Updated: Oct 20, 2019
A marketing innovation which paid huge dividends for BOAC was the Junior Jet Club, a working example of the Jesuits maxim: ‘Give me the child and I’ll give you the man.’
From 1957, children on BOAC flights (myself included) were given a set of gold and enamel pilot’s wings, and a Junior Jet Club logbook. They were beautifully finished in dark blue and gold leaf, and all your flights with BOAC were recorded in them and signed by the Captain. Looking similar to real pilots’ logbooks, they showed date, aircraft type and registration, departure city, destination city, flying hours and miles. On the flyleaf was a photograph of BOAC’s most famous pilot with the message:
‘Dear Club member,
I should like to welcome you as a joining member of the Junior Jet Club and hope you will be pleased with your own personal logbook. My fellow captains will look forward to meeting you on many future flights and will be delighted to help you build up your BOAC mileage.
We should like you to complete the enclosed Enrolment Card and hand it to your steward or stewardess to enable us to keep in touch with you from time to time.
Captain O P Jones’
It was marketing magic, try telling a twelve-year old boy that he’s missed out on several thousand miles in his logbook because you’re not flying BOAC. Parents soon discovered they no longer had a choice of airline, they either had to book BOAC or travel with bitterly disappointed kids.
Some children accumulated colossal mileages. BOAC was a longhaul airline and an important part of its business was flying the children of expatriates to and from the mother country. One of BOAC’s specialities was the service it provided for ‘Unaccompanied Minors,’ i.e. children travelling without their parents. This was an era in which British diplomats, armed forces personnel, or overseas managers in British companies often had their children’s school fees paid as part of their salary.
In every school holiday period, thousands of children under the age of eighteen would be chaperoned on BOAC flights by ‘Aunties’ (female ground staff who volunteered for the job). Such was BOAC’s reputation that parents across the world were happy to have their children delivered to London Airport into the hands of BOAC, knowing that they would arrive safely at their destination and be taken back again when the holidays were over.
To this day, there are thousands of travellers who have retained and treasure their logbooks, and some who still ask captains of other airlines to sign them – they always do.