Things We Love: The Airline Passenger Seats At Croydon Airport

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 8 months ago
Things We Love: The Airline Passenger Seats At Croydon Airport

Where we take a closer look at one of our favourite things in London.

Two wicker aircraft setas
Are you sitting comfortably? Well, let's begin anyway. Image: Londonist

What is it? Two original passenger seats, used aboard Handley Page aircraft during the golden era of Croydon Airport.

Er, I think you're mistaken — these are wicker seats? Yup. Back in those days (we're talking the 1920s/30s), airline seats were usually crafted out of wicker or rattan. No seatbelts. No reclining. You certainly couldn't embed a TV in the back of one of these things.

Cartoon showing a heavy set man being weighed
Passengers were individually weighed before boarding their flight. Image: Londonist

Who sat in them? Very rich people. Early passenger flights were super expensive (a single from Croydon to Karachi cost about £6,600 in today's money). The seat on the left belonged to aviation pioneer Sir Alan Cobham and his wife Lady Cobham, also his business manager. Lady Cobham sat in this seat on board the Youth of Australia plane, which gave 'joy rides' to around 120,000 people in its time.

I don't think I'd fancy sitting in that... I get that, but this was also a time when nascent airlines such as Imperial Airways would serve you up swish cocktails in proper glasses, alongside five-course meals. Literally the height of luxury! Checking in only took 10 minutes too, although it did involve being individually weighed. Which could be a bit embarrassing, especially if you made a habit of eating five-course meals.

A coffee and dining set with cocktail book, in a glass case
Air travel in the 1920s and 30s was the height of luxury. Image: Londonist

What else have they got on display? So much! Croydon Airport's archives are brimming with objects, which they rotate. On our visit, there were vintage menus, a booklet with 'Hints for Lady Passengers', and the recovered flight bag of record-shattering aviatrix Amy Johnson, who crashed in the Thames Estuary in 1941.

OK I'm sold — book me on the next flight from Croydon... Sadly, the airport closed in 1959, but there are monthly open days, where you can explore the old building, and its magnificent collection of flight paraphernalia.

Croydon Airport, Purley Way

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Last Updated 18 April 2023

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