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In March, British Airways celebrates a significant landmark: it is 80 years since its forebear, Imperial Airways, became the first airline to land in Hong Kong
In 1936, Kai Tak Airport was an improvised runway poking out from Kowloon’s harbourside. Today, that site is a sleek cruise terminal and BA A380s land at the new Chek Lap Kok airport 40 km away on the nearby island of Lantau. But Kai Tak lives on in aviation legend as one of the greatest, and, for pilots, most technically challenging, urban airports.
The journey taken by the De Havilland 86 biplane has changed too. From Penang, in the then British Malaya it made stopovers in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) and Tourane (now Danang), in Vietnam.
It wasn’t until the following July that a passenger (one Major A. Beckerleg) made the full eight-day journey all the way from London to Hong Kong, with more than 20 stops en route.
A colonial backwater then, Hong Kong today describes itself as ‘Asia’s world city’ – a vital trading and financial hub for Asia and China’s ever more mobile populations.
Richard Tams, BA’s executive vice president China and the Philippines, said: “As a pioneer of aviation in Hong Kong, we take great pride in the role we have played in connecting people and businesses between Hong Kong and the UK and Europe, over the past 80 years.
“The route between London and Hong Kong, two global financial and cultural powerhouses, has been an integral part of British Airways’ network in Asia since it began. Today we operate two direct services a day; and British Airways is the only carrier to fly the superjumbo A380 non-stop between London to Hong Kong, a testament to the significance of this route.”