What Is It Like Travelling On An Inaugural Flight?

British Airways hosted us onboard their inaugural flight onboard their Airbus A350 from London to Madrid on Monday. While have already reviewed the new Club Suite cabin, and reported on the flight itself, we wanted to share how we found the experience of being on an inaugural flight.

BA First Airbus A350 Flight
British Airways operated its first Airbus A350 flight on Monday. Photo: British Airways

An inaugural flight is the first operation of a specific mission. This could be the first time an airline flew a particular route, or it could also be the first passenger flight of a new aircraft type. On Monday, we experienced the latter with British Airways onboard their shiny new Airbus A350.

No ordinary flight

The reason that an inaugural flight is noticeable is that it is no ordinary flight. Airlines typically go to an effort to make such flights special. While this can sometimes mean cake at the gate, it can also mean inviting special guests to a flight.

Tom Boon - Alex Cruz
Alex Cruz was on hand for the special occasion. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

In the case of our British Airways flight to Madrid, we got all of this plus more! There was an appearance by British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz. There was also cake; lots of cake. To top this all off were abundant freebies at the gate and on the flight.

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Special check-in

The festivities started at check-in, where British Airways had commandeered a desk just for the occasion. Here our passports were checked, and we were handed boarding passes with instructions to proceed to the lounge. Upon arrival at the lounge, British Airways’ CEO, Alex Cruz, spoke about the new aircraft.

Time to board

When we were invited to head to the aircraft’s gate, we were met by lots of cake! This was accompanied by an Instagramesque photo frame. Of course, we couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to get a selfie with the aircraft, even though the lighting wasn’t the best!

There was a photo opportunity before boarding. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

When our boarding pass was scanned, we were each presented with a certificate confirming our attendance on the inaugural flight, in addition to an Airbus A350 keyring. Onboard the flight, the aircraft was decked out with BA 100 pillows which the captain instructed us to keep should we wish. Finally, we were able to take the headrest covers, which had been made especially for the occasion.

British Airways, Airbus A350, Inaugural Flight
Each passenger was given a certificate to commemorate the flight. Photo: British Airways

Unfortunately, on this occasion, the aircraft received no water cannon salute, either in London or Madrid. This was a shame as I had been quite excited at the possibility. As it was the inaugural flight, we also got to experience a bespoke menu with both dishes on offer being described as amazing!

Lots of faces

Inaugural flights also draw a lot of attention, from both aviation enthusiasts, and well-known faces. Many well-known names in the aviation news industry were there. This included mainstream newspapers, publications like ourselves, aviation bloggers, and those who focus more on the points side of things.

All in all, the flight was a great experience, and I’ll be jealous of my colleagues traveling on other first flights! You can see more about my experience in the video below:

Have you been on an inaugural flight? How was it? Let us know in the comments!

4 comments
  1. Not such a grand inaugural flight but I happened a few years ago, to take West Jet’s first flight from Toronto Pearson. They had moved from Hamilton. This was a flight to Ottawa and West Jet sent me a letter afterwards, thanking me for taking their flight out of Toronto. They also sent me a voucher for a return trip to Ottawa, as thanks. I wonder if BA will do the same !

  2. I’ve been on two inaugural flights. As a 10 year old, I was an unaccompanied minor on Southwest’s inaugural flight from SJC to one of the LA-area airports (I was 10, I don’t remember if it was Burbank or John Wayne or maybe even LAX). I remember getting two pieces of cake, which was pretty exciting, but the flight was otherwise unremarkable.

    My family and I were also on Thomas Cook’s inaugural return from SFO to MAN two years ago on their leased Air Tanker a330. That one was interesting if only for the fact that the aircraft had the lower-deck lavatory, which was a first for me. My toddlers were excited about cupcakes at the gate, and the staff were incredibly attentive. Thomas Cook is a vacation carrier from the UK, and given that we were flying the return leg of their very first flight to SFO, the passenger load was light to say the least (I think there were about 80 of us on board). Once we cleared cruising altitude, they encouraged us to get up and all take our own rows to lay down and sleep. Best trans-Atlantic trip ever.

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