World's first flight booking office survives from 1911
I've spotted this little building often enough when visiting the Brooklands Museum in Weybridge, south west of London, but have given it very little thought. But then while out testing the new Leica TL2 I noticed the rather quaint construction was sporting a fresh lick of white paint and went to investigate.
What I hadn't realised is that this was the world's first air travel booking office when it opened for business in 1911. It was long before passport control and security queues. And in those days there were no laptops to be fished out of your Gladstone bag. Nirvana!
The little brick office was erected at the Brooklands Flying Village on the Byfleet side of the aerodrome and was sponsored by the well-known London booking agency, Keith Prowse & Co.
It was connected by telephone to the company's London office and other branches. Intrepid customers could book a pleasure trip for as little as two guineas (£2.10 — but a very princely £233 in today's currency). Four guineas or the equivalent of £466 covered the cost of three circuits of Brooklands or Hendon aerodromes while an adventurous cross-country flight cost ten guineas (£1,165). If you wish to complain about air fares, just think of those prices. At least, presumably, there were no taxes.
According to the museum, it is unlikely the ticket office continued to operate after the outbreak of war in 1914 but it did soldier on as a pilots' reporting office for Brooklands Aviation and a recruiting office for the Civil Air Guard in 1938. In the 1970s the office became a Grade II listed building and is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It was moved from its original site to the museum grounds in early 1990.
The above picture is an out-of-camera jpeg from the TL2 on standard settings.