British Domestic Aviation in the 1980s – Business Traveler

Readers will know that I have often praised the standards of British domestic aviation over the past decades.

In particular, readers and I have fond memories of the British Midland Diamond Service.

The now passionate Captain Brent posted on social media about the ‘breakfast battle’ between British Midland and the British Airways super shuttle.

This particular clip refers to the air service between Belfast and London Heathrow. It includes an interview with Jim Harris, then BA Marketing Director, and Sir Michael Bishop of British Midland.

It’s hard to believe today. But until then, it was difficult for an airline to compete with BEA/British Airways on domestic routes from Heathrow.

Things changed in the early 1980s when British Midland was allowed to compete with BA’s no-frills commuter flights. Note that by the 1980s BEA and BOAC had merged to form BA.

I was a fan of BEA’s Shuttle product from 1975 (although many weren’t) because of its simplicity, guaranteed seat availability and ten minute check-in (even with luggage at Heathrow) .

What the shuttle lacked and what its customers were asking for was onboard service, specifically a hot breakfast.

This is what Diamond Service offered in competition with BA on its major domestic routes from Heathrow to Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow. British Airways was forced to respond with Super Shuttle.

The latter wasn’t as comprehensive as Diamond Service (from memory, I don’t recall BA supplying BMI’s famous afternoon cream tea), but BA focused on the breakfast- hot lunch.

The improved on-board service has been accompanied by a range of better fares. At the time of the BEA shuttle, passengers paid for their tickets on board.

Thirty years later, the hot breakfast remains a favorite of British travellers. Recently, we reported that two mainline rail operators had upgraded their offerings.

Avanti and LNER start a ‘breakfast war’ with relaunched services

In conclusion, travelers can still get hot breakfast on board BA flights to Heathrow, but only by paying higher fares.

Diamond Service and Super Shuttle provided onboard catering for all passengers regardless of fare paid.

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