Best airline for me was and always will be British Caledonian sadly murdered by, sorry, merged with BA
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Photo © Anthony Hutchings
Why so special? In a nutshell as BCal was never allowed to use LHR
or rarely allowed to compete directly on routes with BA
(and other state airlines), it had to offer a better and superior product. They were the first British airline to use jets on domestic routes - the BAC 1-11 against BA
's (or BEA's as it then was) Viscounts and Vanguards. They were the first British airline to offer hot breakfasts and hot meals on domestic and short routes where you were lucky to be offered a biscuit, let alone a meal, on BEA. The Caledonian Girls (as the BCal cabin crew were known) were the crème de le crème, always offering the highest professional standards of service, far better than any carrier (Asian or otherwise), and the Tartan uniforms looked smart and superlative.
Knowing that LGW
(their base) would always be second to LHR
, BCal went out of their way to attract passengers to use LGW
. First, by offering full check-in facilities at London Victoria Station where you could not only check-in your luggage, but relax in the "Super Executive" lounge with a drink before going downstairs to catch a train direct to LGW
. Then there was the Gatwick-Heathrow Helicopter link, operated by BCal and jointly financed by BCal and BAA, which could wiz you to/from LHR
in 15 minutes.
People who say that Virgin is innovative have forgotten that many of the "new" products Virgin offers were introduced by BCal before Branson even started Virgin Music. BCal offered an enhanced economy class for full fare-paying and frequent flyers. BCal offered airport lounges, exclusively for first class and Super Executive passengers at LGW
and some other airports. BCal offered an airport limousine service at LGW
and express check-in.
Closely following BCal as my favourite airline would be Wardair Canada. The Wardair experience was something that will never be repeated. Despite originally being a charter airline, they offered a service that rivalled first class on other airlines. Their philosophy was that you never pay for anything on board their aircraft – alcoholic drinks included. Their meals were high-quality restaurant standard – usually either fillet steak or salmon with starter, dessert, cheese, coffee, wine and liqueurs – always served on finest Royal Doulton China with real cutlery and real linen. Seating in their DC10's and 747s was (I recall) 8 abreast instead of the normal 9 abreast, so there was more room for more comfort.
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Photo © Steve Brimley
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