The Foreign Airlines Association (FAA), the UK's leading networking association for foreign airline executives, celebrates its 70th anniversary this year. Chairman, Colin Stewart, hosted a special anniversary event on 7th July at Lords Cricket Ground for members, old and new, including past FAA chairmen and women, Jan Smit (1983-84), John Varley (1996-7), Barry Prior (1998-99), Chris Gilber (2001-2), Cathy Matos (2006-7) and Sandra Bloodworth (2008-9).
Founded in 1946, the FAA is the world's oldest association of its kind. It was borne out of a need to protect the interests of foreign carriers in the UK with matters addressed in the early days including the foreign currency rate - which members believed favoured UK carriers - and opposing plans to raise landing charges at LHR.
At the time of the formation of the FAA, World War II had just ended. London Heathrow in 1946 was a large field, bleak and muddy, with an eclectic collection of temporary buildings and wet tents accessed by duck boards. The depressing conditions were accentuated by the winter of 1946; one of the most bitterly cold of all times.
Then there was the austerity and food rationing. The prospect of FAA lunches in a restaurant or hotel was the initial reason, one cynic remarked, for the FAA's instant popularity and rapid growth; it helped eke out frugal rations.
Different airline members presided at each of the then monthly lunches and were responsible for the menu selected. This inevitably led to healthy competition, with members trying to outdo each other by importing various national specialties seen only rarely (or not at all) in the UK. American Overseas Airlines (predecessor of Pan Am) flew in steaks, as did Aerolineas Argentinas. United donated fresh pineapples to promote their Hawaiian routes, whilst Air India brought along a large variety of assorted Indian cuisines. The FAA offered the best meal in town… And only to its privileged members.
In the mid-1790s the FAA's role changed when BAR UK was formed, admitting British as well as foreign carriers. It was decided among the FAA members that BAR-UK should adopt the more commercial stance, whilst the FAA would continue to discuss topics of importance in the more congenial surroundings of the FAA lunches and relay these, where necessary, to BAR UK colleagues.
The FAA today offers members the opportunity to meet likeminded airline representatives in a non-competitive environment to promote their airline, discuss matters of mutual interest and share expertise and best practice.
Guest speakers were occasional in the early days, with cabinet ministers, leading politicians, ambassadors and even royalty invited to speak at the popular Christmas events. Today, members benefit from the expertise and guidance of guest speakers at every event. Predominantly leading industry figures, speakers present on a range of topics relating to the successful management and marketing of an airline in the UK.
Today, the Meliá White House Hotel in Regent's Park hosts the majority of FAA events. Past venues have included the InterContinental Hyde Park, the Dorchester, Kettners in Soho, the world famous Mossiman's Belfry, the Prospect of Whitby pub overlooking the Thames in London's East End and the Transportation Club. The very first venue for lunch and meetings was the Goring Hotel in Ebury Street, London, and among those prominent at launch were Henry Spry-Leverton (KLM), Jack Bamford (Air France) and Dennis Handover (of SAS's predecessor, ABB).
Colin Stewart, FAA Chairman of three years, comments: “This is an important milestone for the FAA which emerged from a bleak post-war London 70 years ago, gave a voice to foreign airlines in the UK and due to its success throughout the last seven decades, continues to provide members today with the all-important opportunity to share ideas, views, recommendations, challenges or concerns in a friendly environment, helping them find practical and tested solutions among a support network of skilled and likeminded peers. We had a great turnout to our anniversary event and look forward to welcoming new members over the next 70 years and beyond!”