With its main hub at Heathrow Airport, British Airways has its main headquarters in London, England. It is the United Kingdom’s official flag carrier airline. The second biggest airline in the UK in terms of passengers carried and fleet size, it finds itself closely behind EasyJet – a British airline carrier based out of London Luton airport. British Airways has its hubs at Gatwick Airport and London City Airport, both of which are in London. British Airways (BA) once operated a hub at Manchester Airport but when BA Connect (a subsidiary of the airline) was sold, it had to cease all flight operations outside London.
In March 1974, four companies were merged by the British government to form the British Airways. These companies were Cambrian Airways, Northeast Airlines, British European Airways, and British Overseas Airways Corporation. 13 years later, British Airways became a privatized company. It acquired British Caledonian in 1987, Dan Air in 1992, and 20 years later, BA bought British Midland International.
In 1999, it became one of the founding members of the Oneworld airline alliance, in partnership with American Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Canadian Airlines (now defunct). This alliance is currently the third largest in the world.
When BA was formed in 1974, the merger came with an inheritance of a fleet dominated by UK-built aircrafts except the Boeing 707 and early variants of the Boeing 747 inherited from the British Overseas Airways Corporation.
British Airways created a holding company registered in Spain called the International Airlines Group (IAG) in a merger with Iberia in January 2011. IAG has since then acquired Aer Lingus and Vueling, in a bid to establish Level – a low-cost, low-haul airline. The coalition between Iberia and the British Airways is also in agreement with the American Airlines to organize transatlantic routes. The holding company is the third biggest airline group in the world and the second biggest in the whole of Europe based on annual revenue.
Between the 1st of April, 2017 and the 31st of March, 2018, BA became the first passenger airline to generate over $1 billion dollars via a single air route in one year on the New York-JFK – London-Heathrow air route.
In the 1980s, Boeing 737 and Boeing 757 were added to the fleet, and then in the 1990s the fleet saw an addition of Boeing 747-400, Boeing 767 and Boeing 777. The latest Boeing airplane owned by the airline is the Boeing 787. The Airbus A350-A350-1000 which was acquired in August 2019 is the latest addition to fleet.
For short haul flights, Euro Traveller is the economy class cabin of British Airways while Club Europe is the business class for flights within Europe.
For mid-haul and long haul flights, World Traveler is the economy class, World Traveler Plus serves as the premium economy, Club World is the business class cabin, and the first class cabin of British Airways is simply called First.
HOW BRITISH AIRWAYS GOT SO BIG
The famous airline operator is well-known for having flown the first passenger flight about a hundred years ago when it was birthed. The flight departed London and about 180 minutes later, it landed at Le Bourget, Paris. At the time, each flight ticket cost 9 GBP per passenger. Taking inflation and economic conditions into account, this would amount to a little above 450 GBP today.
Situated just South of London, Daimler International which was based out of Croydon Airfield took possession of AT&T’s assets. This airline flew to a couple of destinations asides the initial Paris route and this included Amsterdam and Cologne. In 1924, two years after the acquisition of AT&T, Daimler International formed a merger with three other airlines following a motivation from the British Government. Collectively, these four airlines were then called Imperial Airways.
It was under this name that the first passenger flight took off on the 26th of April to Le Bourget. Shortly after, the airline went on to add two long-distance routes to its destinations – Brisbane, Australia and Cape Town, South Africa. These routes were to bolster the Empire Air Mail Scheme in order to have mails delivered to any location under the British Empire for a fixed price per weight. Within its first year of operation, over a hundred tons of mails had been delivered to Africa and India respectively.
Mergers and more Mergers
Exactly 16 years after the merger, Imperial Airways was merged yet again with British Airways to form British Overseas Air Corporation (BOAC) but still maintained the Speedbird logo used by the Imperial Airways. This new airline included the De Havilland Comet to its fleet, becoming the first to use the jet airliners in May 1952. Six years after, BOAC flew the Comet 4 in the first ever direct transatlantic flight from London to New York City. This flight which usually took 20 hours on the Boeing StratoCruisers was scheduled to fly for just six hours and seven minutes. In 1970, BOAC went on to achieve a new feat in transatlantic travel by flying the Boeing 747-100 and has been doing so ever since.
Modern-day British Airways history began when the BOAC made yet another merger with the British European Airways (BEA) in 1972. Four years after, British Airways once again made history in long-distance flights with the introduction of the Concorde aircrafts. These aircrafts could fly at twice the speed of sound, emitting very loud sonic booms – thereby making it mostly suitable for transatlantic flights. This aircraft was however discontinued in 2003 following a drop in demand, the 9/11 incident, high costs and the Paris accident.
Its merger with other airlines to become members of the Oneworld alliance gave it more global reach, allowing for agreements on codeshare and lots more. As of today, British Airways currently flies about 277 aircrafts including an Airbus A350 which it acquired a year ago, to more than 180 destinations – eight of these flights being domestic and 26 to the United States. Interestingly, every 90 seconds, a British Airways flight takes off from one destination to another.