Travel

When Concorde flew to Mallorca and bikinis shocked the world, classic Spain revisited

Even as we dare look forward to a return to international travel, it’s fun to take time out to look back, courtesy of our chums at the Mallorca Tourist Board.

While having a rummage through their archive during lockdown, they’ve unearthed some great stories, including the first bikini sensation on a Spanish beach, the mystery of Mallorca’s one millionth visitor, and the flight that led Concorde to bask in the Balearic sun.

Horse and cart ground handling at Palma’s Son Bonet Airport

Back in the fifties, Mallorca’s first airport offered unique ground-handling! This wonderful photo was taken in 1954 when Palma’s Son Bonet Airport, now a strip for private jets and helicopters, was the island’s principal airport. Passenger luggage was transported from the hanger terminal and loaded onto the aircraft, by horse and cart…

Concorde took the pretty route to Mallorca

Fast forward to 1983, and to mark Concorde’s 31st anniversary of flying, British Airways organised a special Concorde Mallorca flight from Manchester Airport.  Ironically, in order for Concorde to break the sound barrier and achieve Mach 2, the aircraft had to make a detour over the Atlantic before heading to Palma.  Consequently, the flight time was a tardy two hours…

Elke Sommer and her infamous black bikini

German actress Elke Sommer created a sensation in 1962, when she shot the movie Bahia de Palma on the island. Elke posed in what was to become an iconic bikini image on a Palma beach, as a publicity stunt to promote the film – women were prohibited from wearing two pieces in postwar Spain at the time. The publicity stunt caused a sensation and the film went on to huge international success.

One of the contributors was Robert Graves!

The first English newspaper to be published in Spain was the Majorca Daily Bulletin. It hit the presses in 1962. The founding director, Pedro Serra, wanted to reach out directly to English visitors and residents, so the red top was charged with providing a combination of Spanish national and local news, snippets of local culture, and breaking news from the UK.  One of the paper’s first contributors was the late British poet and author, Robert Graves, who wrote ‘I Claudius’ from his idyllic home in Deiá.

It transpired that the visitor being given the brush off was none other than Agatha Christie…

Finally, back in ‘64, the Mallorca Tourist Board decided to celebrate its one millionth tourist visitor, who happened to be British. In conjunction with Palma Airport, they contacted the pilot of a British European Airways flight from Manchester to alert the crew and to ensure that the lucky passengers (a couple from Manchester) would be greeted by a band, local dancers and dignitaries when the plane landed at Palma.

Unfortunately, when the aircraft doors opened, instead of the designated couple appearing, a nondescript  lady descended, smiling and waving at the welcoming committee.  The chief of the Tourist Board had the embarrassing task of telling her that this was not being laid on for her benefit, but for the couple behind her. It transpired that the visitor given the brush off was none other than Agatha Christie. The island inspired her murder mystery Problem at Pollensa Bay – it wasn’t about a case of mistaken identity… 

About Steve May

Creator of Home Cinema Choice magazine, Steve muses and reviews for Trusted Reviews, T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice, Ideal Home, The Luxe Review, Channel News and the i newspaper. He’s also the editor of professional home cinema website Inside CI, and contributor to industry trade magazine ERT. He's on Twitter and Instagram as @SteveMay_UK

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