Heathrow Airport At 70: Vintage Photos Reveal Glamour Of Air Travel In The Past

Check out the wallpaper.. and metal knives and forks.

31/05/2016 13:01 | Updated 31 May 2016

Starting out life as a small airfield in west London, Heathrow Airport is unrecognisable today from its modest beginnings.

The site was used during the Second World War but it was in 1946 that the facility was handed to the Air Ministry and the capital's new civil airport began to operate as London Airport.

On 31 May 1946, the airport first opened to commercial flights and has enjoyed many milestones since then,

Concorde's first commercial flight with British Airways from London Heathrow to Bahrain took place there in 1976, as well as the final commercial Concorde flights in 2003 when the supersonic planes touched down for the last time.

It was also at Heathrow in 1964 that the Beatles cemented their place in history as superstars when they were mobbed by hordes of screaming fans after returning from the US.

Things have certainly changed over the 70 years of Heathrow's life as a commercial airport, so we've gathered some of the best images of the airport and air travel over the years...

  • PA/PA Archive
    Princess Margaret and the Marchioness of Salisbury looking terribly glamorous as they took tea in a Comet plane. Even royalty isn't allowed to smoke on board any more.
  • Harry Todd via Getty Images
    British South American Airways hostess Mary Guthrie with a pair of pineapples, on the return of the Lancastrian airliner 'Star Dust' to Heathrow Airport after a test-flight to Buenos Aires in 1946.
  • Keystone via Getty Images
    The new gift shop at London Airport (later Heathrow Airport), selling items by Chanel, Wedgwood and Pringle of Scotland, UK, in November 1961. 
  • Keystone via Getty Images
    The new entrance hall at London Airport (later Heathrow Airport), with a W. H. Smith & Son shop, UK, in November 1961.
  • Evening Standard via Getty Images
    The Long Distance Departure Terminal at Heathrow Airport in July 1971. Things are a little busier now.
  • Evening Standard via Getty Images
    Passengers going through the departure lounge at Heathrow in 1973. Not a Starbucks in sight.
  • PA/PA Archive
    Comedy duo Eric Morecambe, right, and Ernie Wise try out new sleeperseats, installed by British Airways for first-class passengers on their jumbo jets. Look at that wallpaper!
  • AP
    An air steward offers a passenger her choice of beverages on a flight in 1972. The idea of male flight attendants was rather controversial to some at this time.
  • McKeown via Getty Images
    British United Airways (BUA) flight attendants wearing the new uniforms they have designed themselve in July 1967. 
  • Hans Neleman via Getty Images
    Look at the height on that hair!
  • Frederic Lewis via Getty Images
    It all looks rather civilised on this 1950s flight.
  • Authenticated News via Getty Images
    Sweet dreams!
  • Merlyn Severn via Getty Images
    An air-stewardess for BEA (British European Airways) does exceptionally well at serving tea without any spillages in 1947.
  • Merlyn Severn via Getty Images
    It was fine to light up in 1947 but you'd be in huge trouble over this now.
  • Fox Photos via Getty Images
    Time for a tipple on this Boeing-747.
  • Evening Standard via Getty Images
    Air hostesses at work just before welcoming boarding passengers onto a plane in 1971.
  • Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images
    Time for a drink on board this flight to New York in the 1960s - some things never change.
  • Fox Photos via Getty Images
    A British Overseas Airways Corporation air hostess greets a passenger in front of a spiral staircase which leads to the upper deck lounge in a Boeing 747 Monarch, wide-cabin jet aircraft in 1970.
  • Fox Photos via Getty Images
    BOAC air stewards tend to rows of passengers seated in the new Boeing 747 wide-cabined jumbo jet in 1970.

On Wednesday, Joanna Lumley marked Heathrow's 70th anniversary by unveiling a series of plaques featuring highlights of British culture from the past seven decades, the Press Association reported.

Since the UK's busiest airport began operation in 1946 more than 20 million flights have taken off, taking more than two billion passengers around the world.

Steve Parsons/PA Archive
Things looking rather different at Heathrow now

New York, Dublin and Dubai have been the most commonly visited cities from Heathrow.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: "We're very proud of the role the airport has played in millions of people's lives as well as the economic success of the UK.

"This is an occasion for everyone to celebrate how Heathrow's global connections have influenced our nation and to recognise the possibilities of those journeys yet to come."

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