Explore our past: 1920 - 1929

Imperial Airways Armstrong Whitworth Argosy at Khartoum.
Explore our past: 1920
February The Instone Airline Limited started Hounslow to Paris services. The following month saw the closure of Hounslow and flights switched to Croydon, the new London Airport. New routes opened to Brussels and Amsterdam but the companies struggled without government support while across the Channel continental competitors received generous help.
March Civil aviation moved from Hounslow Heath to Croydon, South London.
17 May Air Transport and Travel together with KLM, inaugurated Croydon to Amsterdam service.
12 December Air Transport and Travel ceased operations.
Explore our past: 1921
28 February Due to subsidised European competition, all British airlines ceased operations.
19 March A temporary government subsidy was granted, enabling British air services to restart. Handley Page Transport operated the first subsidised London to Paris service.
Explore our past: 1922
1 January Instone introduced uniforms for pilots and staff, believed to be the first airline service uniforms.
1 April The government subsidy was made permanent.
2 April The Daimler Airway began operations from Croydon to Paris using ‘cabin boys’ on their aircraft.
Explore our past: 1923
2 January Civil Air Transport Subsidies Committee appointed under Sir Herbert Hambling “to consider the present working of cross-channel subsidies and to advise on the best method of subsidising air transport in the future.”
23 June Handley Page Transport Ltd carried 79 passengers in one day.
Explore our past: 1924

The government implemented the recommendations of the Hambling Committee about the future of British air services. Imperial Airways was incorporated on 31 March as the “chosen instrument” of the British government with the mission of developing British commercial air transport on an economic basis. The new airline was formed out of and took over the fleets of The Instone Airline Limited, The Daimler Airway, Handley Page Transport Limited and British Marine Air Navigation Co Ltd (operating a Southampton to Guernsey flying boat service).


Based at Croydon Airport, Imperial Airways would receive a government subsidy of £1m spread over ten years on the basis that they would be required to develop routes to the Empire – to South Africa, India and ultimately Australia – particularly for the carriage of mail. The Chairman was Rt Hon Sir Eric Geddes GCB, GBE. The initial fleet was three Handley Page W.8bs, two Supermarine Sea Eagles, one Vickers Vimy Commercial and seven DH34s. The primitive aircraft were used to develop the European routes to Paris, Zurich, Basle, Amsterdam, Hanover and Berlin.


Imperial Airways’ first flight was London Croydon to Paris Le Bourget, on 26 April, was by DH34 G-EBCX (Captain H.S. Robertson). It opened London (Croydon)-Brussels-Cologne daily services on 3 May, London (Croydon)-Amsterdam-Hanover-Berlin (in conjunction with Deutsche Aero-Lloyd AG) weekday services on 2 June and London (Croydon)-Paris-Basle-Zurich thrice-weekly services on 17 June.

Explore our past: 1925
15 May Imperial Airways’ Croydon to Amsterdam service became the first sector of England to Scandinavia through service. Imperial Airways operated London to Amsterdam and AB Aerotransport (Swedish Air Lines) worked Amsterdam-Copenhagen-Malmo. The first Imperial Airways operation was by DH34 G-EBBV.
1 October First joint Air Ministry and Imperial Airways surveys of Egypt-India route completed.
16 November - 13 March Alan Cobham made Imperial Airways’ route survey flight from UK to Cape Town and back in the Armstrong Siddeley Jaguar-powered DH50J G-EBFO. The outward flight was London-Paris-Marseille-Pisa-Taranto-Athens-Sollum-Cairo-Luxor-Assuan-Wadi Halfa-Atbara-Khartoum-Malakal-Mongalla-Jinja-Kisumu-Tabora-Abercorn-Ndola-Broken Hill-Livingstone-Bulawayo-Pretoria-Johannesburg-Kimberley-Blomfontein-Cape Town. On his return Cobham was awarded the Air Force Cross for his services to aviation.
Explore our past: 1926
4 May First British Royal family member to fly with Imperial Airways – HRH The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, flew Paris to London in Handley-Page W.10 G-EMBR City of Pretoria.
30 June Alan Cobham left the Medway at Rochester in the DH50 G-EBFO on a commercial route survey to Melbourne, arriving on 15 August. He left Melbourne on 29 August and after completing 28,000 miles in 78 days with 320 hours flying the DH50 alighted on the Thames at Westminster on 1 October. Cobham was met on arrival by the Secretary of State for Air, Sir Samuel Hoare, and was subsequently knighted by HM King George V.
16 July Imperial Airways introduced the three-engined Armstrong Whitworth Argosy on the London Croydon-Paris Le Bourget route.
October Agreement signed for Imperial Airways to operate  the UK to India route with a maximum annual subsidy of £93,600.
27 December Imperial Airways DH66 Hercules G-EBMX left Croydon for a survey flight to India. The flight reached Karachi on 6 January and Delhi on 8 January. The aircraft was named City of Delhi by Lady Irwin, wife of the Viceroy, on 10 January. The return flight left on 1 February 1927 and arrived at Heliopolis, Cairo on 7 February. The flying time from Croydon to Delhi was 62 hours 27 minutes and Delhi to Heliopolis 32 hours 50 minutes.
Explore our past: 1927
January Imperial Airways operations opened Cairo-Baghdad-Basra sector of the Britain to India route.
1 May The luxury Silver Wing lunch service to Paris was introduced by Imperial Airways using the Armstrong Whitworth Argosy. With a comfortable recognisable airliner cabin, a steward, a four-course luncheon and a bar service, the flight took 2 hours 30 minutes and was a notable breakthrough in terms of comfort and service.

Imperial Airways introduced second class travel on the Paris route, using Handley Page aircraft without cabin service and a slower flying time.


Survey flights carried out to the Far East and South Africa laid the basis for the sought after goal of regular links to the Empire. The initial link was established from Cairo to Baghdad in 1927 following pioneering work by the RAF. It was soon extended to Karachi and then Delhi.

6 October Imperial Airways introduced the Supermarine Swan flying boat G-EBJY on the Southampton to Guernsey route. The route was closed in February 1929 when the Calcutta flying boats were transferred to the Mediterranean for the opening of the UK to India service.
Explore our past: 1928
15 February The first Short S8 Calcutta flying boat G-EBVG built for Imperial Airways was launched at Rochester.
2 May The new passenger terminal at Croydon Airport, the Airport of London, was formally opened by Lady Maud Hoare. Operations had begun earlier in the year.
15 June Imperial Airways’ Argosy G-EBLF City of Glasgow (Captain Gordon Olley) with 18 passengers, from Croydon to Edinburgh Turnhouse in a race with the London and North Eastern Railways’ Flying Scotsman. The Argosy made two refuelling stops and completed the journey approximately 15 minutes faster than by train.
1 August The Short Calcutta flying boat G-EBVG alighted on the Thames at Westminster and was moored there for three days for inspection by Members of Parliament, and others.
Explore our past: 1929
30 March

Imperial Airways inaugurated their first through service from Britain to India (Karachi). The route was London (Croydon)-Paris-Basle by Argosy (by air), Basle-Genoa (by train), Genoa-Rome (Ostia)-Naples-Corfu-Athens-Suda Bay (Crete)-Tobruk-Alexandria by Calcttta (by flying boat), Alexandria-Gaza-Rutbah Wells-Baghdad-Basra-Bushire-Lingeh-Jask-Gwadar-Karachi by DH66 Hercules. The planned all-air route could not be operated as Italy would not allow British aircraft to enter Italy from France, and flying over the Alps then was not considered practical. The London-Karachi journey time was seven days and the single fare £130.


By December the service had reached Delhi.