The Story Of British Airways Advertising

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British Airways, "The World's Favourite Airline", 1983.
British Airways, “The World’s Favourite Airline”, 1983.

First published in April 2020, here is a ten part series on the history of British Airways advertising from 1974 to 2020.

In many ways it tells the story of bygone era. The budgets for big blockbuster TV advertising campaigns have gone. Digital marketing and distribution channels allow for much more targeted advertising.

As well as telling the story of the development of aviation and business and social change – not all advertisements have aged well – they do provide an insight into how airlines respond to industry crises.

The Hard Sell

Part One: Before Saatchi. British Airways’ advertising in the early years after its formation in 1974 was the very definition of a hard sell: loud and brash. Then, along time Charles and Maurice Saatchi to change everything.

“Putting People First”

Part Two: We continue into the 1980s with British Airways’ first long haul business class cabin “Super Club”, a revamped visual identity designed by Landor Associates and BA’s “Putting People First” training programme.  

The Wall Street Era

Part Three: British Airways enters is “imperial phase” of the late 1980s with a successful privatisation and a period of overt self-confidence. The airline introduces its Club World long-haul business class brand and reflects “Wall Street” culture.  


Part Four: British Airways 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”.  

“Where Is Everybody?”

Part Five: British Airways uncannily predicts a dystopian post-apocalypse future, gives away free Concorde tickets to Lapland and upgrades Club Europe and Club World.  

Project Utopia

Part Six: British Airways unveils a radical, and now notorious, revamp of its corporate identity, gives its British passengers a gentle ticking off, and prepares for the turn of the century with the first fully flat beds in business class. 

“It’s Better To Be There”

Part Seven: British Airways recovers from the events of 11 September 2001 and promotes its new Club World service designed around maximising sleep.  

“Terminal 5 Is Working”

Part Eight: British Airways parts company with Charles and Maurice Saatchi and turns to Bartle, Bogle, Hegarty who help the airline recover from the chaotic opening of Terminal 5. 

“To Fly. To Serve.”

Part Nine: British Airways seeks to recover from the 2008 global financial crisis, delves into the past to relaunch its brand identity with the promise of “To Fly. To Serve.” and tells passengers not to fly during the 2012 Olympic Games

The Social Media Age

Part Ten: Airlines enter the social media age. These platforms are a double-edged sword. They enable airlines to reach a mass audience, but are shared with the public at large, leaving them at the mercy of instantaneous judgements by audiences.


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