Its a Little Bit of BOAC Magic
Earlier this year the airline re-painted four of its aircraft in iconic liveries from its 100-year history which have created a real stir among customers. One customer, Judie Parr Graham-Bell who had heard about the special fleet got in touch with British Airways as she wanted to share her special memory.
Judie’s late husband, Philip Graham-Bell, worked for BOAC, the forerunner to British Airways, for 28 years. Philip started his career in the Royal Air Force before holding various roles at BOAC. In 1951, Philip was promoted to be the Charter Manager, with responsibility for organising flights around the world for the Royal Family.
The first flight that he was responsible for planning was for HRH Princess Elizabeth (now Her Majesty The Queen) on 8th October 1951, when she travelled to Montreal via Gander. Judie explained that Philip had told her that this was one of the greatest honours in his life. Judie believes that Philip’s motos of “doing your homework” and “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse” meant that he was successful in this role at BOAC.
Philip changed roles in 1958, where he became responsible for the BOAC operations on the West Coast of America and this is where he would meet his wife, Judie. Judie, who had recently moved from Australia to San Francisco, was invited to a travel lunch event on the first day in her new job. It was at this event she would meet her husband Philip.
Judie said: “I had just started a new job that morning and the director asked me to go to a lunch which BOAC was hosting at the Top of the Mark Hotel. When I was introduced to Philip I knew it was love at first sight and it was the start of the rest of my life”
“Philip would always tell stories from his days at BOAC, he was so proud to work for the airline, as he appreciated the skills he learnt and the experiences he had. He always spoke very highly of the level of talent and dedication of his colleagues.”
“I always had a dream of seeing the BOAC livery on a plane up close and when I saw that British Airways had painted the BOAC livery I knew I just had to see it. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up at the airport to be told that British Airways had sent this one special jumbo jet to Los Angeles especially for me!”
Judie contacted the British Airways museum as she wanted to donate items that her husband, Philip had received from the Royal Family and wanted to know if it was possible to see the BOAC aircraft during on stopover in London on her way to Budapest. The Museum told her the BA Magic team at British Airways of her story.
British Airways’ #BAMagic100 campaign is a commitment to 100 acts of kindness across the world to celebrate the airline’s centenary year. As part of the project the airline secretly swapped the usual jumbo jet planned to operate Judie’s flight for the heritage BOAC aircraft and upgraded her to First class so that she could have a taste of the world, her husband had been a part of.
Commenting after the flight, Judie said: “The surprises that British Airways planned were amazing, to see the BOAC livery on the 747 up close brought back so many memories of Philip, it was overwhelming. The crew on board were fantastic and treated me like I was a Princess.”
Gillian Tracy, the cabin crew Customer Service Manager on board said, “It was such an honour to have Judie on board, she shared some amazing stories about Philip’s career with the crew. It was lovely to hear about her life with Philip and it made us all so proud knowing that British Airways is still such an important memory and a part of her life.”
When Judie touched down at Heathrow she was met at the aircraft by Jim Davies, a curator at the British Airways Heritage Centre, where she donated correspondents that Philip received from the Royal Family for his work.
Jim Davies, volunteer at the British Airways Speedbird Centre said, “It was a pleasure to meet Judie on her arrival from Los Angeles and receive the gifts she kindly donated to the museum. We welcome visitors to our museum on a regular basis and it’s always such a pleasure to hear from people who have such incredible stories to share.”
The British Airways BOAC livery 747-400 will remain in service until 2023 and its part of a fleet of four heritage aircraft specially designed to mark the airline’s 100 years.