British Airways – the UK's flagship carrier which currently operates 21 weekly flights from the UAE to London Heathrow – has marked the 50th anniversary of the world's first commercial jet flight across the Atlantic.

The modern day London – New York route is the most competitive route in commercial aviation and half a century after the first trans-Atlantic jet flight, thousands of British Airways' Middle East customers now utilise the airline's extensive North American network - which currently includes 25 destinations.

To mark the historic flight of October 4th 1968 - operated on a British-built BOAC Comet 4 jet liner, which slashed the eastbound crossing time by nine hours - British Airways has re-created the dramatic achievement with a very special guest; the youngest passenger from the original flight.

Brian Barnett, now aged 72, from West Wickham in Kent, England – who won his 1968 seat in a newspaper competition - said: “It's incredibly special to be here 50 years to the day when I flew on what was the fastest and most luxurious crossing you could make at the time.

“Back then I was overwhelmed by travelling luxury class as it was only the very rich and ‘captains of industry' who took to the skies. It was a fantastic journey for me - and for everyone on board,'' he added.

His competition winning slogan of ‘Comet IV – Ace of Space in the Transatlantic Race' may have secured his seat on the maiden BOAC service, but Barnett never imagined he'd be retracing his journey fifty years later, this time courtesy of British Airways, in the airline's business class cabin, Club World.

“Now it's wonderful to be doing the same journey again, 50 years later, on this British Airways Boeing 747. It's a huge privilege and a great way to celebrate my first trip all those years ago,'' he said.

There was huge public interest in the race to operate the first transatlantic flight. BOAC, which later became part of British Airways, won a closely fought battle against rival Pan American World Airways by just three weeks.

The inaugural BOAC Comet 4 flight - commanded by Captain Roy Millichap - made the westbound journey to Idlewild Airport in New York (later to become JFK) in 10 hours 13 minutes travelling at 465mph, making a refuelling stop in Gander, Newfoundland.

At the same time, another Comet 4 - commanded by Captain Tom Stoney - departed Idlewild eastbound for London Airport (later renamed Heathrow), making the tailwind-assisted journey at a then record-breaking 6 hours and 11 minutes.

The Comet 4 had only been authorised for ‘noise clearance' by the New York authorities the day before the flights took place. The two aircraft passed within 300 miles of each other and exchanged messages of goodwill.

Carrying just 32 passengers, including journalists and BOAC's managing director Basil Smallpeice, the Comet 4's quietly elegant cabin, served by a chief steward and two stewardesses, offered unsurpassed comfort and luxury.

To recreate the historic crossing, two British Airways cabin crew, wearing uniforms dating back to the 1958 flight, served customers with 1950s inspired cocktails on the anniversary service, now operated by the mainstay of the airline's transatlantic fleet, the Boeing 747. Each customer onboard also received a commemorative booklet to mark the anniversary.

Martin Broughton, British Airways Chairman, said: “Fifty years ago we led the world with the first transatlantic crossing by commercial jet. Half a century on, we are leading again with the very best in customer service offering unbeatable luxury and comfort across the Atlantic.

“We are very proud to have Brian with us on this trip and thank all of our customers for their loyalty and commitment over the past 50 years.''