"It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is 'soporific'"
Beatrix Potter, English writer and conservationist

I remember my Gran giving me a small red plastic suitcase full of toys for my first long haul flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles, aged five, collecting cups and glasses with a trolley on a flight from there to Hawaii a couple of years later, and seeing Afghanistan flicker in the darkness on the way from Moscow to Delhi in 1987. 

Flying regularly from then on, I've flown 127 airlines, many now long gone, and others transformed almost beyond recognition. I've been lucky enough to be on the first flight of the Boeing 787 from Tokyo to Hong Kong, and to experience glorious business class service and food on Etihad, BA, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian and others.

And no matter which airline, wherever I'm flying to, or in which cabin, I look forward to the next flight...

Bill Clinton, Bob Hope and George Best have airports named after them. Here are the world's other surprising choices...
posted by Richard Green on 31/07/2019

Most pub quizzers could conjure up half a dozen or so airports that are named after famous people, but in fact there are hundreds of them. Some are grand and patriotic gestures, others seem rather trivial, but all reveal something of the countries and cultures they are located in.

So Mexico has a thing about naming its airports after generals, while Malaysia plumps for former ruling Sultans, but both represent a strong global theme in naming airports after former statesmen and leaders.

So take a deep breath, as there is Charles de Gaulle in Paris, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and Indira Gandhi International in Delhi. Then there's the Franjo Tuđman Airport in Zagreb (Croatia); Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad (Pakistan); Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi (Kenya); Gdansk Lech Walesa Airport in Poland; and Rajiv Gandhi International Airport serving Hyderabad (India).

The infamously overdue airport in Berlin, its all new Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport, is named after the former Mayor of Berlin, German Chancellor and instigator of 'Ostpolitik'. Unfortunately the new facility is already eight years behing schedule, with a likely opening date now sometime in 2020.  

The ruins of Yasser Arafat International (1998-2000) in Gaza. Photo Gisha.org

Even Yasser Arafat (former chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation and President of the Palestinian National Authority) has an airport named after him, but it was abandoned after an Israeli attack knocked out the radar station and control tower during the Second Intifada in 2000. And the airport in Macedonia's capital Skopje was called Alexander the Great Airport until 2018, when to mollify neighbouring Greece in preparation for an accomodation over the country's name change to North Macedonia, it was quietly renamed planeold Skopje International Airport

The brilliant Simon Bolivar even gets two airports to his name - the Simon Bolivar International Airport, Santa Marta (Columbia), and the Simon Bolivar International Airport, Bolívar International Airport, Maiquetia (Venezuela).

And there's an airport named after political power couple extraordinaire - the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock, Arkansas. And incidentally there is one other shared name that I've come across - the Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla, Nepal, commemorating Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, who together where the first climbers to reach the summit of Mt Everest, on the 29th of May 1953.

Naturally enough, aviators feature heavily too - with people like test pilot Chuck Yaeger commemorated at Yaeger Airport, Charleston, West Virginia (USA); pioneer aviator Traian Vuia Airport, at Timisoara (Romania); the Sikorsky Memorial Airport at Stratford, Connecticut (USA); and the Turkish female aviator at Sabiha Gökçen International Airport in Istanbul.

Many airport names become so familiar that they no longer even sound eponymous. Take Chicago's mighty O'Hare for example, which is actually named after a wartime naval pilot - namely Edward Henry O'Hare who was awarded the Medal of Honour in 1942 for shooting down five Japanese bombers and thereby preventing a successful attack on the aircraft carrier the USS Lexington.  

Unsurprisingly, travellers get a look in too, with the Ibn Battouta Airport serving Tangier (Morocco); and the Venice Marco Polo Airport, plus mathematician and astronomer Copernicus is venerated at the Wrocław Nicolaus Copernicus Airport (Poland).

The writer roll call incudes the Ian Fleming International Airport, Boscobel (Jamaica), and the Václav Havel Airport Prague (Czech Republic); and the Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport, France (though he was a pioneer aviator as well as author of the Little Prince).

There's an actor, at the Will Rogers World Airport, Oklahoma City (USA), and entertainers name checked at the Burbank Bob Hope Airport (USA) and the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma.

Plus the world's most famous cosmonaut is remembered at the Yuri Gagarin Orenburg Tsentralny Airport, Orenburg (Russia), the world's most famous cerail innovator at the W. K. Kellogg Airport, Battle Creek, Michigan (USA), and sadly underrated scientist and inventor Tesla is honoured at the Nikola Tesla Belgrade Airport in Serbia.

Tesla appropriately in neon-looking lights. Photo Flickr/Leo Sauermann

Musicians and composers feature, with the Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport in Hungary; the W.A. Mozart Airport (Salzburg, Austria); the Warsaw Chopin Airport (Poland); the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (USA); the Liverpool John Lennon Airport in the UK. Actor John Wayne gets a swaggering statue at the John Wayne Airport, Orange County (USA), and one director even makes the cut - at the Frederico Fellini Airport in Rimini (Italy).

There are at least two footballers too. Cristiano Ronaldo's home island has renamed its international airport in his honour as the Madeira Cristiano Ronaldo Airport, complete with famously bad bust, and since 2006 Belfast's City Airport has been known as George Best Belfast City Airport after the local hero dubbed the greatest dribbler in history.


I suppose the names lend opportunities to honour someone important, to put up a statue outside and sell some souvenirs, but if left to their own town name devices some unlucky airports just sound silly in someone else's language. There's a Batman Airport in Turkey Batman Airport for example, a Mafia airport in Tanzania, a Moron airport in Mongolia, an Ogle airport in Guyana, and a Deadhorse Airport in Alaska (USA).

Most airports are just named after the city they serve, like Manchester, Miami, and Mangalore. Or they use a less defined geographical name like the UK's East Midlands Airport or Marseilles-Provence. East Midlands Airport sounds awfully dull, but it does tell you something about where it might be.

It's run jointly by the councils of Derby, Nottingham, and Leicester and I worked there for a time. The coaches taking disembarking passenger from the aircraft to arrivals were emblazoned with 'Serving Derby, Nottingham and Leicester'. I thus overheard one family, purse at the ready, ask the driver for "two adults and two children to Leicester please", entirely forgetting they had yet to clear immigration, collect there bags and pass through customs, before leaving the airport.

Happy Concorde passengers en route to Derby, Nottingham or Leicester. Photo East Midlands Airport

The hot topic while I was there in the mid 80's was how to find a better name for the airport. It was thought dreary and ill-defined, and research showed that few people in the UK knew quite where it was, and even fewer people abroad. So an expensive several-month-long study was commissioned in order to find a better, sexier, more memorable name. I seem to remember that the fee was £80,000. Excitement mounted until the report was published and recommended - wait for it - keeping the name as....'East Midlands Airport'.


At least East Midlands means something. Consider Heathrow and Gatwick; the largest international airport in the world and the busiest single runway airport in the world. You might think they would merit something special from the moniker drawer, but not at all. Supplanting small villages that were there before the runway was laid down, Heathrow just means a row or hedge on a heath - which in the UK means open land left wild rather than a formal park. And a 'wick' in old English is a pen for livestock, and 'gat' is a term for a goat, giving us 'goat pen'. They are as far away from naming after some famous figure as it is possible to get.

All airports have three letter IATA (International Air Transport Association) codes used to designate airports and apart from being somewhat confusing to the layman, these can can raise an smile too. Sure LHR, SIN and SYD are fine, but how about LOL (Derby Field airport in Nevada, USA), OMG (Omega Airport, Namibia), and SUX (Sioux City, Iowa, USA).

Incidentally if you want to know how your local airport got its name take a look at Airport Codes, which lists all of the IATA three letter codes and gives a brief explanation of where its full name came from.

In an age of irreverence for politicians, and indeed the elite in general, it's hard to imagine new airports being named after famous people. That said, with nationalism on the rise it isn't entirely beyond the imagination to envisage populist people rallying for a change. Heathrow to become the Sir Winston Churchill International perhaps?

Braniff International and the end of the plain plane...
posted by Richard Green on 20/07/2019

Braniff's 'End of the plain plane' campaign began in the early 60s and led to its 'Jelly Bean' livery

Even via grainy old photos, Braniff's 'end of the plain plane' livery remains eye-catching half a century after its launch. It was part of a bold turnaround plan put in place by the airline's then boss, flambouyant Texan Harding Lawrence, and saw the airline adopt a cutting edge approach to its design, uniforms and cabins. And all this at a time when airline colour schemes - such as they were - left the fuselage as silver metal, or painted a stripe or two (called cheatlines) along the row of windows, complimented by drab interiors and dowdy uniforms.

The innovative Braniff branding introduced seven vivid colours to the airline's fleet - including Lemon Yellow, Chocolate Brown and Metallic Purple, and there were flambouyant cabins to match, imported Latin American furniture for its lounges, and avant-garde guard crew uniforms created by Italian fashion designer Emilio Pucci.

Emilio Pucci designed Braniff uniforms. Note the 'raindomes' being sported by two of the women

These days hardly a week goes by without an airline announces a new celebtrity designed uniform or a designer endorsed 'look' - think Virgin Atlantic and Vivienne Westwood designed crew uniforms, Finnair and Marimekko designed tablewear, or Air France and it's tie up for its Paris Charles De Gaulle lounges and Alain Ducasse. But Braniff's approach was truly groundbreaking in its day.

Pucci created six complete uniform collections for Braniff between 1965 and 1974 and even designed a bizarre plastic helmet dubbed a 'rain dome'. It was in the days of very few jetties, and so the idea was for hostesses to sport the space-age helmet on the walk between the terminal and the aircraft to avoid wind and rain messing up their big 60s hairdos. But the helmets cracked, were surely impractical, and were quietly dropped. There were even a range of Barbie dolls sporting Braniff uniforms - rain domes included - and Ken was kitted out as a Braniff pilot.

Braniff BAC 1-11s and a Boeing 707 in its 'Jelly Bean' livery

Getting back to the livery, I'd always understood that it was the idea of Braniff's CEO's wife. The story always repeated to me as though she'd made a casual comment during a BBQ, but the real story isn't quite as folksy as it sounds. You see, the airline's CEO Harding Lawrence married Mary Wells, chairman of the Wells, Rich, Greene advertising agency in New York. At the time she was at the top of her game as an advertising guru and one of the best paid women in the US.

Incidentally, Braniff started life as Braniff Airways Inc. It was founded in 1930 by airline entrepreneur Paul Revere Braniff, who later sold it to his brother Tom. Tom died in a flying boat crash in 1954, and his brother of cancer six months later. Lawrence Harding was vice president of Continental Airlines before being appointed as the Braniff CEO. By this time Braniff International Airways was already flying across the US Midwest, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Harding set about growing it from America's 11th largest airline, to its would-be market leader.

A brace of Braniff Boeing 727s

The Braniff makeover that Harding initiated had real substance, and leading architect Alexander Girard was taken on to zhoosh up its materials. Eventually, Girard created some 17,000 Braniff-specific items), and the lounge and ticket office furniture was so desirable that some of the range went on sale in 1967.

Braniff also invested hugely in its 'Terminal of the Future' in its home base airport of Dallas Love Field. The space age terminal was connected to the parking areas by a futuristic 'Jetrail' monorail. The 10 gondolas were slung under rails and ran from the new Braniff terminal to the 'Braniff Remote Parking Terminal'. The system was shut down in 1974, some time after Braniff had relocated to Dallas Fort Worth Airport, and had a last lease of life as a disco, until it was dismantled in 1978.

A mock up of what a Braniff liveried Concorde might have looked like

Braniff even operated Concordes for a time in the late 70s, though the fact that the airline never actually owned a Concorde and that the plane couldn't fly supersonically over US air space, meant that the route from Washington to Dallas was more a gimmick than anything. However, the airline did order three Concorde's in 1966, though the order was cancelled a few years later.

The Big Orange, Braniff 747 takes to the skies, perhaps to the Big Apple

Braniff flew Jumbo Jets to and from London's Gatwick Airport. The route was generally operated by one of the company's orange 747's, and I think I recall adversing along the lines of 'Fly the Big Orange to the Big Apple'.

Crazily vivid interior of a Braniff 'Big Orange'

In case the Big Orange and the other Braniff planes weren't colour overloads in themselves, the airline's cabins echoed the end of the plain plane concept. There were at least seven matching cabin colours.

Braniff approcahed the modern artist Alexander Calder to produce the world's first and largest flying artwork. In fact Calder was comissioned to create three new one-off liveries. The first was painted onto a Douglas DC-8 and called the 'Flying Colorsof South America' in 1973, and this was followed in the USA's centenerry year 1976 by a Boeing 727-200 that Calder patriotically rendered into a red, white and blue 'Flying Colors of the United States'. Somewhat remarkably all Braniff markings - including even the name on the tailplane - were removed from the plane. Calder didn't get the opportunity of finishing the third plane, called the 'Spirit of Mexico', as the artist died in 1976.

Braniff DC-8 sporting its Alexander Calder 'Flying Colors of South America' livery

Braniff had an advert strap line and jingle in 1980 that proclaimed 'We better be better, We're Braniff'. Bold livery excepted, the airline was in some trouble by this time, caused by low load factors, high oil prices, a controversial boss, and an over ambitious expansion. It may sound childish, but then again I was a child at this time - when we played with it at the school bus stop in tones to imply that they were so utterly hopeless that they had 'better be better'.

The company went under on May 12th 1982, after which the ad line was changed at the school bus stop to 'We better be better, we're bankrupt'. But in a world of ever blander livieries - witness the recent unveiling of Lufthansa's new monumentally mediochre livery - pioneering and maverick Braniff made a bold and creative attempt to position the airline at the forefront of deisgn, fashion and art.


Thanks to its revolutionary style and arty execution, Braniff has its followers, even so long after its demise. For some more detailed history on the airline, see Braniff Pages. And for Braniff branded goods - from throws to Christmas tree baubles - yes really, see Braniff Boutique.

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