loss making

British Airways

British Airways plc is the national airline and flag carrier of the United Kingdom and one of the largest in Europe. Its main hubs are London Heathrow and London Gatwick. British Airways holds a United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority Type A Operating Licence, and is permitted to carry passengers, cargo and mail on aircraft with 20 or more seats. British Airways is a founding member of the Oneworld airline alliance.

The British Airways Group was formed on 1 September 1972 consisting of BOAC and BEA. These two companies were dissolved on 31 March 1974 to form British Airways (BA). The company was privatised in February 1987. It expanded with the acquisition of British Caledonian in 1988 and some of the routes of Gatwick-based carrier Dan-Air in 1992. The formation of Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic in 1984 began a tense relationship with BA which ended in "one of the most bitter and protracted libel actions in aviation history" in 1993 in which BA apologised "unreservedly" for an alleged "dirty tricks" campaign against Virgin and paid damages and legal costs.

For a number of years the airline was a mainly Boeing customer, but in November 1998 it placed its first direct order for Airbus aircraft. The company's next major order was the start of its replacement of its long haul fleet, ordering Boeing 787s and Airbus A380s in 2007. The centrepiece of the airline's long haul fleet is the Boeing 747-400; the airline is the largest operator of this type. British Airways' strategy and aircraft purchases are seen as an industry "benchmark" that influences other carriers' decisions.

In 2008 BA unveiled its new subsidiary OpenSkies which will take advantage of the liberalization of transatlantic traffic rights, and fly non-stop between major European cities and the United States. Operations are expected to begin with a single Boeing 757 in June 2008. On 2 July 2008 British Airways announced that it had agreed to buy French airline L'Avion for £54 million. The deal is expected to be completed during July 2008 and will result in full integration of L'Avion with OpenSkies.

British Airways has been plagued by difficulties in recent years. The Association of European Airlines reports that BA is the worst airline for lost and delayed baggage, losing over twice as many bags as the average. They are also the worst airline for punctuality of short/medium haul flight departures and arrivals and ranked 17th out of 21 airlines for long haul delays. Many of BA's problems stem from being based at London Heathrow airport which has become crowded and subject to delays. In 2007 Heathrow was voted the world's least favourite alongside Chicago O'Hare in a TripAdvisor survey. The opening of their new terminal, Heathrow Terminal 5 was heavily criticised by politicians, unions, airlines and passengers as an operational disaster.


On 31 March 1924, Britain's four pioneer airlines—Instone Air Line, Handley Page Transport, Daimler Airways and British Marine Air Navigation Co Ltd. that had started up in the immediate post war period —merged to form Imperial Airways Limited, which developed its Empire routes to Australia and Africa.

Meanwhile a number of smaller UK air transport companies had started flights. These merged in 1935 to form the original privately owned British Airways Ltd. Following a government review, Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalised in 1939 to form the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Post-war, BOAC continued to operate long-haul services, other than routes to South America - these were flown by British South American Airways, which was merged back into BOAC in 1949. Continental European and domestic flights were flown by a new nationalised airline, British European Airways Corporation (BEA), which compulsorily took over the routes of existing UK independent airlines.

In 1952 BOAC flew the de Havilland Comet to Johannesburg, halving the previous flight time. The birth of the mass package-holiday business meant change for the airline industry. BEA met the challenge by establishing BEA Airtours in 1970. In 1972 BOAC and BEA were combined under the newly formed British Airways Board, with the separate airlines coming together as British Airways in 1974, under the guidance of David Nicolson as Chairman of the BA Board. British Airways, simultaneously with Air France, inaugurated the world's first supersonic passenger service with Concorde in January 1976.


Sir John King, later Lord King, was appointed as Chairman in 1981 with the mission of preparing the airline for privatisation. King hired Colin Marshall as CEO in 1983. King was credited with turning around the loss-making giant into one of the most profitable air carriers in the world, boldly claiming to be "The World's Favourite Airline", while many other large airlines struggled. The airline's fleet and route map were overhauled in the early years of King's tenure, with brand and advertising experts being recruited to change the airline's image. Over 23,000 jobs were shed in the early 1980s, though King managed the considerable trick of boosting staff morale and modernising operations at the same time. Offering generous inducements for people to leave led to record losses of £545 million, to the cost of taxpayers but to the benefit of the future privatised company.

The flag carrier was privatised and floated on the London Stock Exchange in February 1987 by the Conservative government, with the initial share offering being 11 times oversubscribed. In April 1988 British Airways effected the controversial takeover of Britain's "second" airline British Caledonian, but kept the Caledonian name alive by rebranding its charter subsidiary British Airtours as Caledonian Airways. In 1992 it absorbed some of the routes of Gatwick-based carrier Dan-Air.

"Dirty tricks"

Soon after BA's privatisation, Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic, which began with one route and one Boeing 747 in 1984, was beginning to emerge as a competitor on some of BA's most lucrative routes. Following Virgin's highly publicised mercy mission to Iraq to fly home hostages of Saddam Hussein in 1991, King is reported to have told Marshall and his PA Director David Burnside to "do something about Branson". This began the campaign of "dirty tricks" that ended in Branson suing King and British Airways for libel in 1992. King countersued Branson and the case went to trial in 1993. British Airways, faced with likely defeat, settled the case, giving £500,000 to Branson and a further £110,000 to his airline; further, BA was to pay the legal fees of up to £3 million. Branson divided his compensation among his staff, the so-called "BA bonus."

Changes and subsidiaries

During the 1990s BA became the world's most profitable airline under the slogan "The World's Favourite Airline". In 1992 BA purchased the small German domestic airline Delta Air Transport and renamed it Deutsche BA. By the time it was sold in June 2003, DBA was operating 16 Boeing 737s and was the second-largest German domestic carrier, after Lufthansa.

Lord King stepped down as chairman in 1993 and was replaced by former deputy Colin Marshall, who initially combined the roles of CEO and Chairman. Bob Ayling, who would later take on the role of CEO, was appointed Managing Director by Marshall. Lord King was appointed President, a role created specifically for him, and became President Emeritus in 1997, until his death in July 2005.

In 1995 BA formed British Asia Airways, a subsidiary based in Taiwan, to operate between London and Taipei. Owing to political sensitivities, British Asia Airways not only had a different name, but also had a different livery, with the Union Jack tailfin being replaced by the Chinese characters 英亞. Many airlines followed the same practice, e.g., Qantas flew to Taiwan as "Australia Asia Airways" and KLM's Taiwan operations became "KLM Asia". British Asia Airways ceased operation in 2001 when the airline suspended flights to Taiwan due to low yield.

Bob Ayling era

In 1996 British Airways, with its newly appointed Chief Executive Bob Ayling, entered a period of turbulence. Increased competition, high oil prices and a strong pound hurt profits. BA management and trade unions clashed and the disruption cost the company hundreds of millions of pounds. In 1997 Ayling dropped BA's traditional Union Flag tailfin livery in favour of world design tailfins, in an effort to change its image from a strictly British and aloof carrier to a more cosmopolitan airline. The move was not a success and Ayling slowed the process, eventually declaring the fleet would sport a dual livery; half a Union Flag design, half the world design tailfins. Ayling pursued antitrust immunity with American Airlines, but this was unsuccessful due to the conditions placed on the deal by regulatory authorities, the most painful of which would have been the sacrifice of landing slots at Heathrow.

Positive news during Ayling's leadership included cost savings of £750m and the establishment of the successful, but highly subsidised, Go in 1998. Go was a low-cost carrier intended to compete in the rapidly emerging "no-frills" segment. After four years of successful operations, the airline was sold off to venture capitalists 3i and later merged with EasyJet. Ayling also sought a reduction of capacity, cancelling Boeing 747-400 orders in favour of the Boeing 777 and rationalising BA's short-haul fleet with an order for the Airbus A320 family.

Rod Eddington era

In 1999 British Airways reported a 50 percent slump in profits, its worst since privatisation. In March 2000 Bob Ayling was removed from his position. British Airways announced Rod Eddington as his successor in May. Eddington set about cutting the workforce further, dramatically so after the slump caused by the 11 September attacks in 2001.

On 8 September 2004 British Airways announced that it was to sell its 18.5 percent stake in Qantas, but would continue the alliance (such as sharing revenue), particularly on the Kangaroo routes. The £425 million raised was used to reduce the airline's debt.

Marshall, who had been appointed a life peer in 1998, retired as Chairman in July 2004 and was replaced by Martin Broughton, former Chairman of British American Tobacco. On 8 March 2005, Broughton announced that former Aer Lingus CEO Willie Walsh would take over from Rod Eddington upon his retirement in September 2005.

Willie Walsh era

In September 2005 new CEO Willie Walsh, former Aer Lingus boss, announced dramatic changes to the management of British Airways, with the aim of saving £300 million by 2008, the cost of the move to Heathrow's Terminal 5. He has presided over the disposal of BA Connect to Flybe, with Walsh stating "Despite the best efforts of the entire team at BA Connect, we do not see any prospect of profitability in its current form." BA has retained a 15% stake in Flybe following the sale.

Since 2004, BA has strongly marketed the full-service nature of its domestic flights (i.e the use of principal airports, free food and drink) in response to the low cost operators' aggressive pricing, even though its main full-service UK rival bmi has now abandoned some "frills" on its domestic network. Walsh on the other hand pledged to retain the full-service model, and sees it as a means of distinguishing BA from the competition and that customers will still be willing to pay extra for added levels of service.

The airline won the Skytrax Airline of the Year award in 2006 for the first time. It also won OAG Airline of the Year 2007, Best Airline Based in Western Europe 2007, Best Transatlantic Airline 2007, and Best Europe - Asia/Australia Airline 2007' in the Airline of the Year Awards run by UK-based OAG. However the Airport Transport Users Council rate BA as the worst European carrier for baggage handling.


On 1 August 2007, British Airways was fined £121.5 million for price-fixing. The fine was imposed by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) after BA admitted to the price-fixing of fuel surcharges on long haul flights. The allegation first came to light in 2006 when Virgin Atlantic reported the events to the authorities after it found staff members from BA and Virgin Atlantic were colluding. Virgin Atlantic have since been granted immunity by both the OFT and the United States Department of Justice who have been investigating the allegations since June 2006. The US DOJ later announced that it would fine British Airways $300 million (£148 million) for price fixing.

The allegations are thought to be linked to the resignation of commercial director Martin George and communications chief Iain Burns. Although BA said fuel surcharges were "a legitimate way of recovering costs", in May 2007 it put aside £350 million for legal fees and fines.

Terminal 5

Heathrow Terminal 5 was built exclusively for the use of British Airways at a cost of £4.3 billion and officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 14 March 2008. It opened to passengers on 27 March 2008, however a number of serious problems immediately arose. Staff were unable to find the car parks and there were not enough spaces available leading to confusion and delays getting to work. Long queues formed for staff security checks and the belts carrying the bags became clogged as they were not being unloaded quickly enough. The baggage handling system also malfunctioned due to technical problems. At one stage, BA were forced to stop checking in bags as large queues formed at the fast bag drop and seven flights departed with no baggage loaded.

In the first five days, a backlog of 28,000 bags built up and over 300 flights were cancelled. BA initially handed out leaflets to passengers of delayed or cancelled flights offering up to £100 compensation to cover the cost of a hotel room for two passengers. This was criticised by the UK's Consumer Watchdog for the Aviation Industry, the Air Transport Users Council, as being a clear breach of regulation 261/2004 and BA were forced to accept claims for "reasonable costs".

Willie Walsh commented that it "was not our finest hour" and "the buck stops with me". However two directors left the company on 15 April 2008 as a direct result of the poor transition into BA's new terminal.

Despite the initial problems with the new terminal in its first few weeks, operations are now running smoothly according to British Airways. Punctuality is improving as more and more flights are departing on time. Further long-haul services were transferred to Terminal 5 on 5 June 2008 and 17 September 2008 and remaining services not yet operating from this terminal will be transferred in one final phase on 22 October 2008.


On 30 July 2008, British Airways and Iberia Airlines announced a merger plan that would result in the two airlines joining forces in an all-stock transaction. The two airlines would retain their separate brands similar to KLM and Air France in their merger agreement. Later, in the beginning of August, American Airlines was also added to this agreement. Though the deal did not have AA being merged into the BA and Iberia entity, it allows the two carriers to fix fares, routes and schedules together.

Financial performance

British Airways Financial Performance
Year Ended Passengers Flown Turnover (£m) Profit/Loss Before Tax (£m) Net Profit/Loss (£m) Basic EPS (p)
31 March 2008 33,161,000 8,753 883 696 59.0
31 March 2007 33,068,000 8,492 611 438 25.5
31 March 2006 (Restated)* 32,432,000 8,213 616 464 40.4
31 March 2006 35,634,000 8,515 620 467 40.4
31 March 2005 35,717,000 7,772 513 392 35.2
31 March 2004 36,103,000 7,560 230 130 12.1
31 March 2003 38,019,000 7,688 135 72 6.7
31 March 2002 40,004,000 8,340 (200) (142) (13.2)
31 March 2001 36,221,000 9,278 150 114 10.5
31 March 2000 36,346,000 8,940 5 (21) (2.0)
31 March 1999 37,090,000 8,915 225 206 19.5
31 March 1998 34,377,000 8,642 580 460 44.7
31 March 1997 33,440,000 8,359 640 553 55.7
31 March 1996 32,272,000 7,760 585 473 49.4
* Restated for the disposal of the regional business of BA Connect.


Route Changes
Origin Destination Start Date End Date Notes
London Heathrow Venice 26 October 2008
Antigua St Lucia 27 October 2008 Withdrawn as flights to St Lucia will operate direct from London
Bridgetown Port of Spain 27 October 2008 Withdrawn as flights to Port of Spain will operate via St Lucia
São Paulo Rio de Janeiro 27 October 2008 Withdrawn as flights to Rio de Janeiro will operate direct from London
St Lucia Port of Spain 27 October 2008
London Gatwick New York-JFK 27 October 2008
Manchester New York-JFK 26 October 2008 Withdrawn to enable new flights from LGW to JFK
London Heathrow Hyderabad 6 December 2008
London Gatwick/Antigua Saint Kitts 10 January 2009 Replacing former XL Airways service
London City New York 2009 Pending delivery of new A318 aircraft. All Club World configuration


With the exception of the Boeing 707 and Boeing 747 from BOAC, the airline as formed in 1972-4 inherited a mainly UK built fleet of aircraft. The airline introduced the Boeing 737 and Boeing 757 into the fleet in the 1980s, followed by the Boeing 747-400, Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 in the nineties. However, with the exception of 29 of its 777 fleet, it has often equipped its Boeing aircraft with British-made Rolls-Royce engines (examples include the Trent 800 on its Boeing 777s, the RB211-524 on its 747-400s and 767s and also RB211-535s on its 757-200s). This goes back to the 1960s when the company ordered Boeing 707s—a condition was placed on the company that it used Rolls-Royce power for the new jets. BA inherited BOAC's Boeing airline code (36). Boeing aircraft built for British Airways have the suffix 36, for example 737-236, 747-436, 777-236.

Although it had a large Boeing fleet it has always operated other aircraft. British built aircraft were transferred from BEA (e.g. Trident) and BOAC (e.g. VC10), and in the 1980s the airline bought the Lockheed Tristar. It has also acquired through the buyout of British Caledonian Airways in the 1980s the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and Airbus A320. In the late 1990s British Airways placed its own first direct Airbus order, for over 100 A320/A319s to replace its own aging fleet of Boeing 737s. In September 2007 BA placed its first order for longhaul Airbus jets, 12 Airbus A380s with 7 options.

BA was one of only two operators of the supersonic Aerospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic airliner, (the other being the state-owned Air France) with a daily service between Heathrow and New York JFK (although the original service was from London to Bahrain). Initially, Concorde was a financial burden, placed on the national carrier by the government, and attracted criticism from the press as a white elephant. However Lord King recognised the charismatic importance of Concorde to British Airways. BA used Concorde to win business customers, guaranteeing a certain number of Concorde upgrades in return for corporate accounts with the airline - a key factor in winning business from transatlantic competitors.

With the Paris Crash in 2000, the 11 September 2001 attacks and escalating maintenance costs, the future of Concorde was limited despite the expensive modifications after the crash. It was announced (on 10 April 2003) that, after 24 October 2003, they would cease scheduled services with Concorde, due to depressed passenger numbers. The last day of its Saturday-only London Heathrow to Barbados Concorde flight was on 30 August 2003. The airline still owns 8 Concordes which are on long term loan to museums in the UK, U.S. and Barbados.

The British Airways fleet includes the following aircraft as of 31 March 2008:

British Airways Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
(First/Business/Premium Economy/Economy)
Routes Notes
Airbus A318 (2 orders) 32 LCY to New York Features Club World seats only. Flight will have fuel stop and pre-clear US immigration in Shannon on way to NY.
Airbus A319 33 132 LHR to Europe and UK
LGW to Europe and UK
14 to be transferred to LGW to replace 737-300 & 737-500s in 2009
Airbus A320 25
(19 orders)
LHR to Europe and UK
Airbus A321 11
188 LHR to Europe and UK
Airbus A380-800 (12 orders)
(7 options)
LHR to Longhaul Destinations (as yet to be announced) Entry into service: 2012
5 126 LGW to Europe and UK Exit from service: 2009
Replacement aircraft: Airbus A319
19 147 LGW to Europe and UK Exit from service: 2009
Replacement aircraft: Airbus A319 / Airbus A320
9 110 LGW to Europe and UK Exit from service: 2009
Replacement aircraft: Airbus A319
Boeing 747-400 57 291 (14/70/30/177)
299 (14/70/30/185)
337 (14/52/36/235)
LHR to Africa, Asia, Australia, North America and South America 20 to exit from service 2011 through 2014
Replacement aircraft: Airbus A380
11 186 LHR to Europe 6 aircraft will be transferred to 'OpenSkies' subsidiary by end of 2009
Exit from service: 2012
Replacement aircraft: Airbus A321
21 173 (-/24/24/125)
252 (252)
LHR and MAN to Africa, Caribbean, Europe and North America Exit from service: 2010-onwards
Replacement aircraft: Boeing 787
3 229 (14/48/40/127) LHR to Africa, Asia and North America
(4 orders)
(4 options)
280 (-/40/24/216)
224 (14/48/40/122)
274 (-/38/24/212)
272 (-/36/24/212)
226 (14/48/40/124)
LGW and LHR to Africa, Asia, Australasia, Caribbean and North America Launch Customer
(6 orders)
(4 options)
Entry into service: 2010
Boeing 787-8 (8 orders)
(16 options)
(10 rights for 787 family)
Entry into service: 2010
Delays expected
Replaces 767-300ER
Boeing 787-9 (16 orders)
(16 options)
(10 rights for 787 family)
Entry into service: 2010
Replaces 767-300ER
Details of the fleet of British Airways subsidiaries BA CityFlyer and OpenSkies can be found in the related articles. Details of the fleets of British Airways' franchises which use the British Airways name and logo can be found on articles: Loganair (until October 2008), Sun Air and Comair. In March 2008, the average age of British Airways fleet was 11.3 years.

British Airways offers either three or four classes of service on their long haul international routes. 'World Traveller' (Economy Class), 'World Traveller Plus' (Premium Economy) and 'Club World' (Business Class) always feature. All Boeing 747 aircraft and most Boeing 777 aircraft are also fitted with 'First' (First Class).

Aircraft operated

The airline has operated the following aircraft (with in-service date):


British Airways has 32 outstanding options with Airbus, which may be taken as any member of the A320 family. Secured delivery positions on 10 Boeing 777 aircraft are held.

On 18 May 2007, BA announced that it has placed a firm order with Airbus for eight new A320 aircraft. The new aircraft are due for delivery from 2008. They will be delivered to LHR displacing A319s to LGW which in turn will replace elderly Boeing 737-300/500, the leases on which expire at this time.

On 27 March 2007, British Airways placed a firm order for four 777-200ER aircraft with an option for four more, with the order totalling more than US$800 million at list price. The company has stated that these are for fleet expansion. BA's first batch of 777 were fitted with General Electric GE90 engines, but BA switched to Rolls Royce Trent 800s for the most recent 16 aircraft. This has been continued with the most recent 4 orders as Trent 800 engines were selected as the engine choice.

On 27 September 2007, BA announced their biggest order since 1998 by ordering 36 new long haul aircraft. The company ordered 12 A380s with options on a further 7, and 24 Boeing 787s with options on a further 18. Rolls Royce Trent engines were selected for both orders with Trent 900s powering the A380s and Trent 1000s powering the 787s. The new aircraft will be delivered between 2010 and 2014. The Boeing 787s will replace 14 of British Airways' Boeing 767 fleet and the Airbus A380s will replace 20 of BA's oldest Boeing 747-400s and will most likely be used to increase capacity on routes to Bangkok, Cape Town, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Singapore, and Sydney from London Heathrow.

On 1 February 2008 it was announced that BA had ordered two Airbus A318s to operate a premium service out of London City Airport to New York. The service, which will see the A318s fitted out with 32 lie flat beds in an all business class cabin, is expected to start in 2009. The A318 is the largest aircraft able to operate out of London City Airport. On 4 February 2008 the engine selection was announced as the CFM International - CFM56. Most of BA's fleet of A320 family aircraft are powered by IAE V2500 however these engines are not available to power the A318. It was subsequently announced that this route will include a westbound fuel stop.

On 1 August 2008 BA announced orders for six Boeing 777-300ERs and options for four more as an interim measure to cover for delays over the deliveries of their 787-8/9s.


The musical theme predominantly used on British Airways advertising is "Flower Duet" by Léo Delibes. This, and the slogan "The World's Favourite Airline" were introduced in 1989 with the launch of the iconic "Face" advertisement. The slogan was dropped in 2001, after having been overtaken by Lufthansa in terms of passenger numbers. However, "Flower Duet" is still used by the airline, and has been through several different arrangements since 1989. The most recent was introduced in 2007, along with the current advertising slogan, "Upgrade to British Airways".

The advertising agency used for many years by BA was Saatchi & Saatchi, who created many of the most famous advertisements for the airline. It created the "Face" commercial for the airline; its success was imitated by Silverjet in 2007, who created a similar advert.

Prior to "The World's Favourite Airline", advertising slogans included:

  • "The World's Best Airline".
  • "We'll Take More Care Of You".
  • "Fly the Flag", featuring Flight Attendant Roz Hanby, who gained brief "celebrity" status as a result

As of June 2007, BA's advertising agency is Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

British Airways is the official airline of the Wimbledon Championship tennis tournament.

British Airways is the official airline and tier 1 partner of the London 2012 Olympics.

Tail fins

Since its formation in 1974, though to a limited extent until all aircraft were repainted, British Airways aeroplanes carried a Union Flag scheme painted on their tail fins. The original predominantly red tail scheme was changed with the launch of a new livery designed by the New York design agency, Landor Associates. The new tail was predominantly dark blue and carried the British Airways Coat of Arms. On 10 June 1997 they began to be repainted (and the planes re-named) with abstract world images, Delft pottery or Chinese calligraphy for example, relating to countries they fly to. This caused problems with air traffic control: previously controllers had been able to tell pilots to follow a BA plane, but because they were each painted in different colours they were harder to identify.

On 6 June 1999, BA chief executive Bob Ayling announced that all BA planes would be repainted with the Chatham Dockyard Union Flag, based on a design first used on Concorde.


United Kingdom

UK Domestic seat pitch is 31" on all aircraft and the seats are in a one-class configuration. Food on these services depends on the destination and time of day. On all UK Domestic services, a breakfast meal is served before 10am and after 10am there is a drinks service, with a light snack from Heathrow and Gatwick. The exception is for Scottish flights to and from Heathrow in the evening, where a meal size salad is served.

Business UK has exactly the same service (same cabin) as UK Domestic, with a fully flexible ticket and lounge access.


Euro Traveller seat pitch is 31", except on Boeing 757 aircraft where it is 32" and Airbus A321 aircraft where it is 30". Food on board depends on the destination "band" (e.g. Band 1 to Paris, Band 3 to Rome, Band 4 to Athens). In-flight entertainment is offered on Band 4 flights on aircraft with suitable equipment.

Club Europe is the business class product of British Airways, offered on all shorthaul routes. Passengers have access to business lounges at most airports and are also served a full English breakfast in the mornings or 'extended breakfast' on later flights (ham, salami etc) and afternoon tea later in the day. Seat pitch is 34". Club Europe has 5 rather than 6 seats across, in a 2+3 configuration, but there is a mini seat in between the first and second seat. The whole row can be adjusted to a 3+3 configuration in order to make the aircraft full economy.


First (recently rebranded from 'FIRST') is the long haul first class product on British Airways and is offered only on BA's Boeing 777 and Boeing 747 aircraft. There are 14 private "demi-cabins" with 6' 6" beds, in-seat power for laptops, personal phones, and entertainment facilities. Meals are available on demand. BA offers dedicated check-in facilities at some airports. At airports without dedicated First check-in, passengers use Club World check-in. BA will unveil its brand new First Class in March 2009.

Club World is the longhaul business class product of British Airways. Passengers have access to business lounges at most airports. On 13 November 2006, British Airways launched a new Club World service (termed Next Generation New Club World), offering larger seats and a service revamp. The Club World service offers a 20" wide, 6' long fully flat bed (6' 6" long in Next Generation New Club World cabins), with 24 seats on the 767-300ER (New Club World), either 40 or 48 seats on the 777-200 (New Club World), and, since 2007, either 52 or 70 seats on the 747-400 (Next Generation New Club World).

World Traveller and World Traveller Plus are the two main economy classes offered internationally on British Airways. World Traveller is standard economy and offers a 31" seat pitch. World Traveller Plus is premium economy and, in comparison to World Traveller, offers a better (38") seat pitch, fewer seats abreast, and in-seat laptop power.

Special cabin configuration

In 2001, British Airways became the first carrier to introduce a ten abreast economy class configuration on the Boeing 777, an aircraft which had been designed for nine abreast seating. This utilised specially built narrow seats, and narrow aisles, and was applied to 3 GE-engined 777-236ERs (G-VIIO / MSN 29320, G-VIIP / MSN 29321 and G-VIIR / MSN 29322) used predominantly on Caribbean routes, but sometimes flown to and from Florida. Since BA piloted this development, the configuration has been emulated by Emirates Airline and China Southern. British Airways have removed this configuration, returning to nine abreast seating.


British Airways operate several different types of lounge for passengers travelling in the premium cabins and passengers with status.

Lounge Access - Class Access - Status Notes Number on Network
Concorde Room First Premier
Concorde Room Cardholder
Available at LHR T5 and JFK T7 only 2
Galleries First First Gold Replacing 'First Lounge' 4
First Lounge First Gold To be replaced by 'Galleries First' 10
Galleries Club Club World (or higher)
Club Europe (or higher)
Silver (or higher) Replacing 'Terraces Lounge' and 'Executive Club Lounge' 8
Terraces Lounge Club World (or higher)
Club Europe (or higher)
Silver (or higher) To be replaced by 'Galleries Club' 29
Executive Club Lounge Club World (or higher)
Club Europe (or higher)
Silver (or higher) To be replaced by 'Galleries Club' 13
British Airways Gate 1 Lounge Club World (or higher)
Silver (or higher) Available at LHR T4 only, closing 2009 1
British Airways Chesapeake Club Lounge Club World (or higher) Silver (or higher) Available at BWI Concourse E only, to be replaced by 'Galleries Club' 1
Galleries Arrivals Club World (or higher) Gold (longhaul only) Replacing 'Arrivals Lounge' 1
Arrivals Lounge Club World (or higher) Gold (longhaul only) Available at LHR T4 only, closing 2009 1

At airports in which BA does not operate a lounge, a third party lounge is usually provided for premium/status passengers.

London Heathrow Lounges

Terminal Lounge Notes
Terminal 1 Terraces Lounge (Gate 5) Closing 27 January 2009
Terminal 3 Galleries Club Opening 27 January 2009
Terminal 4 British Airways Gate 1 Lounge (Gate 1)
Arrivals Lounge
Closing 2009
Closing 2009
Terminal 5A Concorde Room (Galleries Lounge South)
Galleries First (Galleries Lounge South)
Galleries Club (Galleries Lounge South)
Galleries Club (Galleries Lounge North)
Galleries Arrivals
Terminal 5B Galleries Club


BA is based at London Heathrow Airport in London, England. It also has a presence at Gatwick and previously had a significant hub at Manchester International Airport, but this was much reduced in 2007 after the sale of BA Connect, in common with operations from other UK airports. BA has succeeded in dominating Heathrow to the point that the airport is commonly referred to as Fortress Heathrow within both the airline and its competitors.

As an incumbent airline, BA had grandfather rights to around 36% of takeoff and landing slots at Heathrow, many of which are used for the lucrative trans-Atlantic market. Some competitors, such as Virgin Atlantic and bmi, assert that this stifles competition and some political think-tanks recommend an auction of slots. In recent years British Airways has been buying slots from other airlines including United Airlines, bmi, Brussels Airlines, GB Airways and Swiss International Air Lines, and now owns about 40% of slots at Heathrow.

Although British Airways describes itself as the 'National Carrier of the United Kingdom', it does not have a presence in Wales and services to all airports 'north of Watford' were severely truncated in March 2007. BA aims to fly UK passengers through its congested Heathrow and Gatwick hubs. However, this policy is now being successfully countered by foreign carriers such as Emirates, who fly direct from several UK provincial airports to Dubai, Abu Dhabi etc and onwards from those hubs to Asia and Australasia.

BA CityFlyer is a subsidiary with Avro RJ aircraft based in Edinburgh, but operating mainly from London City Airport. BA CityFlyer operates around 250 flights per week at London City Airport.

On 27 March 2008, BA moved roughly 50% of its Heathrow operation to the new Terminal 5. A large majority of the moves happened during the night on 26 March, when one of the runways at Heathrow was closed. All BA flights will operate out of T5 by early 2009, except services to Barcelona, Helsinki, Lisbon, Madrid, Nice, Bangkok, Singapore and Sydney, which will operate out of T3 due to them being code-share flights.

Codeshare agreements

Other than codesharing with oneworld alliance members, British Airways also codeshare with:

Subsidiaries and franchisees


British Airways is the full owner of Airways Aero Associations Limited, which operates the British Airways flying club and runs its own aerodrome under the British Airways brand at Wycombe Air Park, High Wycombe. With the creation of Open Skies between Europe and the United States in March 2008, British Airways has a new subsidiary airline called OpenSkies (previously codenamed "Project Lauren"). The airline started operations in June 2008, and now flies between Paris and Amsterdam, to New York, JFK Airport.

The former BEA Helicopters was renamed British Airways Helicopters in 1974 and operated passenger and offshore oil support services until it was sold in 1986.


  • Comair, South Africa, franchisee since 1996.
  • Loganair, UK, franchisee since July 1994 until 25 October 2008.
  • Sun Air, Denmark, franchisee since 1 August 1996.


BA owns a 13.5% stake in Spanish airline Iberia. It raised its stake in Iberia from 9% to 10% by purchasing American Airlines' remaining shares. It increased it further in March 2008. This 13.5% stake gives British Airways the right to appoint two board members.

It obtained a 15% stake in FlyBe when it sold its regional UK operation BA Connect to FlyBe in March 2007.

It owns a 10% stake in Eurostar (U.K.) Ltd. as part of the InterCapital and Regional Rail alliance that also includes SNCF, NMBS/SNCB and National Express Group. Eurostar (UK) is the UK arm of Eurostar, the cross-Channel rail operator.

On 30 July 2008, British Airways and Iberia announced a merger plan that would result in the two airlines joining forces in an all-stock transaction. The two airlines would retain their separate brands similar to KLM and Air France in their merger agreement.


BA is, through its subsidiary British Airways World Cargo, the world's twelfth-largest cargo airline based on total freight tonne-kilometers flown. BA World Cargo has global reach through the British Airways scheduled network. In addition to the main fleet, BA World Cargo wet lease three Boeing 747-400F dedicated freighter aircraft from Global Supply Systems on a multi-year basis, as well as utilising space on dedicated freighters operated by other carriers on European services. Dedicated freighter services allow the airline to serve airports not connected to the scheduled network, such as London Stansted, Glasgow Prestwick, Frankfurt-Hahn, Vitoria and Seoul.

British Airways opened its £250m World Cargo centre, Ascentis, at Heathrow in 1999. As an advanced automated freight handling centre, it can handle unusual and premium cargo, and fresh produce, of which it handles over 80,000 tons per year. BA World Cargo also handles freight at London's Gatwick and Stansted airports, and, through its partner British Airways Regional Cargo, at all of the main regional airports throughout the UK. On 3 July 2007 BA World Cargo announced it would launch new services to Jinnah International Airport, Karachi and Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore in Pakistan using Boeing 727s via Bahrain.

Loyalty programmes

Executive Club

The Executive Club is British Airways' main frequent flyer programme. It is part of the network of frequent flyer programmes in the Oneworld alliance. The Executive Club has three tiers of membership: Blue, Silver, Gold. The benefits of the Silver and Gold cards include access to airport lounges and dedicated reservation lines. Unlike most airlines' frequent flyer programmes, the Executive Club keeps separate account of the redeemable BA Miles and the loyalty Tier Points. Flying in higher Classes of Service, i.e. Premium Economy, Business or First, will earn both BA Miles and Tier Points, whereas Tier Points can only be earned for "Eligible Flights". A Full Fare Economy (Y/B/H) fare or any premium cabin fare will be considered as eligible flight. Discounted economy fares will only earn 25% BA Miles and no tier points. Membership of the Executive Club will be extended annually upon attaining the relevant number of Tier Points. For instance, to maintain the Silver Executive Club will require 4 Premium Economy Returns between the UK and the US Eastern Seaboard.

The number of tier points required for Silver and Gold card membership varies substantially from country leading to some passengers changing their address to a European country in order to qualify for membership by with fewer tier points.


BA operates an invitation-only Premier programme which gives more benefits than the Executive Club Gold Card scheme. It is given only by the BA board and has 1,200 members.

Incidents and accidents

  • In November 1974, British Airways Flight 870 from Dubai to Heathrow, operated by a Vickers VC-10, was hijacked in Dubai, landing at Tripoli for refuelling before flying on to Tunis. One hostage was murdered before the hijackers eventually surrendered after 84 hours. Captain Jim Futcher was awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal, the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators Founders Medal, the British Airline Pilots Association Gold Medal and a Certificate of Commendation from British Airways for his actions during the hijacking, having returned to the aircraft to fly it knowing the hijackers were on board.
  • On 10 September 1976 a Trident 3B on British Airways Flight 476, flying from London Heathrow to Istanbul, collided in mid-air with an Inex Adria DC9-32 near Zagreb, Croatia, resulting in the 1976 Zagreb mid-air collision. All 54 passengers and 9 crew members on the BA aircraft died.
  • On 24 June 1982, Flight 9, a Boeing 747-200, G-BDXH, City of Edinburgh flew through a cloud of volcanic ash and dust from the eruption of Mount Galunggung, causing extensive damage to the aircraft, including the failure of all four engines. The aircraft managed to glide out of the dust cloud and restart all of its engines, allowing it to make an emergency landing at Halim international airport just outside Jakarta. No-one was injured.
  • On 10 June 1990, Flight 5390, a BAC 1-11 flight between Birmingham and Málaga, suffered a windscreen blowout due to the fitting of incorrect bolts the previous day. The Captain suffered minor injuries despite being partially sucked out of the aircraft but the co-pilot landed the plane safely at Southampton Airport.
  • On 2 August 1990, Flight 149 landed at Kuwait International Airport four hours after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, leading to the capture of the passengers and crew, and the destruction of the aircraft.
  • On 11 December 2000, Flight 2069 from London Gatwick Airport to Nairobi experienced a hijack attempt whilst flying over Sudan. A Kenyan student with a mental illness burst into the cockpit of the Boeing 747. As three crew fought to restrain the man, the auto-pilot became disengaged and the jet dropped with 398 passengers on board. However, with the help of a couple of passengers, the pilots recovered the aircraft, successfully restrained the Kenyan with handcuffs and the plane landed safely.
  • On 19 February 2005, the No. 2 engine of a Boeing 747-400 G-BNLG surged and suffered internal damage just after take off from Los Angeles on a flight to London Heathrow with 16 crew and 351 passengers on board. The crew shut the engine down and continued the climb and continued the flight, in line with BA's standard operating procedures for 4 engined aircraft. Because it was unable to attain normal cruising speeds and altitudes, the aircraft diverted to Manchester, England. The United States Federal Aviation Administration had been critical of the Captain's decision and accused BA of operating the aircraft in an unairworthy condition. In June 2006 the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch recommended that the UK and US authorities review the policy on flight continuation and give clear guidance. This has not happened but the FAA have accepted the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority’s determination that the aircraft was not unairworthy.
  • On 10 August 2006 the airline cancelled a large number of its flights to and from London Heathrow Airport due to a foiled terrorist plot to destroy jet airliners travelling from the United Kingdom to the United States. British Airways was one of those airlines that was targeted by the terrorists. Two days later on 12 August 2006 BAA, the owner and operator of London Heathrow, ordered airlines using the airport to make a 30% reduction in departing passenger flights (something BA was already having to do as passengers missed flights due to the extra time it took to clear security), to help reduce delays and cancellations. BA would later say the disruption cost it £40 million and forced it to cancel 1,280 flights between 10 and 17 August.
  • On 17 January 2008, British Airways Flight 38, a Boeing 777-200ER flying from Beijing to London, crash-landed approximately short of London Heathrow Airport's runway 27L, and slid onto the runway's threshold. This resulted in damage to the landing gear, the wing roots, and the engines, resulting in the first hull loss of a Boeing 777. There were 136 passengers and 16 crew on board. 1 serious and 12 minor injuries were sustained. The initial report from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch stated that the engines repeatedly failed to respond to commands for more thrust from both the autothrottle system and from manual intervention, beginning when the aircraft was at an altitude of and from touchdown. An adequate fuel quantity was on board the aircraft and the autothrottle and engine control commands were performing as expected prior to, and after, the reduction in thrust. In September 2008, it was revealed that ice in the fuel might have caused the crash.


  • In March 2001, it was revealed that British Airways has a policy of not seating adult male passengers next to unaccompanied children, even if the child's parents are elsewhere on the plane. This led to accusations of sex discrimination.
  • In October 2006, in the British Airways cross controversy, there was a dispute over the right of a Christian check-in worker to wear a visible symbol of faith. The employee lost an employment tribunal in January 2008.
  • British Airways was announced by the Association of European Airlines as having lost the most luggage in 2006 and 2007 compared to other major European airlines. For every 1000 passengers carried, it lost 23 bags, 46% more than the average.


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