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01 June 2010

British Airways' High Life magazine harks back to the golden age of travel literature this month. In the 1930s, when air travel lasted anything up to a week, the in-flight entertainment for passengers was a beautifully bound selection of short stories. Eighty years on, High Life has commissioned three exclusive short stories to run in the June issue. The contributions are from the acclaimed writers John King, Tony Parsons and Tim Lott.

Whereas the short stories from the 30s had titles like Tales from the Outposts, Frontiers of Empire, Soldiers, Tales and Tales of the Sea, their modern equivalents have been commissioned to celebrate the 2010 World Cup and are entitled Bobby Moore's Smile, The Silence and The Penalty.

As author Tony Parsons says, ‘The most pleasurable assignment I’ve had all year was writing this original short story for High Life. It’s also the short piece of writing of which I am proudest. Short fiction and flying high have a long and proud tradition. The short story has been in decline in recent years — but nothing tests a writer like having to write to a tight word length, and nothing gives the reader greater pleasure than seeing a universe encapsulated in a thousand words or so. The alliance dates from the time when flying was gorgeously exclusive. Bringing the tradition back to life in the 21st century is a wonderful idea. Settle back at 35,000 feet, order a drink and drift away into other worlds – even before you arrive.’

Editor Kerry Smith says, ‘We always pride ourselves on commissioning the best writers to cover our destinations, but it was great to be able to commission such fantastic names to write original short stories for British Airways’ passengers. Although South Africa is now only 11 hours away rather than seven days, what better way to count down to the start of the World Cup?’

The original volumes of short stories can still be viewed at the British Airways’ museum (


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