BA100: 6. Club World

100 Years Of British Airways: Club World, BA’s long-haul business class cabin and the “profit engine” of the airline.

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

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

It was in January 1988 that BA introduced the “Club World” brand, roughly ten years after the concept of long-haul business class first became known.

Initially, long-haul business class was simply a separate part of the economy cabin for full fare passengers. Then, BA introduced its Super Club cabin.

BA claimed that the introduction of Club World in 1988 which featured a dedicated crew for the first time, improved catering and ground services, increased traffic by 31%.

Since then, Club World has become by far BA’s most important cabin and it has featured the airline’s biggest innovations. The financial performance of BA is inextricably linked to the volume of Club World traffic. So much so, it was to become known as the “profit engine” of BA.

The First Club World Seats

The initial Club World seat was a “slumber seat”.

In the 1990s, BA maintained a regular pace of change in the cabin. Another new cabin interior and seat was introduced in the early 1990s with seat-back TV for the first time.

British Airways Club World Advert 1993
British Airways Club World Advert 1993

The Cradle Seat

The next significant change to Club World came with the “Cradle Seat” in 1996.

British Airways Club World Cradle Seat
British Airways Club World Cradle Seat

The concept behind this seat was that rather than simply reclining, the seat would tilt and, with the aid of “ears” in the headrest and a built in leg-rest, it would support the entire body whatever the position of the seat.

“Presenting a revolutionary view from business class”

At the turn of the century, BA announced one of the most significant innovations in its history, the first fully flat bed in business class.

BA Club World Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

Designed by tangerine, it featured a patented “yin-yang” layout of rear and forward facing seats that would convert into fully flat beds.

Continue reading “BA100: 6. Club World”

BA100: 7. Royal Duties.

100 Years Of British Airways: How BEA, BOAC and British Airways have carried Her Majesty The Queen since 1952.

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Her Majesty The Queen, BOAC
Her Majesty The Queen Elizabeth II returns to London airport on BOAC, 1952

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

Her Majesty The Queen has a long history with BA and its predecessor airlines. 

On 31 January 1952, The Queen, then Princess Elizabeth, bid farewell to King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret at London airport before departing on a BOAC Argonaut “Atlanta” G-ALHK aircraft with Prince Philip for a world tour of Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

This trip was cut short following the death of King George VI. Princess Elizabeth returned a week later from Kenya on the same BOAC aircraft as Queen Elizabeth II.

BEA, BOAC and BA have flown The Queen on many state visits and tours.

These include the 1953 and 1954 Commonwealth tours (on a BOAC Stratocruiser), Canada and the US in 1957 (on a BOAC DC-7C aircraft), Bermuda and Jamaica 1963 (on a BOAC Stratocruiser), New Zealand in 1974, the Commonwealth Silver Jubilee tour 1977 (on Concorde), the Middle East in 1979 (on Concorde), and Australia in 2011 (non-stop from London to Perth on a Boeing 777).

Her Majesty The Queen, Malta
Her Majesty The Queen, Malta (Image Credit: British Airways)
Her Majesty The Queen, Concorde, 1977
Her Majesty The Queen, Concorde, 1977 (Image Credit: British Airways)
Continue reading “BA100: 7. Royal Duties.”

BA100: 8. The Day That Changed The World

100 Years Of British Airways: The single worst day in civil aviation history, 11 September 2001.

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British Airways Logo
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

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

BA, like much of the world, entered the 21st century with a sense of optimism.

There had been some difficult years with the adverse reaction to World Tailfins. The airline was also facing increased competition from low cost carriers and in 1999 reported its worst financial results since 1982.

“21st Century Air Travel”

However, at the turn of the century, there was a cause for optimism.

Under the theme of “21st century air travel” the airline was making significant investments in all of its cabins with entirely new World Traveller Plus and Club World cabins and revamped Club Europe, World Traveller and First cabins.

One event of course changed everything. 11 September 2001 was the single worst day in aviation history. The events of that day and its substantial human cost are well known. It had a profound impact on the US psyche and global geopolitics which are still felt to this day.

For BA, there was the immediate impact of the closure of US airspace. 22 BA aircraft were diverted and it took days to fully restore transatlantic flights. At the time many wondered whether air travel would ever be the same again. Many security measures were implemented such as locking the doors to the flight deck in flight and the submission of advance passenger lists to US authorities.

BA subsequently announced a review of its business which became known as “Future Size and Shape”. This resulted in a substantial cut in capacity, thousands of job losses, and cost-cutting initiatives. Some projects that were already underway such as improving profitability at Gatwick were accelerated. Many long-haul routes were suspended such as Manila and Taipei.

This set the course for BA the rest of the decade with a focus on improving its balance sheet, removing legacy complexity and no significant capacity growth. It was only towards the start of this decade did BA start growing again.

Many at IAG, mindful that Ryanair was able to secure a substantial discount from Boeing for new aircraft after 11 September 2001, are determined that this does not happen again. Put in fairly crude terms, they want the next shock to the aviation industry to be an opportunity, not a problem, for IAG.

Continue reading “BA100: 8. The Day That Changed The World”

BA100: 9. London Heathrow

100 Years Of British Airways: BA’s principal UK hub, London Heathrow airport.

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London Heathrow Terminal 1, 1969 (Image Credit: Heathrow Airport)

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

BEA and BOAC trace their history of what was then known as London airport to the 1940s, replacing Croydon and Northolt airports as their hubs.

BOAC operated its first service from London Heathrow in 1946 and BEA in 1950. Heathrow has been BA’s principal UK hub for the entirety of its existence. Attempts to create a second hub at Gatwick failed and BA has withdrawn virtually all operations from UK regional airports.

BA’s main home at Heathrow was Terminal 1 from 1968 to 2008 until the opening of Terminal 5, with a brief reprise from 2012 to 2015 following BA’s purchase of bmi.

It has also operated flights from Terminal 3, and from Terminal 4 when it opened in 1986. Terminal 4 was ill-suited in its design for long-haul flights and a problematic location because it is located south of the southern runway, so you have to cross an active runway to reach the north runway.

BA’s time at Heathrow has not always been a happy one. As an airport that is virtually full there is little slack to withstand any operational disruption. Before the opening of Terminal 5 BA had signifiant problems with punctuality and baggage handling, particularly for transfer passengers.

It has also not always had a good working relationship with the airport. Events such as the opening of Terminal 5 and the snow disruption at Christmas 2010 exposed a dysfunctional working relationship between Heathrow and its airlines.

Lessons have been learned and relations between the airports and airlines have improved at an operational level. The overall reputation of Heathrow has improved immeasurably. And for all its faults, Heathrow remains a hugely attractive source of premium traffic. So much so that rival airlines are prepared to pay tens of millions of dollars for a single pair of arrival and departure slots.

However, BA’s parent company IAG does not pull any punches regarding the costs of the third runway and effectively accuses Heathrow of misleading the public on its cost.

Should a third runway ever be constructed it will have a significant competitive impact on BA. easyJet has indicated it will seek to secure access to Heathrow and a number of long-haul airlines will also be able to secure access. That all said, no-one can predict the state of the industry by the time the third runway opens.

Continue reading “BA100: 9. London Heathrow”

BA100: 10. “The Flower Duet” Léo Delibes

100 Years Of British Airways: The theme of BA, The Flower Duet by Léo Delibes from the opera Lakmé.

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British Airways Orchestra performing "The Flower Duet"
British Airways Orchestra performing “The Flower Duet” (Image Credit: British Airways)

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

The Flower Duet by Léo Delibes from the opera Lakmé has been the effective theme of BA.

It has featured in many adverts and has often been played during the boarding of aircraft.

It has been remixed many times, including by Dave Stewart for “The world is closer than you think” advertising campaign in 1997 and subsequent campaigns such as “The way to fly” in 2004.

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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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