Maximise your Avios, air miles and hotel points

The story of the forgotten West London and Imperial Airways Empire air terminals

Links on Head for Points may support the site by paying a commission.  See here for all partner links.

We like to run slightly eclectic pieces on holiday weekends, so I thought it was worth taking another look at the two long-forgotten but still standing air terminals which used to exist in Central London.

The West London Air Terminal on Cromwell Road

This fascinating article on the West London Air Terminal tells you the history of this building, which some HfP readers may still be old enough to have used.

If you have ever driven from Central London to Heathrow via Cromwell Road, you will have passed a huge Sainsburys supermarket on your right, close to the large Marriott hotel on your left.  There is a large block of flats built over it and an odd ramp leading up to them.

This used to be the West London Air Terminal.

West London Air Termnal Cromwell Road

To quote:

In the period after the war Heathrow was in the ascendant so the search was on for a site in West London. The airport authorities settled on an area in Kensington already occupied by another form of transport: the Cromwell Curve where the District and Circle lines came together and tube trains from Gloucester Road, High Street Kensington and Earls Court passed each other. It was decided to build a concrete raft over the train lines and construct the new terminal above them.

West London Air Terminal


The idea …… was that you checked in for your flight here and then you and your luggage were transported to Heathrow in special airline buses. ….  The Cromwell Road location, a short convenient distance up the road from Gloucester Road Station meant that when the time came to fly you could put on your sheepskin coat, walk down some stairs, put your case in the coach and be on your way.

I strongly recommend reading the full piece here. This is what the building looks like today.  It is hard to imagine it was once an airport terminal.

Point West Cromwell Road

The Imperial Airways Empire Air Terminal at Victoria

In a similar vein, I recommend this article on the history of the Empire Air Terminal.

Imperial Airways Empire Air Terminal, Victoria

Down by Victoria, in what is now the headquarters of the National Audit Office (opposite Hertz, near the bottom of Pimlico Road), Imperial Airways – one of the British Airways predecessor companies, it became BOAC in 1940 – built a similarly impressive structure in 1939.

Imperial Airways Empire Air Terminal, Victoria

At that time, Imperial Airways operated from Croydon Airport but also 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.  It’s worth taking ten minutes to learn more about these two fascinating pieces of London aviation history.

Comments (10)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • RussellH says:

    An interesting comment to the linked article is by someone who used to work for BA’s IT dept until 1985. IT and telesales were in the building (no longer a terminal) until it was sold off as part of the pre-privatisation asset stripping. The writer complains about having had to move to Hatton Cross.
    In view of the other article here, maybe that was when the rot started with BA’s IT.
    After all, much of what is wrong with the UK today all started around that time.

    • RussellH says:

      Although we used to pass the building occasionally, what I really remember from my childhood is the very distinctive 1½ decker buses going along the Great West Road.

    • Nick says:

      Pretty sure the IT has been left as-is!

  • The real Swiss Tony says:

    For anyone with an interest in flying boats, there’s a fascinating museum in Southampton called Solent Sky with some great artefacts, showing the days gone by of flying.

  • DeB2020 says:

    The odd ramp you refer to in the article is the ramp to the car park for Sainsburys customers. It is not the entrance to the apartment block, which is on the other side of the building.

  • TimM says:

    I understand that flying boats are about to make a comeback in Greece. I know a pilot who is currently being trained for them. In a country of 2,000+ islands it makes perfect sense.

    • The real Swiss Tony says:

      Maybe, but the utility ones that exist today for island hopping off the west coast of Canada and the like are very different to the lavish flying hotels of years back!

      • Richie says:

        I’ve never been on a sea plane, is it an interesting experience?

    • ADS says:

      aren’t flying boats always “about” to make a comeback …

      until the new operator discovers just how incompatible salt water and aircraft actually are !

      i’d love it if the Be-42 had worked operationally … but sadly it didn’t

  • Former Transport Insider says:

    At the old BOAC/Imperial Air Terminal – after the airline moved out, it didn’t move away. 200 Buckingham Palace Road (1960s offices which are part of Victoria Coach Station) were occupied by BA until 2002. This included a number of functions which I understand were off-shored. BA finally moved out 21 years ago.

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

The UK's biggest frequent flyer website uses cookies, which you can block via your browser settings. Continuing implies your consent to this policy. Our privacy policy is here.