BA100: 11. A BA Miscellany

100 Years Of British Airways: A miscellany of aircraft, airports and more from BA’s 100 year history.

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Joanna Lumley and Chabuddy G - BA Safety Video July 2018 (Image Credit: British Airways)
Joanna Lumley and Chabuddy G – BA Safety Video July 2018 (Image Credit: British Airways)

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

As we’re just outside the Top 10, here’s a miscellany of things that didn’t quite make it into 100 list.

Boeing 707 Aircraft – The successor to the VC10 aircraft and predecessor to the Boeing 747 at BOAC. Whilst the VC10 was much loved by passengers the 707 had a much better range and operating performance for longer range routes than the VC10. It was a substantially smaller aircraft than the 747, which heralded the era of mass travel.

British Airways Helicopters – This was originally formed by BEA in 1947. By the 1980s British Airways Helicopters had a fleet of 40 helicopters, operating principally in the North Sea. It was sold by BA in 1986.

British Asia Airways – A former wholly owned operating division of BA that used to operate flights to Taipei.

Croydon Airport – A former base for Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA, Croydon Airport long ceased operations but its visitors centre is open to visitors on the first Sunday of the month.

Flying Start – BA’s charity partnership with Comic Relief. Since 2010 it has raised over £20million for the charity. It is also the subject BA’s somewhat marmite safety videos.

High Life Magazine – BA’s in flight magazine has survived the digital age. Occasionally containing a few howlers and out of date route maps, nearly 200,000 copies are published each month with a readership of around 825,000. A dedicated version of the magazine is produced for routes to China.

Northolt Airport – This was a major base for British European Airways during the construction of Heathrow. It is now a Royal Air Force station and is used for civil and military aircraft.

The BA Heritage Centre – Based at BA’s Head Office at Heathrow and curated by the late Paul Jarvis, the BA Heritage Centre contains a huge range of original materials from BA’s history and is available to visit by appointment.

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BA100: 12. Chutzpah & Chutzpah – BA & Saatchi

100 Years Of British Airways: BA’s 20 years+ relationship with Charles and Maurice Saatchi.

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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 BA and its predecessor airlines.

There is no client / advertising agency relationship that provokes more industry comment than BA and there is no more famous airline / advertising agency relationship than BA and Charles & Maurice Saatchi.

Saatchi & Saatchi, who were of course responsible for the “Labour Isn’t Working” poster campaign for the Conservative party in 1978, secured the BA advertising account in 1983.

Businesses can learn a lot from magicians. And from their earliest days Saatchi & Saatchi understood and exploited the power of illusion to create a desired reality in the minds of clients, potential clients, suppliers, potential high talent employees and the media

Chutzpah & Chutzpah

With a mixture of extraordinary self-confidence, vision and creativity, they were responsible for “The World’s Favourite Airline” slogan as well as many notable campaigns such as “Manhattan”, “The World’s Biggest Offer”, and “Where Is Everybody?”

The relationship with Maurice & Charles Saatchi continued following their move to M&C Saatchi in the 1990s.

In 2005, the relationship ended with Bartle Bogle Hegarty securing the BA advertising account after a new tendering process that M&C Saatchi seemed destined to lose.

M&C Saatchi did not let go of the BA account lightly. They took out a double page advert in The Times the following day championing their work for BA and advising that they are now “taking new airline bookings”.

They reportedly revelled in advertising industry gossip that BBH was initially having difficulty pleasing BA. Allegedly a letter was drafted headed “British Airways. Serves You Right.” with the text “Please feel free to use the strapline in your upcoming advertising. Alternatively, simply stick it to the wall and stare at it for the next few months/years.”

In 2007, Saatchi also remade “The Face” advert for the now defunct airline Silverjet “Every day, Silverjet, the world’s most sivilised airline brings a select few people together”.

However, it’s not clear at whose expense the joke was: BA’s or the client actually paying for advert.

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BA100: 13. The British Airways Uniform

100 Years Of British Airways: How the BA uniform has evolved since its predecessor airlines BEA and BOAC.

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British Airways staff wearing historic uniforms from BA and its predecessor airlines
British Airways staff wearing historic uniforms from BA and its predecessor airlines (Image Credit: British Airways)

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

It’s only when you fly on an airline with sloppy uniform standards (*cough* American Airlines) do you really appreciate its importance.

Apart from an expression of the airline’s image, it also has an important safety function in making members of airline staff instantly recognisable.

Designing an airline uniform is a huge logistical exercise. Uniforms must be designed for many different roles from pilots, cabin crew to ground staff. They must be capable of being worn in different climates and meet a whole host of practical and safety considerations.

Since the 1960s BA and its predecessor airlines have worked with major designers on their uniforms.

BOAC Paper Dress

In the 1960s, BOAC cabin crew used to wear different uniforms according to the routes they flew on.

Here is a paper dress for Caribbean routes modelled by BOAC cabin crew Pat Bleasdale on its launch in 1966. These were designed to be worn only once. They did not last long and were withdrawn after less than a year.

BOAC Paper Dress Uniform, Caribbean
BOAC Paper Dress Uniform, Caribbean (Image Credit: British Airways)

BEA Sylvia Ayton Uniform

Here is a uniform designed by a then unknown designer Sylvia Ayton in relatively restrained colours and style for BEA in the early 1960s.

BEA Sylvia Ayton Uniform
BEA Sylvia Ayton Uniform

BEA Hardy Amies Uniform

During the 1960s, BEA approached Hardy Amies, official dressmaker for Her Majesty The Queen, to design a new uniform which had a much bolder, colourful and flamboyant style.

Successive designs by Hardy Amies survived the merger of BEA and BOAC and were retained by BA until the late 1970s.

BEA Hardy Amies Uniform
BEA Hardy Amies Uniform (Image Credit: British Airways)

BA Baccarat Weatherall Uniform

The first official BA uniform was designed by the studio Baccarat Weatherall.

The main focus of the designs were on uniforms for female staff with the promise “to make British Airways girls the most elegant and attractive in the airline business”.

British Airways Boeing 747, Negus Livery, Dublin
British Airways Boeing 747, Negus Livery (Image Credit: British Airways)

BA Roland Klein Uniform

It wasn’t until 1985 that an entirely new uniform was designed for all BA staff.

The French designer Roland Klein designed a uniform with the aim of conveying an informal, approachable style, fitting with the “Putting People First” approach of the time.

British Airways Staff in Roland Klein uniforms, London Heathrow
British Airways Staff in Roland Klein uniforms, London Heathrow (Image Credit: British Airways)
Continue reading “BA100: 13. The British Airways Uniform”

BA100: 14. Virgin Atlantic

100 Years Of British Airways: The long-standing rivalry between BA and Virgin Atlantic.

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British Airways & Virgin Atlantic Aircraft, London Heathrow
British Airways & Virgin Atlantic Aircraft, London Heathrow (Image Credit: Heathrow)

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

When Sir Richard Branson founded Virgin Atlantic in 1984 Sir Freddie Laker, the founder of Laker Airways and the Skytrain, offered some words of advice “If you are taking on British Airways and Pan Am and they have massive ad budgets, you have to use yourself to get free advertising”.

Sir Richard had good reason to listen to the words of Sir Freddie. After its collapse, BA and Pan Am reached an out of court settlement with the creditors of Laker Airways in response to allegations of anti-competitive activity.

And take the advice he did. When Virgin Atlantic launched its inaugural flight from London Gatwick to Newark in 1984, Sir Richard was the public face of the airline. On the inaugural flight he dressed up in a captain’s uniform and partied with celebrities. A similar pattern followed for subsequent route launches. This was of course a sharp contrast to BA’s corporate image and Lord King and Colin Marshall.

Of course, amongst all the many PR stunts by Virgin Atlantic, there has been no greater source of publicity for the airline than its David and Goliath rivalry with BA.

It is a story that has been well documented. For the past 35 years the two airline have a relationship that could at best be described as “complex”. Though, it is not always as straightforward as some would like to make out.

BA had to compete against many rivals in the 1980s such as British Caledonian, British Midland, and Laker Airways. However, the rapid ascent of Virgin Atlantic in the 1980s, which resulted in the airline securing access to Heathrow, clearly got to BA.

When Virgin Atlantic started operations at Heathrow Sir Richard dressed up in a pirates uniform and put a Virgin flag over a model Concorde aircraft and branded the airport “Virgin Territory”. Lord King was also reportedly furious at Virgin securing traffic rights to Tokyo Narita.

“Dirty Tricks”

The nadir of the relationship was in 1993.

British Airways reached an out of court settlement with Virgin Atlantic, paid the airline £610,000 in damages and issued a public apology following a libel case bought by Sir Richard. This was covered in edition of ITV’s “World In Action” below:

Amongst the allegations made by Virgin Atlantic against BA were:

  • Efforts by BA to obtain confidential computer information about Virgin Atlantic flights.
  • The solicitation by BA representatives of Virgin Atlantic passengers inside airports and at their homes.
  • Attempts by BA representatives to impersonate Virgin employees.
  • The shredding by BA employees of documents related to the case.
  • Efforts by BA to circulate to the news media misleading reports about Virgin.
  • Efforts by a British Airways consultant to plant hostile or negative reports in the news media.

Although BA insisted that its directors “had not been party to any concerted campaign against Richard Branson or Virgin Atlantic” it admitted that an internal investigation had found “incidents involving our employees which we accept were regrettable and which gave Richard Branson and Virgin Atlantic reasonable grounds for concern.”

Continue reading “BA100: 14. Virgin Atlantic”

BA100: 15. “The World’s Favourite Airline”

100 Years Of British Airways: One of the most powerful airline advertising slogans in history “The World’s Favourite Airline”

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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 BA and its predecessor airlines.

“The Key To Europe”

“BOAC Takes Good Care Of You”

“Europe’s Number One”

“Fly The Flag”

“We’ll Take More Care Of You”

“We Never Forget You Have A Choice”

“Upgrade to BA”

Of all the advertising slogans used by BA and its predecessor airlines, none has been more memorable than “The World’s Favourite Airline”.

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

Based on the simple fact that BA carried more international passengers than any other airline, it was adopted by the airline 1983.

You can certainly describe it as an audacious move. By BA’s own admission at the time, it was more of a statement of intent than anything else.

It clearly rankled BA’s competitors. Many repeatedly complained unsuccessfully to advertising and broadcasting regulators about its use. It was also frequently mocked by rivals. In its early years, easyJet initially branded itself as “The web’s favourite airline”.

BA officially withdrew its use of the slogan in 2001 after Lufthansa gained the title of “The world’s favourite”. Whether based on the objective measure of passenger numbers, or the subjective views of passengers, the era of “The world’s favourite” is not coming back.

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BA100: 16. The Munich Air Disaster

100 Years Of British Airways: The Munich air disaster of 6 February 1958.

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

On 6 February 1958, a chartered British European Airways Airspeed AS-57 Ambassador aircraft operating under flight 609 crashed on its third attempt to take off from a slush-covered runway at Munich-Riem airport.

On board the aircraft was the Manchester United football team (known as “Busby Babes”) along with a number of supporters and journalists.

The aircraft had stopped in Munich for refuelling en route from Belgrade (where the team had been playing) to London.

23 of the 44 passengers on board the aircraft died. The fatalities included 2 crew members, 8 Manchester United players, 3 Manchester United staff, 8 newspaper journalists and 2 other passengers.

The crash remains one of the darkest moments in British sporting history. It of course had a very considerable impact on the city of Manchester which continues to hold memorials to remember those who died.

More To Read From BA100:

BA100: 17. BA’s British Identity

100 Years Of British Airways: How BA’s own British identity has evolved over time.

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British Airways "Made By Britain", 2019
British Airways “Made By Britain”, 2019

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

The former editor of the Daily Mail, Paul Dacre (feared and admired in equal measure in corridors of power) once told Willie Walsh that stories about BA were guaranteed to make its front page, whereas for its UK rivals, they would not.

BA has been privatised for over 30 years and is indeed now part of a Spanish registered company. It has had Australian, Irish and Spanish CEOs. Much to the irritation of Willie Walsh, everyone will have an opinion on and a sense of ownership of BA, and he really wishes you didn’t.

However, an airline’s national location has always played a role in its identity. Over time, BA has oscillated between an overtly British identity and an ambition to be seen as a global airline.

“British And Proud Of It”

The first BA Negus & Negus livery introduced for BA was amended in 1980 to be simply “British”. However, this was considered too nationalistic in tone.

British Airways Advert, August 1980
British Airways Advert, August 1980

The subsequent Landor livery, whilst maintaining a strong British identity, was considered controversial by some at the time because BA chose a Californian design firm to create it.

“Johnny Foreigner”

In the 1990s, BA saw itself as a global airline. The most significant illustration of this was of course the World Images tail fins which received a well publicised backlash for its removal of the union flag.

In 1999, BA recruited the American writer PJ O’Rourke to poke fun at British eccentricities and give British viewers a gentle ticking off for not being more proud of their de-facto national carrier.

“The British Simply Know How To Travel”

How countries are perceived by their own residents and visitors does of course vary widely and this is often reflected in airline advertising.

Here in 2000, BA used the strap line “The British simply know how to travel” in its advertising in the United States to highlight the clear difference between BA and US carriers at the time, as illustrated in this advert featuring cricket and strawberries.

(Any international passengers who have flown BA with any degree of frequency, but have never lived here, would think that all Britons do is eat Afternoon Tea – a meal that nobody who actually lives in the UK ever eats.)

Continue reading “BA100: 17. BA’s British Identity”

BA100: 18. Willie Walsh

100 Years Of British Airways: Willie Walsh, the combative and outspoken former CEO of British Airways and now CEO of International Airlines Group.

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Willie Walsh, Chief Executive International Airlines Group
Willie Walsh, Chief Executive International Airlines Group (Image Credit: International Airlines Group)

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

Eyebrows were raised when Willie Walsh, a former pilot, trade union representative, and CEO of Aer Lingus, joined BA in 2005 to replace the emollient Rod Eddington as Chief Executive.

At the time, BA and Aer Lingus as airlines were worlds apart in both size and focus on long-haul premium traffic. However, it was evident there was a shopping list of legacy issues at BA to be resolved. Rod Eddington had overseen significant reform of BA, particularly post 11 September 2001, but was viewed by industry commentators as having avoided confrontation and dodged the most difficult tasks.

Ground staff working practices at London Heathrow had to be reformed ahead of the airline’s move to Terminal 5 in 2008. Inexplicably, ground staff at Terminals 1 and 4 each had different industrial agreements.

Immediately before Willie Walsh’s arrival, there had been wildcat industrial action by BA ground staff at Heathrow, the third consecutive summer of industrial relations tension at the airport. The Economist even speculated that BA’s move to Terminal 5 could be the aviation equivalent of the Wapping dispute of the 1980s when Rupert Murdoch took on the print unions.

The current dispute between BA and BALPA is not the first time there have been tensions between the two. Ahead of talks to resolve BA’s escalating pension deficit, BALPA told its members to save £25,000 for a strike. Having been left unresolved, the pension deficit had resulted in an empty aircraft order book to replace the fleet of Boeing 747-400 aircraft.

In both cases, Willie Walsh can claim credit for having resolved the issues behind closed doors without official industrial action.

However, there were still many volatile times. Willie Walsh stood at Heathrow in the early hours of the morning of the opening of Terminal 5 to greet the first passengers arriving from Hong Kong, seemingly unaware of the chaos that was about to ensue. There were immediate questions as to whether Willie should pay the price. Afterwards, Willie was candid in accepting that BA should not have allowed delays in the terminal’s construction to truncate testing before opening.

The restructuring of BA’s Heathrow cabin crew fleets the next year led to at protracted and, at times, unedifying, conflict.

Aside from Michael O’Leary, Willie is one of the most outspoken figures in the aviation industry. He has publicly criticised Heathrow airport many times (and has little time for airport operators generally), only very recently accusing them of conning the public as to the cost of a third runway.

I take comfort from the fact that John Holland-Kaye [CEO, Heathrow] is upset with the comments that I’ve made. I’ll quote Oscar Wilde that whenever people agree with me, I always think I’m wrong, but the fact that they’re disagreeing with me means I’m right.

Willie Walsh, 2018
Continue reading “BA100: 18. Willie Walsh”

BA100: 19. New York, New York

100 Years Of British Airways: BA’s most important long-haul destination, New York City.

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British Airways New Club World Advertisement circa 2006.
British Airways New Club World Advertisement circa 2006 (Image Credit: British Airways)

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

If there’s one route more important to BA than any other, its London – New York.

Ever since the first transatlantic jet flight to New York, it has been an extremely important route to BOAC and BA, linking two major global financial centres.

In the late 1960s, BOAC boasted of five flights a day to London on either the VC10 or Boeing 707 aircraft. In 1970, BOAC opened its own dedicated terminal at New York JFK, ahead of its first Boeing 747 services to New York in 1971.

BOAC New York Advertisement, 1968
BOAC New York Advertisement, 1968

By the mid 1990s, BA operated seven services a day to New York.

British Airways London - New York Poster (circa 1994)
British Airways London – New York Poster (circa 1994)
Continue reading “BA100: 19. New York, New York”

BA100: 20. The Imperial Airways Empire Terminal

100 Years Of British Airways: The former Imperial Airways Empire Terminal in Victoria, London.

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Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London
Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

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

At 157-197 Buckingham Palace Road, between London Victoria railway station and Victoria coach station, lies an Art Deco masterpiece.

The Imperial Airways Empire Terminal opened to the public on 5 June 1939. Designed by the architect Albert Lakeman it was described on its opening as the finest air terminal in the world.

The original building was only 80 feet deep, but 500 feet wide. The 5 storey building has a symmetrical facade with a 10 storey central clock tower and wings curving forward to form a crescent shape.

As well as being used by Imperial Airways for ticketing and checking in passengers, it was also used by the airline as a Head Office. The very top of the tower afforded the Directors of Imperial Airways impressive views all over London.

Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London
Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Above the entrance is a sculpture “Wings Over The World” designed by Eric Broadbent. This is the only remaining external clue as to the building’s original use.

"Wings Above The World", Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London
“Wings Above The World”, Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)
"Wings Above The World", Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London
“Wings Above The World”, Imperial Airways Empire Terminal, London (Image Credit: London Air Travel)
Continue reading “BA100: 20. The Imperial Airways Empire Terminal”