BA100: 100. How Does An Airline Established In 1974…

100 Years Of British Airways: How the BA of today traces its origins back to the launch of international flights from London to Paris on 25 August 1919.

London Air Travel » British Airways » BA100 » Page 11

The Speedbird Logo
The Speedbird Logo

This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines. You can read the full series in numerical order here, or by theme here.

British Airways as we know it today did not come into existence until 1974.

So how does it celebrate its centenary in 2019?

Unlike KLM, which also celebrates its centenary his year BA has not operated under one name for 100 years. And, unlike Qantas which celebrates its centenary in 2020, BA cannot claim to have had 100 years’ uninterrupted commercial operations.

Well, to buy in to BA’s centenary you have to acknowledge that, over time, aircraft and airlines have been transferred through various airlines. In truth, it is the 100th anniversary of international civil aviation in the UK.

The First Flight

BA traces its history back to Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd which began flights from Hounslow Heath to Paris on 25 August 1919.

This was one of number of companies to begin scheduled operations in 1919. However, due to competition from airlines in mainland Europe, it soon folded.

The Speedbird

A successor to Aircraft Transport and Travel Ltd, Daimler Airways, combined with a number of other airlines to form Imperial Airways in 1924.

It operated both short-haul routes in Europe and established new routes to Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Imperial Airways adopted the “Speedbird” logo designed by Theyre Lee Elliot in 1932 which BA retained as part of its livery until its Landor livery in the 1980s. This subsequently evolved into the Speedwing and the Speedmarque, which you see on BA aircraft today.

Imperial Airways Poster, India and Australia by Imperial Airways
Imperial Airways Poster, India and Australia by Imperial Airways

Imperial Airways, together with Qantas, formed Qantas Empire Airways to operate joint-services between the UK and Australia from 1935 – a relationship which endured between Qantas and Imperial Airways’ successor airlines for nearly 80 years.

The original British Airways formed in 1935, operating from Gatwick. Both British Airways and Imperial Airways were nationalised to form British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1939.

Continue reading “BA100: 100. How Does An Airline Established In 1974…”

Introducing BA100

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines.

London Air Travel » British Airways » BA100 » Page 11

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

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines.

The series runs from today, Monday 22 July 2019, until the day of BA’s centenary, Sunday 25 August 2019.

We’ll be covering the adverts, aircraft, airlines, cabins, liveries and routes from 25 August 1919 right up to the present day.

BA is of course an airline that has brought us some of the world’s most successful marketing campaigns, pulled off a major corporate financial and reputational turnaround, employed some of the most high profile and outspoken executives in the industry, and launched a number of world firsts.

It’s also an airline that has often found itself on the world’s newspaper front pages for all the wrong reasons, become caught up in major geopolitical events, and been embroiled in some of the most bitter corporate rivalries in aviation.

This is of course not just the story of BA, but also the birth of international passenger travel, its transition to a mode of mass transportation we take for granted today, and the changing industry dynamics in recent decades.

Before we begin, some caveats:

This is an airline with a long and complex history that encompasses at least four major airlines. It has acquired many more. Some parts of its history are easier to research and document than others. Airline fleets and route networks are vastly less complicated than they used to be. A degree of simplification is required when covering the past. Accounts of the early days of civil aviation are hard to come by and some differ.

There is also an element of subjectivity and a natural bias towards the past 50 years as material is much easier to come by. There is no great science behind the running order – some articles will come as no surprise, others may do.

Also, this list has not been reviewed or verified by any other parties, so should be treated as a draft of history.

With all that out of the way, let’s get started:

You can read the full series from our 100 part series on the history of BA in numerical order here, or by theme here.