low-cost airline brand that operates from Barcelona, Paris and Vienna.