The BA Source

The unofficial,
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British Airways.
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British Airways was officially founded on March 31st 1974 following the merger of BEA (British European Airlines) and BOAC (British Overseas Airline Corporation). However the British Airways Board had been established in 1971 under the Civil Aviation Act (1971) to control BEA and BOAC plus Cardiff based Cambrian Airlines and Northeast Airlines from Newcastle Upon Tyne. All four companies were dissolved on March 31st 1974 and BA was formed.

In 1975 TriStar aircraft were introduced on European routes, BA Shuttle, a no reservation, walk up, guaranteed seat service on the Heathrow - Glasgow route was launched. A deal was also reached with Air New Zealand for BA crews to fly an Air New Zealand DC-10 on the Heathrow - Los Angeles route, replacing 707s. An initial order was placed for four new Boeing 747-200 aircraft.

In 1976 an act was passed prohibiting British Airways and British Caledonian from competing on longhaul routes. British Airways and Air France simultaneously launched Concorde services, BA to Bahrain and Air France on the Paris - Dakar - Rio de Janeiro route. Washington services were launched with Concorde. The first two 747-236 aircraft were delivered.

1977 saw a major reorganisation with Operations, Engineering and Planning divisions formed and commercial operations split into geographical areas. HM The Queen made her first flight on Concorde with G-BOAE transporting the Royal party from Barbados to London. The Bahrain Concorde route was extended to Singapore in conjunction with Singapore Airlines with G-BOAD receiving Singapore Airlines colours on the port side.

Orders were placed in 1978 for 19 Boeing 737-236s and 4 BAC 1-11s to speed the retirement of the Trident fleet.

In 1979 Concorde begin a service from Washington to Dallas on lease to Braniff International. BA placed an order for an initial 19 Boeing 757 aircraft, becoming a launch customer for the new type. The first long range TriStar 500 was delivered, entering service on the Heathrow - Abu Dhabi route. The new Conservative government declared that BA would no longer receive any state support, nor interference in its operations. However as the country plunged into recession and the airline into deep losses plans for privatisation were put on hold.

The new Boeing 737-236 aircraft entered service in 1980 with the British Airtours charter arm and the mainline company. A 747 freighter was also added to the fleet though this was soon sold on. The deepening recession, and fuel prices rising by up to 70% a year saw the company pull back from many unprofitable routes with the withdrawal of the Boeing 707, Trident 2 and Super VC-10 fleets accelerated.

1981 saw several Boeing 747-200s delivered directly from Boeing into desert storage and offered for immediate resale. Two 747-100s were sold to TWA. The airline was instructed by the Conservative government to prepare itself for privatisation, a long process which finally saw the airline floated on the London Stock Exchange in February 1987.

In 1982 the airline re-organised its operational structure into the following divisions; Intercontinental to handle all longhaul flights, European for UK and European flights, Gatwick for all Gatwick operations including charters on British Airtours. The Highlands division was restructured as an autonomous unit and an additional three HS748 turboprops were acquired on lease.

The first Boeing 757s were introduced in 1983, initially taking over UK Shuttle services. A further 16 Boeing 737-236s were ordered to enable the withdrawal of the Trident fleet. The TriStar 500s, after only four years in the fleet, were sold to the RAF. The famous “World’s Favourite Airline” advertising slogan was launched.

The Boeing 707 retired from the BA fleet in 1984. The airline become British Airways PLC. A Civil Aviation Authority review this year led to a government white paper recommending that BA should be downsized with many routes being passed to competitors. The final result being that BA’s routes to Saudi Arabia were transferred to British Caledonian in exchange for British Caledonian’s South American network. The elegant “Landor” livery was introduced.

In 1985 the TriStar 500 returned to the BA fleet in the shape of two leased Air Lanka machines that were needed to operate the former British Caledonian South American routes. The Trident was retired from the fleet this year ahead of more stringent noise regulations to be introduced in 1986.

In 1986 the new Terminal 4 at London Heathrow opened with all longhaul and certain shorthaul services transferring there. An order was placed for 16 of the new Boeing 747-400 aircraft with a further 12 on option. Concorde began scheduled operations to Barbados. A worldwide marketing partnership with United Airlines was initiated.

British Airways was finally privatised in 1987 with shares oversubscribed 11 times over. The privatised airline rapidly concluded the takeover of British Caledonian in July that year, adding five Boeing 747s, eight DC-10s, thirteen BAC 1-11s and an order for ten Airbus A320s to the fleet. To further increase the fleet eleven Boeing 767-300s were ordered with options on another fifteen.

1997 saw BA and American Airlines submit a joint application to the US Department of Transportation for approval of their alliance. This was not granted but the airlines linked their frequent flyer programmes enabling points earning on each other’s services except those across the Atlantic. Further codesharing was announced between BA and Canadian Airlines. British Mediterranean Airlines became a BA franchise carrier serving routes to the Levant with A320s. BA’s shares in USAir were sold for US$625m and the shares in the Galileo reservation system were sold for US$136.8M. The first Embraer 145 jets were introduced on British Regional services.

In 1998 BA established the low-cost carrier “Go” based at Stansted initially with 7 leased Boeing 737-300s. Deutsche BA became fully owned by the mainline company. Orders for four 747-400s were cancelled and replaced with orders for 16 more 777-200s, this time with Rolls Royce engines and six more 757-200s. A switch to Airbus for shorthaul operations was signalled by the order of 59 A320 family aircraft. Further co-operation with QANTAS on the Kangaroo route was announced with services via Bangkok now covered by the Joint Services Agreement. Codesharing agreements were agreed with Malev, Finnair and LOT. Services to Nigeria resumed after a 14 month break due to a Nigerian ban on UK registered aircraft.

The Summer Glasgow - New York JFK and Birmingham - New York JFK services were withdrawn in 1999. The OneWorld Alliance became effective with initial members British Airways, American Airlines, Canadian Airlines, QANTAS, Cathay Pacific Airlines  and Finnair. A 9% stake was taken in Iberia. BASE Airlines of the Netherlands became a BA franchise carrier operating in BA livery. The former British Caledonian DC-10s were withdrawn at London Gatwick to be replaced by 777s. Plans were announced for the first completely flat bed seats in longhaul Business Class. Plans were also announced for 34 Boeing 757s to be converted to freighters for DHL. An order was placed for 12 Airbus A318s for regional services. These aircraft were never delivered. Codeshare agreements were agreed with Aer Lingus. BA completed the purchase of CityFlyer Express. The Airbus A319 joined the fleet at Birmingham.

In 2000 the World Traveller Plus cabin was announced. The first services were flown with the new Club World flat bed cabin on the Heathrow - New York JFK route. Rod Eddington became chief exectuve. Seven Boeing 767s departed for QANTAS. The final Boeing 737-236 left the fleet. Canadian Airlines left OneWorld after being bought by Air Canada. The GB Airways franchise was extended for a further eight years. National Jet Italia became a BA franchise carrier. Six Avro RJ-100s were ordered for CityFlyer Express. Following the Air France crash, Concorde services were suspended. Zambian Air Services became a BA franchise carrier. The traditional 9% commission to travel agents was cut in favour of a payment fee per sector booked.

Codesharing agreements between BA and Iberia were expanded in 2001. Low-cost subsidiary “Go” was sold to easyJet for £100m. A £31m programme began to modify the Concorde fleet to enable the aircraft to return to service and the Certificate of Airworthiness was restored. Following the September 11th New York terrorist attacks a 10% reduction in flying was implemented leading to the withdrawal of the Boeing 747-200 fleet. Heathrow Terminal 5 was given the go-ahead. British Airways Regional and CitiExpress were combined. Codesharing agreements were agreed with Cathay Pacific meaning and end to BA services to Taipei and Manila.

Rod Eddington revealed the Future Size & Shape initiative to save £650m in annual costs in 2001. Services to Nassau and Grand Cayman were increased. 12 BA CitiExpress regional routes were axed. Codesharing agreements were reached with Finnair and SN Brussels Airlines. Services to Pheonix, San Diego, Denver, Harare, Lilongwe and Lusaka moved from Gatwick to Heathrow. BA and American Airlines filed an application for BA to codeshare on AA services within the USA. Orders for 12 A318s and 3 A319s were switched to 10 A321s. A fleet re-organisation saw all Airbus A319s move to Heathrow, all Boeing 737s move to Gatwick and all RJ-100s move to BA CitiExpress at Birmingham. Agreement was reached for BA CitiExpress to sell 12 Jetstream 41s to Eastern Airlines. CitiExpress then withdrew from 21 regional routes.

2003 saw codeshare agreements with Iberia and Cathay Pacific expanded. The Concorde fleet was retired. The last flight to land was BA2 New York JFK - London Heathrow on 24th October operated by G-BOAG. CitiExpress services from London City Airport began to Glasgow, Paris and Frankfurt. Services began from London Gatwick to Turin and Dubrovnik. Codesharing began with American Airlines on US Domestic routes. The new Club World and World Traveller Plus cabins appeared on Gatwick based 777s.

Trans-Atlantic codeshare flights with American Airlines began from the UK regions in 2004 with Manchester - New York and Chicago flights.The Joint Services Agreement with QANTAS was extended for a further five years. Longhaul routes to Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles and San Francisco moved from Terminal 4 at Heathrow to Terminal 1 whilst shorthaul routes to Brussels, Copenhagen, Geneva, Vienna, Lyon, Oslo and Zurich switched from Terminal 1 to Terminal 4.

The new North Terminal was opened at London Gatwick in 1988 with all British Airways services transferring across. The British Caledonian ordered A320s began to arrive in the fleet, operating from Gatwick for a few months before transferring to Heathrow. The British Airtours charter arm was re-branded as Caledonian Airlines, operating in a livery taking elements from both the BA and Caledonian colour schemes. Further new aircraft were ordered in the shape of 24 Boeing 737-400s, a further 757 and another six Boeing 767-300s.

1989 saw investment in two other airlines were proposed but fell through. The potential stakes being a 15% share in United Airlines and 20% in Sabena. Two new types entered service with the British Aerospace ATP joining the highlands division and the 747-400 with mainline. The first 747-400 service saw G-BNLC fly Heathrow - Philadelphia - Pittsburgh.

In 1990 the Boeing 767-300 entered service on European routes. The World Traveller and Euro Traveller brands were launched. Aircraft orders were for a further 21 Boeing 747-400s with 12 options. Plans were announced to establish a new maintenance base for the 747-400s at Cardiff-Wales Airport.

The Gulf War in 1991 lead to 747-100 G-AWND being destroyed on the ground by Iraqi forces at Kuwait. A larger problem was the drop in passenger numbers the war caused. This led to job losses and aircraft delivery deferrals. The first three Boeing 737-400s did arrive, configured at that time for 141 passengers. Fifteen Boeing 777s were ordered, unusually with General Electric engines in a deal tied in with BA’s sale of British Airways Engine Overhauls Ltd to General Electric. Other orders were for more 747-400s and 11 further British Aerospace ATPs. Route cuts saw all UK - Eire services withdrawn along with services to Banjul, Freetown, Karachi and Nassau from Heathrow, the Heathrow - Miami Concorde service and the Gatwick - Amsterdam route.

Gatwick based Dan-Air was purchased for £1 plus its debts in 1992. Dan-Air’s charter services were withdrawn but their scheduled operations were used as the basis for a new lower cost based operation from Gatwick. A three year plan was initiated to bring Gatwick operations back to profitability. A 49.9% stake was taken in French airline TAT. An abortive attempt was made to take a US$750M investment in USAir.

1993 saw a watered down version of the USAir investment was approved with BA investing US$300M for a 19.9% voting interest. BA acquired a 25% stake in QANTAS. BA took over Plymouth based Brymon Airways in order to form the British Regional. British Asia Airways was also formed in this year as a way to be able to serve Taipei without causing diplomatic issues with the Chinese government. British Airways was fined £610,000 and ordered to pay Virgin Atlantic’s  £3M legal costs in a case where BA was accused of a ‘dirty tricks’ campaign against Virgin which included poaching customers and tampering with private Virgin Atlantic files. Lord King, who had been chairman since privatisation, stood down to be replaced by his former deputy Colin Marshall with Robert Ayling acting as CEO. A new London Gatwick - Pittsburgh service was initiated with USAir Boeing 767-200s operating in BA colours and with USAir staff wearing BA uniforms. An agreement was reached with CityFlyer Express to operate as BA Express with aircraft in BA livery. The final BAC1-11 aircraft were retired from service at Birmingham. It was announced that four new Boeing 737-436’s would be delivered directly into storage and placed for sale.

US DOT approval was granted in 1994 for codeshare services with USAir to 65 American destinations. Loganair in Scotland became a British Airways franchise carrier operating as British Airways Express. Following the investment in QANTAS the two carriers operations on the Kangaroo route were more closely aligned. Club Europe was launched. Concorde services to Washington were withdrawn. GB Airways in Gibraltar became a franchise carrier operating in BA Livery

1995 saw Manx Airlines Europe become a franchise carrier. Caledonian Airways was sold off along with the final five TriStars. A deal was reached with the US government for further codeshare operations and double daily flights to Philadelphia. Several services to Central and East Africa moved from Heathrow to Gatwick. The Joint Services Agreement (JSA) was signed between BA and QANTAS for services between Europe and Australia with schedules being coordinated and revenues shared. The first Boeing 777s entered the fleet beginning service to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The first two franchise agreements were signed with airlines based outside the UK in 1996. Sun-Air of Denmark and Comair of South Africa would operate in BA livery with BA flight numbers with Sun-Air using the British Airways Express brand. This deal saw the Boeing 727-200 fly in BA colours for the first time as Comair had two of these machines. Robert Ayling became chief executive and announced a Business Efficiency Programme aimed at saving £1 Billion over three years. BA and Canadian Airlines announced a deal codesharing on certain services and reciprocal frequent flyer earning. Plans for a similar deal with American Airlines was announced. USAir announced its intention to end its codesharing agreements with BA. Latin American services switched from London Heathrow to London Gatwick. Airlines of Britain group took over six Highlands and Islands services on a franchise basis.