Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For the 1930s airline of similar name see British Airways Ltd.
British Airways was formed in 1973 from the merger of the state owned British Overseas Airways Corporation and British European Airways (BEA). Margaret Thatcher appointed Lord King as Chairman in 1981 with the mission of preparing the airline for privatisation. King hired Colin Marshall as CEO in 1983. The flag carrier was privatised and floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1987 by the Conservative government.
Soon after privatisation Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic, which began with one route and one Boeing 747 in 1984, was beginning to emerge as a serious threat on some of BA's most lucrative routes. Following a highly publicised mercy mission to Iraq to fly home hostages of Saddam Hussein in 1991, King is reported to have told Marshall and his PA Director David Burnside to "do something about Branson" ¹. This began the campaign of "dirty tricks" which ended in Branson suing King and British Airways for libel in 1992. King countersued Branson and the case went to trial in 1993. The court found in favour of Branson and Virgin and ordered King and BA to pay damages to Sir Richard of £500,000 and a further £110,000 to his airline, further BA was to pay the legal fees of up to £3 million.
During the 1990s BA became the world's most profitable airline and trumpeted the slogan "The World's Favourite Airline." In 1992 Deutsche BA was established as a subsidiary operating in Germany. By the time it was sold in June 2003 DBA was operating 16 Boeing 737s and was the second largest German domestic carrier after Lufthansa.
In 1995 BA formed British Asia Airways , a subsidiary based in Taiwan. British Asia Airways was set up due to political sensitivities, the Union Jack tailfin replaced by Chinese characters. Many airlines followed the same practice, e.g. Qantas flew as "Australia Asia Airways" and KLM's operations became "KLM Asia".
In 1996 British Airways, with its newly appointed Chief Executive Bob Ayling, entered a period of turbulence. Increased competition, high oil prices and a strong pound hurt profits. BA management and trade unions clashed and the resulting disruption cost the company hundreds of millions of pounds. In 1997 Ayling dropped BA's traditional Union Flag tailfin livery in favour of world design tailfins, in an effort to change its image from a strictly British and aloof carrier to a more cosmopolitan airline. The move was not a success and Ayling slowed the process, eventually declaring the fleet would sport a dual livery; half a Union flag design, half the world art tailfins. Ayling devoted a lot of time pursuing a merger with American Airlines however this was ultimately unsuccessful due to the conditions placed on the deal by regulatory authorities, the most painful of which was the sacrificing of landing slots at Heathrow.
Positive news during this time was cost savings of £750,000,000 and the establishment of the successful, but highly subsidised, Go Fly in 1998. Go was a low-cost carrier intended to compete in the rapidly emerging "no-frills" segment. After four years of successful operations, the airline was sold off and merged with easyJet. Another efficiency sought by Ayling was the reduction of capacity, cancelling 747-400 orders in favour of the 777 and rationalising BA's short-haul fleet with an order for the efficient A319/A320/A321 family.
In 1999 British Airways reported a 50% slump in profits, its worst since privatisation. In March 2000 Bob Ayling was removed from his postion. British Airways announced Rod Eddington as his successor in May. Eddington set about cutting the workforce further, dramatically so after the slump caused by the September 11th attacks in 2001. In May 2001 Eddington announced the return of the Union Flag to the entire fleet, reversing his predecessor's rebranding exercise.
During the fiscal year ending 2002, BA carried 40,000,000 passengers on revenues exceeding £8,000,000,000.
British Airways is based at London Heathrow Airport in London, England. It also has a commanding presence at Gatwick and Manchester Airport. BA has succeeded in dominating Heathrow to the point that the airport is commonly referred to as Fortress Heathrow within both the airline and its competitors.
As an incumbent airline, BA had grandfather rights to around 36% of takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow, many of which are used for the lucrative trans-Atlantic market. Some competitors, such as Virgin Atlantic, bmi British Midland and United Airlines, assert that this stifles competition and some political think tanks recommend an auction of slots. In recent years British Airways has been buying slots from other airlines including United Airlines, SN Brussels and Swiss International Air Lines, and now owns about 42% of slots at Heathrow.
Some British Airways services are operated by various subsidiaries and franchisees:
British Airways is pioneering the use of "flat beds" in the premium cabins on their long-haul routes and have the most flat beds of any airline on their aircraft. On September 8 British Airways announced that it was to sell its 18.5% stake in Qantas, but would continue their alliance, paricularly on the Kangaroo routes (such as sharing revenue). Commentators have suggested that while the expected £425,000,000 from the sale will be used to reduce the airline's debt mountain it may also be used to fund expansion.
Up until recently for its main fleet, BA has traditionally been a Boeing customer. This has been always been a subject of controversy, as many expect that as a British carrier, it would be natural for BA to support the British manufacturing industry and buy Airbus jets (BAE Systems build all wings for Airbus jets and many Airbus subcontractors are based in the UK). The company has defended its decision by arguing that with the exception of the 777 fleet, it has always equipped its Boeing aircraft with British made Rolls-Royce engines. This goes back to the 1960s, when BOAC were replacing its accident-prone Comet aircraft with Boeing 707s - a condition was placed on the company that it used Rolls-Royce power for the new jets.
However, it has operated non-Boeing planes in the past mainly as a result of takeovers and joint agreements with other airlines. One example of this were those planes acquired through the buyout of British Caledonian Airways in the 1980s, and successfully operated both the Douglas DC-10 and Airbus A320 for a number of years. The latter was significant, as BA's successful operations with the ex-BCAL A320s led to it placing a huge order for the type (and its smaller brother the A319) to replace its own ageing fleet of Boeing 737s. BA is also rumoured to be in secret talks with Boeing over its proposed 747-Advanced (which will compete with the Airbus A380), despite public announcements that it plans to reduce the size of its 747 fleet in favour of the 777. Additionally, BA is said to be considering the Boeing 787 as a possible replacement for its 767 fleet.
British Airways was an operator of the famous Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic airliner. BA had a daily Concorde service between London and New York. Throughout its life, the Concorde was very much an expensive flight-of-fancy, and could only be operated profitably by flying first-class passengers at exorbitant ticket prices affordable only by the rich. With the Paris Crash in 2000, followed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks the following year, coupled to escalating maintenance costs, the writing was on the wall for Concorde. It was announced (on April 10, 2003) that, after October 24, 2003, they would cease scheduled services with Concorde, due to depressed passenger numbers. The last day of its Saturday-only London Heathrow to Barbados Concorde flight was on August 30, 2003.
The regional fleet is much more varied, and some of these aircraft are shared with BA's partner subsidiaries.
- 33 Airbus A319-100 (3 on order)
- 5 Airbus A320-100
- 27 Airbus A320-200 (3 on order)
- 6 Airbus A321-200 (1 on order)
- 5 Boeing 737-300
- 22 Boeing 737-400
- 10 Boeing 737-500
- 57 Boeing 747-400
- 13 Boeing 757-200
- 21 Boeing 767-300ER
- 21 Boeing 777-200ER
- 1 BAe 146-100/Avro RJ70
- 2 BAe 146-200/Avro RJ85
- 17 BAe 146-300/Avro RJ100
- 10 DeHavilland Dash 8-300
- 28 Embraer ERJ-145
British Mediterranean Airways Fleet
GB Airways Fleet
Regional Air Fleet
- 2 Boeing 737-200
See full article: British Airways ethnic liveries
For a long time British Airways aeroplanes had the Union Flag painted on their tail fins . In 1997, they were repainted (and the planes re-named) with abstract world images, Delft pottery or Chinese calligraphy for example, relating to countries they fly to. This caused problems with air traffic control, previously controllers had been able to tell pilots to follow a BA plane, but because they were each painted in different colours they were harder to identify.
Margaret Thatcher famously covered the tail fin of a model aircraft with the new design using her handkerchief at the 1997 conservative party conference. She claimed they made it look like a third world airline. "We fly the British flag, not these awful things."
Other facts of interest
- British Airways and Air France were the only two Concorde operators.
- British Airways was the first airline to implement full-flat beds in Business class, with many airlines subsequently following the practice.
- The airline is the largest operator of the Boeing 747-400, with 57 aircraft. JAL has the largest fleet of 747s, but only 45 Series 400s.
- British Airways aircraft generally use the Airline call sign "Speedbird" in ATC radio transmissions. On UK Domestic routes some flights use "Shuttle" as their call sign.
- British Airways has featured prominently in recent James Bond films, most notably an air-air shot of a BA 747 in Die Another Day.
- BA's NYSE stock ticker-code is "BAB"
- Boeing's airline code for BA is XXX-X36, i.e. 737-236, 747-436, 777-236.
- British Airways' Frequent Flyer Program is one of the largest in the world, and is known as the Executive Club
- 1. Gregory, Martyn. Dirty Tricks: British Airways' Secret War Against Virgin Atlantic. London: Virgin, 2000. ISBN 0753504588
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