The sky is no longer the limit at Harrods

Taxi-drivers who tout for business outside the hallowed doors of Harrods in Knightsbridge are set for a nice little earner, dashing along a motorway to one of three London airports to enable the rich and famous to sample the store's new line in aviation.

Mohamed Al Fayed, the head of the family owners of Harrods, has shelled out pounds 1m to buy Hunting Business Aviation, and an undisclosed sum for a 10-year lease on an executive jet centre at Heathrow.

Mr Al Fayed, who is never knowingly understated and is the owner of a G4 aircraft and Sikorsky helicopter, said: "This is a unique opportunity because this is a unique company. I have an ambitious programme of development and no plans will be spared in making this the best company of its kind anywhere in the world."

Hunting Business Aviation operates out of Luton, Stansted and Heathrow airports. It is being sold by its joint owners, Hunting and British Petroleum. The executive jet centre is being sold by Hunting for pounds 7m to BAA, which will then lease it to Harrod's newly created Metro Business Aviation division.

Harrods' association with aviation predates the foundation of the Royal Air Force. In 1903 the building and decorating department at Harrods was commissioned to build an oversized shed in London's Alexander Park for a Dr Barton (no relation to Dick) who was experimenting with airships.

By 1909 the Christmas stockings at stately homes could be topped off with a toy aeroplane fresh off the shelves in Knightsbridge, and by 1917 pilots of Tiger Moths could bravely go into a dogfight over France kitted out in Harrods' own aviators' fur-lined overcoats - a snip at 16 guineas each - a cap lined with chamois leather and trimmed with beaver fur for 18 shillings and sixpence, and a fashionable pair of goggles for one guinea.

A year after the First World War the department store went into aviation big-time, opening an aeroplane department. The advertisement in Harrod News on 7 April 1919 set out the range of goods available: "Anyone requiring a nice two-seater monoplane at pounds 450, or a fine flying boat at pounds 1,500, the cheapest in the country, can at once be accommodated."

The monoplane, the advertisement added, was just 20ft 6in long - "small enough to land in Piccadilly" - and no more expensive to keep than a "20- horsepower motor car".

Enthusiasm for flying among the public, however, did not appear to translate into sales. The aeroplane department was mothballed in the early 1920s, and was not rolled out of its second-floor hangar again until 1930 when Harrods decided to repackage its aeronautical offering by selling flying lessons and running an aeroplane hire service.

Light aeroplanes were lifted by crane to the second floor, and customers could purchase a bottom-of-the-range Gypsy Moth for pounds 700, and Gypsy Moth seaplanes from pounds 900.

"All prices are subject to market fluctuations," customers were told, although, if they were short of a bob or two, Harrods would willingly "take your car in part exchange".

The department was grounded yet again when the Luftwaffe took to the skies over Europe in 1939. Harrods aviation was not revived after the Second World War.

Mr Al Fayed, though, is keen to take Harrods to the skies once more and in true Harrods style.

"This will be a six-star service," a spokesman said, who added that it was time to put the tiny UK executive jet business on the map.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

competitive: SThree: Are you passionate about sales?Do you have a keen interes...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Adviser - OTE £30,000

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Assistant / Buyer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company offers a range of ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'