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Hong Kong to London in 11 days: first ‘direct’ flight lands in 1936

“His Excellency the Governor, Sir Andrew Caldecott […] was among a large crowd gathered at the aerodrome yesterday morning to witness the arrival of the Imperial Airways liner Dorado from Penang, with 16 bags of mail and a passenger, thus inaugurating a direct service from London to Hongkong,” ran the report in the South China Morning Post on March 25, 1936, under the headline “Dorado Welcomed at Kai Tak”.

Pilot Captain Lock said the Dorado would maintain a weekly schedule, leaving Penang on Monday mornings to arrive in Hong Kong on Tuesday mornings, then departing on Fridays and arriving in Penang on Saturdays.

This schedule would connect with the air service from London to Australia via Penang.

IN PICTURES: British Airways celebrates 80 years of connecting Hong Kong and UK

Today, hailing the London to Hong Kong route as “direct” might be deemed false advertising.

As the Post reported in its first mention of the proposed air link, on November 14, 1933, “So far as can be estimated, the fare for the trip will be about £175. This will include hotel accommo­dation at stopping places, as well as tips, etc. […]

“The estimate of ten or eleven days as the likely duration of the flight from Hongkong to London is based on day flying only. In course of time, however, night flying might be likely along part of the route, notably from Cairo to Bagdad. […] There would be numerous stops, with an average of three or four flights a day.”

On March 16, 1936, a Reuters report in the Post stated: “Aeroplanes of the DH-86 type have accommodation for eight pass­engers, but the number to be carried [between Hong Kong and Penang] is uncertain owing to the large load of petrol necessary for the journey via Tourane [Da Nang] and Saigon [Ho Chi Minh City] which is 1,750 miles. […]

“Passengers will sleep at Saigon and Tourane according to which way they are flying.”

The next day, March 17, the Post reported, “The fares to London, Penang, and Singapore have been established as follows :– London,₤£175; Penang, £30; Singapore, £35.”