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‘Would you like a meal, ma’am?’ Airlines celebrate 85 years of inflight service

British Airways' service in Club World (Business) is up there with the world's best

May Day had a special meaning for airlines this year – it marked 85 years since the first inflight meal was served on a commercial flight.

On May 1, 1927, Imperial Airways (predecessor to British Airways) introduced the Silverwing branded air service on the London to Paris route. The flight offered the first luxury onboard meal service. A male steward dressed in a smart white tunic served just ten passengers on the flight, which took around two hours. 

Onboard was a small cabinet carrying four gills (servings) of whisky, a dozen bottles of lager beer, two siphons of sparkling water and twelve assorted bottles of mineral water. They also carried a packet of sandwiches or biscuits and one or two thermos flasks of hot water, within which the steward made coffee or beef tea to nourish the passengers during the flight. The service represented the height of luxury, up until this time passengers had to fend for themselves, packing homemade snacks for the journey.

85 years on British Airways’ cabin crew serve around 100,000 meals a day to customers, often with more than one meal on an individual flight.

“At British Airways we have an incredible history,” said British Airways’ Head of Inflight Service, Bill Francis. “We’ve developed the service to our customers and even as we’ve grown from small propeller aircraft to 747’s, we’ve managed to maintain the magic that makes flying special.”

The airline’s 14,000 crew are trained in the art of premium service – they are taught skills which include how to tell a Merlot from a Shiraz, how to cook the perfect scrambled eggs and how to re-create a five star turndown service.

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