This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
The Airbus A320 is now the workhorse of BA’s short-haul operation. However, its first delivery to BA came by accident.
When BA acquired British Caledonian in 1988, it inherited an order for 10 Airbus A320 aircraft which BCAL had placed at launch of the aircraft in 1983.
The first aircraft were delivered after the merger with BA. The first scheduled Airbus A320 passenger flight was from Gatwick to Geneva in April 1988. The aircraft were promptly dispatched to Heathrow.
In 1998, BA placed its first order for Airbus aircraft with an order for 59 Airbus A320 family aircraft with options on a further 129 aircraft. This was at the time BA’s single largest order for an aircraft.
The first Airbus A319 aircraft were delivered to BA in Birmingham in 2000 but were subsequently transferred to Heathrow as it sought to replace Boeing 757 & Boeing 767 aircraft with smaller capacity aircraft.
It has since proven to be extremely effective and efficient aircraft. Though BA is in the process of reducing the number of Airbus A319 aircraft, in favour of the Airbus A320. The latter aircraft have also been subject to “densification” as BA seeks to compete with low cost airlines.
BA currently has 42 Airbus A319, 67 A320 and 18 A321 aircraft at Heathrow and Gatwick. BA has also since taken delivery of 10 Airbus A320neo and 5 Airbus A321neo aircraft.
It was thought until recently that BA and many of its fellow IAG airlines would operate exclusively the Airbus A320 family on short-haul routes. IAG took the aviation industry by surprise earlier this year by announcing a letter of intent to acquire Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. However, IAG has yet to convert this to a firm order.