British Airways turns 100 and celebrates with its customers

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On Sunday 25 August 2019 British Airways celebrates its 100 birthday. The airline  is marking its centenary by celebrating with customers.

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “We have had a fabulous year so far marking our centenary and thanking our customers for making us the airline we are today – we wouldn’t be here without their pioneering spirits and sense of adventure.

“From that first customer who flew from Hounslow Heath to Paris on 25 August 1919 in a single-engine De Havilland DH4A to the millions who choose to fly with us every year on more than 800 flights a day to 200 destinations around the globe – we thank them all. Our customers truly enable us to bring Britain to the world and the world to Britain and we look forward to serving them for the next 100 years.”

Back to 25 August 1919. On that day, the very first international flight by the airline’s predecessor, Air Transport & Travel (AT&T) operated from Hounslow Heath (very near to today’s London Heathrow) to Paris. To commemorate that first service, Airbus A319 G-EUPJ (the BA aircraft that was painted in the original British European Airways (BEA) livery earlier this year) will operate flight BA314 service to Paris Charles de Gaulle on Sunday.

Customers flying with British Airways from around the world this weekend will be greeted with bunting and decorations. Those on short-haul services will be treated to Hotel Chocolat giveaways, while on long-haul flights customers will be served menus from Michelin-starred British chef, Tom Kerridge, featuring great British flavours that work at altitude. Those in First and Club World can also collect and enjoy special edition centenary amenity kits.

In February, the airline launched its heart-warming centenary advertising campaign featuring a love letter to Britain brought to life by some of Britain’s biggest names, including Gary Oldman, Olivia Colman and Riz Ahmed, sporting stars Anthony Joshua, Ellie Simmonds, Nicola Adams, Chris Robshaw, Harriet Millar-Mills and Anthony Watson, musical icons Paloma Faith and The Kingdom Choir (with a cameo from David Bowie). Contemporary artist Grayson Perry, anthropologist Jane Goodall, chef and TV presenter Matilda Ramsay and Helen Sharman, the first Briton in space also all featured and were brought together as leaders in their respective fields. The campaign has continued throughout the year with more faces joining the BA100 who represent the best of business, environment, fashion, film and entertainment, food and drink, music, art and design, philanthropy, science and technology, and sport.

The airline also launched its future-facing programme, BA 2119, which has been leading the debate on the future of flying, exploring the future of sustainable aviation fuels and the customer experience of the future.

Her Majesty The Queen visited British Airways’ headquarters in June to meet colleagues and explore airline’s museum, The Speedbird Centre, where she was shown artefacts and memorabilia relating to her own many historic journeys with the airline throughout her reign.

And that same archive collection, plus more never-before-seen memories from British Airways’ history were unveiled to the public through the Centenary Archive Collection. The interactive year-by-year timeline illustrates how British Airways became one of the world’s leading airlines and is hosted on the airline’s dedicated Centenary site.

Heritage aircraft

To mark its centenary, British Airways launched four heritage aircraft earlier this year:

  • a Boeing 747 in a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) livery, which flew between 1952 and 1974. This special Boeing 747 also flew with the RAF Red Arrows at the 2019 edition of the Royal International Air Tattoo in Gloucestershire.
  • an Airbus A319 in a British European Airways (BEA) livery. This livery flew predominantly on European and domestic routes between 1959 and 1968.
  • a Boeing 747 in an Negus livery, which flew between 1974 and 1980.
  • a Boeing 747 in a Landor livery, which flew between 1984 and 1997.

A brief history of British Airways

  • On August 25, 1919, British Airways’ forerunner company, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris. In 1924, Britain’s four main fledgling airlines, which had by then evolved into Instone, Handley Page, Daimler Airways (a successor to AT&T), and British Air Marine Navigation Company Limited, merged to form Imperial Airways Limited.
  • By 1925, Imperial Airways was providing services to Paris, Brussels, Basle, Cologne and Zurich.  Meanwhile, a number of smaller UK air transport companies had started flights and in 1935, they merged to form the original privately-owned British Airways Limited, which became Imperial Airways’ principal UK competitor on European routes.
  • Following a Government review, Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalised in 1939 to form British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Continental European and domestic flights were flown by a new airline, British European Airways (BEA) from 1946. BOAC introduced services to New York in 1946, Japan in 1948, Chicago in 1954 and the west coast of the United States in 1957. BEA developed a domestic network to various points in the United Kingdom, including Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester.
  • From 1946 until 1960, BOAC and BEA were the principal British operators of scheduled international passenger and cargo services – and they preserved Britain’s pioneering role in the industry. The 1950s saw the world enter the passenger jet era – led by BOAC, with the Comet flying to Johannesburg in 1952, halving the previous flight time.
  • Additional airlines began to pass into BEA’s ownership and in 1967, the Government recommended a holding board be responsible for BOAC and BEA, with the establishment of a second force airline, resulting in British Caledonian being born in 1970.
  • Two years later, the businesses of BOAC and BEA were combined under the newly formed British Airways Board, with the separate airlines coming together as British Airways in 1974. In July 1979, the Government announced its intention to sell shares in British Airways and in February 1987 British Airways was privatised.
  • In January 2011 the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) was formed when British Airways and Iberia merged. IAG has since also become the parent company of Aer Lingus, and Vueling and in 2017, IAG launched LEVEL a new low-cost airline brand that operates from Barcelona, Paris and Vienna.

25 August 2019

Photos: copyright (c) British Airways

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