Fascinating article on the Imperial Airways Empire Air Terminal at Victoria

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A month ago I ran this article on the West London Air Terminal which elicited a lot of positive feedback.

Despite having passed the massive Sainsbury’s supermarket on Cromwell Road many, many times, I never knew that it was originally the check-in terminal for Heathrow.  You would drop off your luggage and then catch a shuttle bus to the airport.

In a similar vein, reader Derek sent me this fantastic article on the history of the Empire Air Terminal.


Down by Victoria, in what is now the headquarters of the National Audit Office, Imperial Airways – one of the BA predecessor companies, it became BOAC in 1940 – built a similarly impressive structure in 1939.


At that time, Imperial Airways operated from both Croydon Airport and ran flying boats from Southampton Docks.  Your luggage would be checked in, or delivered there on your return, and you would take a direct train from Victoria Station next door to the airport or the docks.


The flying boat service ended in 1950 and Croydon Airport closed in 1959.  The terminal lived on, however, as a check-in facility for Gatwick Airport and as a coach arrival and departure point to other airports.

You can read the full story in this article here.

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  1. When I first moved to London in in 1989, central London Check-In was still available for British Airways at both London Victoria Station for LGW and London Paddington Station for LHR. These useful facilities enabled backage to be dropped and boarding passes collected prior to traveling to the aerodrome by Gatwick Express or Heathrow Express. A real benefit particularly if travelling with bulky or heavy luggage. Sadly the Victoria facility was axed in 2001 and Paddington followed in 2003 as explained in the following article from the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/check-in-checked-out-86987.html

  2. Fascinating read. My late Grandma took the last ever flying boat service to Hong Kong on her way out to work for what she called “the imperial service”.

  3. There are probably quite a few of your HFP readers who work in this building. I worked there until last year and shared the site with a number of colleagues (who then started holidaying in Hawaii business class.) Inside the building is often used as a filming location, recently as the department of public prosecution in the BBC drama Undercover.

  4. Concerto says:

    Hong Kong has a downtown check in service.

    • James A says:

      Kuala Lumpur too iirc

      • Yes, we did Singapore to Kuala Lumpur by train 3 years ago. Bags dropped at the Sentral station Malaysia airlines desk, we jumped on the express train to KUL-the next time we saw the bags was at LGK.
        Seems as though the same service exists for Malaysia, Cathay and Etihad passengers.

    • Seoul too, from COEX. I think it is/was mainly KAL + Skyteam though.

  5. James A says:

    I can’t imagine taking a flying boat from London to Sydney! Although if you take it in context, it’s a lot faster than an actual boat I suppose!

  6. Read Alexander Frater’s book ‘Beyond the Blue Horizon’

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