• An inaugural flight is the first passenger flight on a new aircraft or a specific route, often marked by special events and freebies.
  • British Airways went all out for their inaugural A350 flight to Madrid, with appearances by the ex-CEO, lots of cake, and freebies for passengers.
  • Despite missing out on a water cannon salute, the flight was still a memorable experience and remains one of the author's favorite press flights.

Four years ago, British Airways hosted us onboard their inaugural Airbus A350 flight. The flight from London Heathrow Airport to Madrid Barajas Airport took place on August 5th, 2019, also marking the launch of the airline's current Club Suite business class product. Here's a look back at how it was to be on that first flight four years on.

An inaugural flight is the first operation of a specific mission, be that the first flight on a specific route, the first flight with a new aircraft, or something else entirely. In this case, we're talking about the very first passenger flight on a brand-new aircraft.

No ordinary flight

While many airlines like to mark inaugural flights, recently, we've seen a wave of low-key affairs without much fanfare. When an airline does mark an inaugural flight, this could mean anything from cake at the gate to special branding and even notable people onboard. Just take a look at last week's (re)inaugural Etihad Airbus A380 flight from London to Abu Dhabi.

Tom Boon - Alex Cruz
I even got the chance to meet Alex Cruz. 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 the ex-British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, along with lots of cake. To top this all off were more freebies at the gate and on the flight.

Starting with a special check-in

The festivities started at check-in. British Airways had commandeered a specific desk for people checking into our flight. Desk H1 showed the BA 100 logo, along with the text "A350 Inaugural #FlyBA #A350". Here our passports were checked, and we were handed boarding passes with instructions to proceed to the lounge. Unfortunately, there were no special boarding passes for the event.

A350 Check-In
Photo: Tom Boon - Simple Flying

Upon arrival at the lounge, British Airways' ex-CEO, Alex Cruz, spoke about the new aircraft. When we were invited to head to the aircraft's gate, we were met with a mountain of cupcakes! This was accompanied by an Instagram 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!

As members of the press, we were invited to pre-board the aircraft ahead of the rest of the passengers to Madrid. After scanning our boarding passes, the gate agents presented each passenger with a certificate confirming attendance on the inaugural flight alongside an Airbus A350 keyring.

A350 Tom Boon
Photo: Tom Boon - Simple Flying

The aircraft was decked out with BA 100 pillows which the captain instructed us to keep should we wish (Four years on mine is still on my sofa). Finally, we were able to take the headrest covers, which had been made especially for the occasion (I got mine signed by Alex Cruz and framed alongside other mementos from the flight).

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, though I would later get my first water cannon salute lading in Lagos on a Royal Air Maroc Boeing 787 (It doesn't look as cool as you think from inside the plane).

Love reading about inflight experiences? Check out more of our flight reviews here.

All in all, the flight was a great experience, and to this day remains one of my favorite press 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 comment section.

  • British Airways, Cabin Crew Training, Customer Service
    British Airways invited Simple Flying to experience cabin crew training first hand. Photo: Tom Boon - Simple Flying
    British Airways
    IATA/ICAO Code:
    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier
    London Heathrow Airport, London Gatwick Airport
    Year Founded:
    Airline Group:
    Sean Doyle
    United Kingdom