A History Of British Airways Advertising – Part 3

A look at British Airways’ advertising over the past 50 years as BA is privatised, introduces “Club World” and reflects “Wall Street” culture.

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British Airways Club World Ticket Wallet
British Airways Club World Ticket Wallet

Welcome to the third part of our series on the most influential and noteworthy BA advertising of the past 50 years.

The late 1980s was arguably BA’s “imperial phase”.

The airline was successfully privatised in 1987. BA was in no doubt it had the potential, through its own routes, franchises and shareholdings in other airlines, to become the dominant player in global aviation.

Speaking in 1989, former CEO Colin Marshall set out BA’s ambition: “There has never been a global airline, in the truest sense.”

“Britain’s Highest Flying Company”

1987 was the year of “Big Bang”.

The City of London was deregulated. The film “Wall Street” featured Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko. It was also the year of BA’s privatisation.

Nearly ten years after the UK Government first officially announced plans to sell a stake in BA in 1979, the airline was fully privatised on 11 February 1987. 

This was the result of a huge turnaround in both financial performance and public perception. 

In 1982, the Financial Times quipped that privatisation of BA might lure some investors, but only because “every market sports a few masochists.” 

BA was of course a number of state industries to be privatised at the time. Whilst the British Gas privatisation was infamous for the “Tell Sid” adverts on UK television, BA’s was supported a huge marketing campaign around the world in the US, Canada, Japan and Switzerland. The initial share offering was 11 times over-subscribed. 94% of BA employees bought shares in the airline. 

Here is a rather self-congratulatory advert “Monument” from 1987, highlighting BA’s superior financial performance at the time.

More people choose to fly British Airways to more places than ever before. That’s why all around the world it’s saluted as the world’s favourite airline.

In fact, it’s been turned into one of the world’s most profitable airlines.

Even here in Britain one does detect a certain sense of pride in the fact that British Airways is now bringing in a gross revenue of over 300,000 pounds every hour. That’s the kind of success you have to take your hat off to.

The world’s favourite airline is Britain’s highest flying company.

“Pleasant Trip”

In 1988, BA introduced the Club World brand to its long-haul business class.

In an advert for Club World and a reflection of contemporary dog-eat-dog culture, a group of colleagues think they have set up a colleague from New York to fail by despatching him on a Red Eye flight to London “Like a lamb to the slaughter, gentleman”.

So, two years in New York and he thinks he can tell us how to run things. Well, we won’t have it.

It’s alright. I’ve fixed things. He’s travelling overnight on the red eye. He had no choice.

Not First Class.

Course not. Company policy.

By the time he gets in, he’ll be exhausted. And he won’t have had time to incorporate those new figures I sent him in his report.

He will be hungry and tired.

I’ve arranged for the chauffeur to bring him straight here, not to the hotel.

Like lamb to the slaughter, gentlemen.


New Club World delivers the business man ready to do business.

Pleasant trip?

Yes, thank you.

“Outer Space”

Concorde was used sparingly in BA TV advertising.

However here’s one advert from 1988 where Concorde is used to demonstrate the scale of BA’s network and schedule.

Last year, more international passengers chose to fly with British Airways than with any other airline. In fact, last year British Airways planes travelled over 150 million miles. That’s further than from Earth to Mars, and back. British Airways, the world’s favourite airline.

“Wall Street”

Wall Street imagery features prominently in another TV advert for Club World.

Two businessmen complete a deal in BA’s Club World cabin, away from prying eyes in Manhattan and London.

“Our Service Is Why We’re So Frequently Chosen”

As you can see from this global advertising print campaign from 1989, BA was not shy in blowing its own trumpet in all cabins.

"Our Service Is Why We're So Frequently Chosen" British Airways Press Advert 1989
“The Best Things In Flight Are Free” British Airways Press Advert 1989 (Image Credit: British Airways)

“Fine wines. Premium brands at the bar. Feature films. And possibly the most gracious, attentive service on Earth – now available at 35,000 feet. Economy class in a class of its own ..compliments of British Airways.”

"Our Service Is Why We're So Frequently Chosen"
“Our Service Is Why We’re So Frequently Chosen” British Airways Press Advert 1989 (Image Credit: British Airways)

“When it comes to awards, British Airways has won more than its fair share: over 130 top honours in the past five years alone. And every one can be attributed to superior service. Whether it’s complimentary cocktails in Economy Class, fine dining on Royal Doulton china in Club Class, or the time-saving advantages of Concorde – no airline is more dedicated to the concept of service. British Airways meets the most exacting standards. Because far more important than winning awards, is winning you over.”

"High Society" British Airways Press Advert 1989
“High Society” British Airways Press Advert 1989 (Image Credit: British Airways)

“As the four Rolls-Royce engines ease you to Mach 2 and the Earth slips away, you realise flying need never be routine. But whatever British Airways flight you’re on, rest assured you’ll enjoy the height of courtesy.”

"We Provide The Tools For A Successful Presentation" British Airways Press Advert 1989
“We Provide The Tools For A Successful Presentation” British Airways Press Advert 1989 (Image Credit: British Airways)

“Club Class. It changes the face of business travel with amenities like gourmet cuisine, fine wine and a supremely comfortable seat, in additional to the full complement of courtesies you see above. So that you emerge from your flight not only feeling refreshed, but looking the way. Club Class. It’s the most attractive way to fly.”

"Even On Business You Can Experience Beautiful Settings"
“Even On Business You Can Experience Beautiful Settings” British Airways Press Advert 1989 (Image Credit: British Airways)

“From the comfort of your seat in our new Club Class, you’ll enjoy an unobstructed view of stylish glassware, elegant cutlery and Royal Doulton china. And suddenly, business travel takes on a whole new perspective.”

In Part 4: BA produces when of the best airline advertisements of all time “The Face”, runs a viral marketing stunt, unveils “The World’s Biggest Offer” and tries make Gatwick “The hub without the hubbub”. Read more here.

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