British Airways celebrates 100th birthday

BEA BA 100 A319

British Airways celebrated its 100th year anniversary over the weekend, with 25 August 2019 marking 100 years since the world’s first international scheduled flight launched under its predecessor, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T).

The airline has come a long way since that first flight between London and Paris operated on a single-engine De Haviland DH4A — it now flies over 145,000 passengers on 800 flights daily, serving 200 destinations worldwide.

British Airways: A Short History

British Airways wasn’t always the airline that we know today. Following AT&T’s first flight in 1919, it merged with three other airlines to form Imperial Airways Limited in 1924. By 1925, Imperial Airways was providing services to Paris, Brussels, Basel, Cologne and Zurich. Fifteen years later, as World War II loomed, Imperial Airways and another competitor, British Airways Ltd, were nationalised by the government and merged to form British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).

BOAC inherited Imperial Airways’ flying boat services to British colonies, mainly operating overseas flights to Africa and Asia, as well as destinations across Europe. Shorter European and domestic flights fell under the remit of a new airline called British European Airways (BEA), which was formed in 1946 as BOAC expanded its intercontinental route network, starting with services to New York in 1946, Japan in 1948, Chicago in 1954 and the west coast of the United States in 1957.

BOAC and BEA operated as separate airlines throughout the 1960s, though in 1974, the two were combined to form British Airways, which was privatised in 1987. The last big structural change to British Airways occured in 2011 when it merged with Iberia, forming the International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG).

Celebrating 100 years of BA

As part of its centenary celebrations throughout 2019, British Airways has so far painted a number of aircraft in retro liveries, launched an online Centenary Archive Collection, and opened the BA2119: Flight of the Future exhibition, just to name a few of its latest activities.

In its effort to operate a younger and more efficient fleet, the airline also took delivery of its first A350-1000 just a few weeks ago, featuring the new Club Suite business product which launched with the aircraft.

Celebrations over the weekend saw the airline kick off the England vs Ireland rugby match at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday, with its choir performing the national anthems on the pitch. 

Finally, on Sunday, the airline commemorated 100 years since AT&T’s first scheduled flight, operating its A319 in retro BEA livery as BA314.

Speaking on its 100th year anniversary, Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said:

“We have had a fabulous year so far marking our centenary and thanking our customers for making us the airline we are today – we wouldn’t be here without their pioneering spirits and sense of adventure.

“British Airways now operates 800 flights a day to 200 destinations around the globe – we thank them all. Our customers truly enable us to bring Britain to the world and the world to Britain and we look forward to serving them for the next 100 years.”