British Airways, the UK’s flagship carrier, which operates 49 weekly flights from the GCC to London Heathrow, is this month celebrating the 75th anniversary of its Middle East services.
“This service milestone highlights British Airways’ long-standing regional commitment to the Gulf,” said Paul Starrs, British Airways’ Commercial Manager for the Middle East.
“This region has evolved exponentially during this time and, while emerging as a vastly important market for the airline, has become a case-study on how to build credible business environments through economic diversification for people the world over.
“Times have changed a little during the last three quarters of a century – we no longer use a special flying boat service that requires ten stop-overs to reach the UAE – and from their own doorstep our passengers can now access every corner of the world by utilising our global network of over 140 destinations in more than 70 countries, making us the industry leader,” Starrs continued.
In the days when the UAE’s ports were still vital commercial centres of Trucial Oman, Sharjah International Airport was Imperial Airways’ – BA’s forerunner - first ‘UAE’ destination, as wheels touched down on the emirate’s tarmac in 1932.
In 1937, the first commercial Imperial Airways’ flight from the UK to Dubai, which left Southampton in the south of England - zizagging its way across Europe taking in Marseilles, Rome, Brindisi and Athens before crossing the Mediterranean to land in Alexandria, Egypt. During these pre-WWII times, the C Class, VC 10 flying boat then left North Africa and crossed the Sea of Galilee to land in Tiberias, before refuelling again in Habbiniyeh and Basra in what is now modern-day Iraq, en-route to Bahrain and then Dubai.
“It’s amazing to think how far aviation has come in 75 years, where now we see new airlines popping up almost every day in what is a multi-billion dollar a year global industry,” continued Starrs.
“Our customers universally recognise that in this time, the evolution of British Airways’ and our rich heritage has been built on our long-standing commitment to uphold the value and quality of our services. It is this which marks us out as a class apart in what is a hugely competitive industry.”
Direct services to Dubai and Abu Dhabi began in 1966 and 1968 respectively, under the mantle of British Overseas Airways Corporation, and in 1972, Concorde, the joint venture between British Airways and Air France, took off on its maiden flight to Bahrain.
More recently, British Airways has demonstrated its unwavering support to the region by being the first European airline to resume flights to the Middle East after the Gulf War in 1991, and to Beirut in 2006.
British Airways currently operates 14 weekly flights to London Heathrow from Dubai and daily services from Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Muscat.
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