Imperial Airways

Imperial Airways

Imperial Airways was the early British commercial long range air transport company, operating from 1924 to 1939 and serving parts of Europe but especially the Empire routes to South Africa, India and the Far East. There were local partnership companies; Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd) in Australia, and TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Ltd) in New Zealand.


Created following the advice of the government Hambling Committee in 1923 — that the main existing aircraft companies should be merged to create a company which would be strong enough to develop Britain's external air services — and offered a £1m subsidy over ten years if they merged. Imperial Airways Limited was formed in March 1924 from the British Marine Air Navigation Company Ltd (three flying boats), the Daimler Airway (five aircraft), Handley Page Transport Ltd (three aircraft) and the Instone Air Line Ltd (two aircraft). The land operations were based at Croydon Airport to the south of London. IAL immediately discontinued the predecessor's service to points north of London, the airline not being interested in serving what they regarded as the 'Provinces'.

The first commercial flight was in April 1924, when a daily London-Paris service was opened. Additional services to other European destinations were started throughout the summer. The first new airliner was commissioned by Imperial Airways in November 1924. In the first year of operation the company carried 11,395 passengers and 212,380 letters. In April 1925, "The Lost World" (a recent blockbuster film) was shown to the passengers on the London-Paris route. This was the first time that a film had been screened for passengers on a plane.

The extension of service to the British Empire (Empire Services) was not begun until 1927 when, with the addition of six new aircraft, a service was instituted from Cairo to Basra. but the first service from London for Karachi did not start until 1929 using newly purchased Short S.8 Calcutta flying boats, even then the passengers were transported by train from Paris to the Mediterranean where the Short flying boats were. In February 1931 a weekly service between London and Tanganyika was started as part of the proposed route to Cape Town and in April an experimental London-Australia air mail flight took place; the mail was transferred at the Netherlands East Indies, and took 26 days in total to reach Sydney. The purchase of eight Handley Page HP.42 four-engined airliners boosted the range of services, in 1932 the service to Africa was extended to Cape Town.

In Australia in 1934 Imperial and Qantas (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd) formed Qantas Empire Airways Limited to extended services in Southeast Asia. But it was not until 1937 with the Short Empire flying boats that Imperial could offer a real through service from Southampton to the Empire. The journey to the Cape consisted of flights via Marseille, Rome, Brindisi, Athens, Alexandria, Khartoum, Port Bell, Kisumu and onwards by land-based craft to Nairobi, Mbeya and eventually Cape Town. Survey flights were also made across the Atlantic and to New Zealand. By mid-1937 Imperial had completed its thousandth service to the Empire.

Air Mail

. The terminal operated as recently as 1980.

portion of the New York to New York route. Pan American provided service from New York (departing on June 24) to Foynes (via the first flight of Northern FAM 18) and Hong Kong to San Francisco (via FAM 14), while United Airlines carried it on the final leg from San Francisco to New York where is arrived on July 28.


Compared to other operators (Air France, KLM, Lufthansa) it was lagging behind in Europe and it was suggested that all European operations be handed over to its competitor British Airways Ltd (founded in 1935) which had more modern aircraft and better organization. However in November 1939 both Imperial and British Airways Ltd were merged into a new state-owned national carrier: British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). The new carrier adopted the Imperial Speedbird logo, which has evolved into the present British Airways "Speedmarque", and the term (Speedbird) continues to be used as BA's call sign.

Related lists

*List of aircraft of Imperial Airways


*Budd, Lucy [ "Global Networks Before Globalisation: Imperial Airways and the Development of Long-Haul Air Routes"] Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Research Bulletin 253, December 5, 2007

External links

* [ Imperial Airways] enthusiast website
* [ British Airways Archive and Museum Collection]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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