On 1st May 1927 Imperial Airways (the ancestor of British Airways) introduced a new luxury service called ‘Silver Wing’ between London and Paris. Included in the return fare of 11 Guineas (£11.55, equivalent to about £600 today) was a cooked lunch. This was the first time a cooked meal had ever been served to passengers – previous flights had only offered cold items such as sandwiches and fruit. It is not recorded which passenger made the first complaint about the food being tasteless/cold/inedible; but whoever it was started a noble and long lasting tradition.
To be fair the food was probably a step up on what is offered to economy passengers today. ‘Silver Wing’ was a premium service using new Armstrong Whitworth Argosy aircraft. These planes were the first to have a passenger cabin that would look familiar to modern air travelers. The Argosy had entered service in 1926 and had seats for 20 passengers. However for ‘Silver Wing’ Imperial Airways removed two seats and replaced them with a bar, with a steward in attendance.
The Argosy was a three-engine bi-plane that flew at a fairly sedate 90mph (145 km/h), meaning that the flight from London to Paris took over two hours – hence the opportunity for a meal. The cruising altitude was only about 3,000ft (920m) and this allowed the steward to “point out places of interest en-route”. So, all in all, the flights were probably a fairly pleasant experience, and of course passengers didn’t have to check-in hours before the flight, go through security checks or trek along miles of terminal concourses to reach their departure gate.
Sometimes Imperial Airways really did make an extra effort for its passengers. In April 1931 Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII) and his brother Prince George flew home from Paris onboard a ‘Silver Wing’ Argosy. Instead of landing at Croydon Aerodrome (the predecessor to Heathrow) the plane touched down in Windsor Great Park – just outside the Princes’ home, Windsor Castle. Now that is customer service!