29th November 1961

Caledonian Airways makes its inaugural flight

Caledonian Airways’ first flight was an ambitious one, from London Gatwick to Barbados. However, the plane was empty aside from its crew. It had been chartered by the London Transport Executive, which sent it to the island to collect new staff for its services. The first flight with passengers was thus the return journey.

On 2 December, the Birmingham Daily Post reported that “the new Scottish international airline, Caledonian Airways, operated its first passenger service yesterday when a DC 7C airliner from Barbados flew into Gatwick Airport with 98 West Indian immigrants.”

Cheap transatlantic flights

It had been founded in April 1961, in Prestwick, but was initially headquartered in Surrey and later moved to West Sussex, which would give it easier access to Gatwick Airport. One month after its inaugural service, it flew passengers from Prestwick Airport to New York on £40 return tickets. Even in 1961, this was an attractive price, and the Broughty Ferry Guide and Advertiser of 12 August 1961 reported that

“the company has been inundated with inquiries already, and they believe their service will make a special appeal to Scottish clubs in America whose members want to fly home for Hogmanay and Christmas. The new airline’s planes will each carry the insignia of the Lion Rampant, surmounted by a pair of wings. Scottish meals will be served, and the Scottish air hostesses now being chosen will wear tartan skirts with their uniform. A number of Scots have already been engaged as crew.”

Caledonian’s transatlantic passenger numbers grew considerably, until it was one of the largest operators on the route, not just from the UK, but other European centres, too. Its profits grew in line with its passenger numbers, and eventually it started running scheduled services, as well as charter flights, and rolled out an entirely jet-based fleet.

British Caledonian

The Caledonian Airways brand was flying for just less than a decade. In November 1970 it merged with British United Airways and the combined group became British Caledonian the following year. However, it returned to the skies between 1988 and 1999 as a subsidiary of British Airways, following the latter’s acquisition of British Caledonian.



Other events that occured in November

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