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British Airways (BA) the United Kingdom National Carrier

Updated on May 8, 2013
A photo of one of the British Airways planes.
A photo of one of the British Airways planes. | Source

The British Airways is UK’s national carrier of choice. The airline is based in Waterside. This is an area which is located near the London Heathrow Airport. This is the largest airline in the whole of United Kingdom when you consider the number of flights made, the size of its fleet and the number of international destinations covered. BA is the second in terms of the number of passengers carried. The leading airline that carries the largest number of passengers is called EasyJet.

In 1971, there were two nationalized airline companies (BEA and BOAC) as well as two smaller airlines (Northwest Airlines and Cambrian Airlines). All these companies were managed by the British Airways Board which was established in 1971. In 1974, all these four companies were involved in a merger to form a single company called British Airways. The company operated in business for almost 13 years before it was sold in 1987 under a privatization plan which was organized by the conservative government. The resulting company further expanded by acquiring other companies such as the Caledonian in 1987 and Dan Air which has its headquarters in Gatwick in 1992.

British Airways has been a great buyer of the Boeing planes for a long time. In the year 1998 alone BA ordered for 59 Airbus A32o aircrafts. Again in the year 2007, they purchased another 12 planes from Airbus A380s and 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. This was the beginning of the replacement of the planes that were used in its long-haul business.

British Airways is credited as one of the founding member of the OneWorld Alliance. The other members include: The currently defunct Canadian Airlines, American Airlines, Qantas and Cathaway Pacific. This alliance is currently the third largest in the world. The SkyTeam and Star are the two leading alliances in the world airline industry.

The BA is owned by its parent company which is called the International Airlines Group. This parent company is listed on the London Stock of Exchange. In the year 2009, there were reports that the company was planning to merge with another airline called Iberia. The merger was later approved in 2010 by the European Commission. This was done after confirming that it was in line with the competition law. The American Airlines was then allowed to collaborate with the merged company more especially on the transatlantic routes heading to the USA. The merger transactions were concluded on July, 2011. This was the rise of the International Airlines Group. This is the second largest airline group in the whole of Europe.

The IAG was responsible for buying the British Midland International (BMI) and later on they announced their aims of opening a subsidiary which was to be abased in the London City Airport.

British Airways was officially the partner of the Londdon 2012 Olympic Games. That is why it was given an opportunity to fly the Olympic game from Athens International Airport to the RNAS Culdrose. Onboard were a large number of important people such as Princess Ann, Boris Johnson (the London Mayor), Lord Sebastian Coe and David Beckham (Footballer) among others.

The world received services from its first ever supersonic passenger plane in January 1976 when the plane flew from London Heathrow airport to Bahrain. The supersonic made its journey to Washington Dulles airport later on May 1976. Concorde operations were stopped in 2003 after the occurrence of an accident in Paris and the 11 September attacks in New York back in 2001. The Concorde aircraft was retired after 27 years of great service to airline passengers.

The British Airways was preparing for privatization in 1981 after a directive from the Conservative government. The British national carrier was privatized after it became more profitable due to the efforts of Lord King. The company floated its shares on the London Stock of Exchange in February 1987. British Airways faced stiff competition starting 1984 after the forming of Virgin Atlantic Airways.

British Airways was able to carry 34.6 million passengers in 2008. In comparison, a rival company EasyJet had carried some 44.5 million passengers during the same period. The BA is allowed to carry cargo, passengers and mail on its jets. This is because they hold Type A operating Licence.

BA has its headquarters at Heathrow Airport. The airline owns 40 per cent of all the slots available at the airport. BA offers its services for over 150 destinations worldwide. There are only ten carriers which fly to all the inhabited continents of the world. British Airways is one of them.

Subsidiaries and Holdings

British Airways runs a fully-owned subsidiary called BA CityFlyer that operated from London City Airport. This is a subsidiary that flies to over 20 destinations in Europe. British Airways also operates the a company of helicopters. These planes are used in offering support services for the offshore oil rigs. This company was sold in 1986.

The Cargo department of BA

British Airways ferries millions of tones of cargo per year. This is done through BA World Cargo. The company hires dedicated freighters to service the routes which are not covered by the passenger route network. They handle both the premium as well as the unusual cargo.


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    • gkerosi profile imageAUTHOR

      Geoffrey Kerosi 

      5 years ago from Nairobi

      Hi alancaster149 ,

      Thank you for reading my hub and leaving encouraging comments. I agree with you that BA gets attention due to its established history. There are other airlines which offer superb services than the ones offered by BA. A good example if Virgin Atlantic Airways that brought a revolution in terms of innovations.

      I am happy to hear that you and your family have atleast some experience flying on BA.

      Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

    • gkerosi profile imageAUTHOR

      Geoffrey Kerosi 

      5 years ago from Nairobi

      Hello conradofontanilla,

      Thank you for stopping by to read my hub and leave a good comment. BA is an established airline and there is plenty of information for us to learn from. I will keep posting more information to keep you updated.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 

      5 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      You've gone to town on this one, Geoffrey! Lots of interesting details, dates and data. BA gets a lot of the official traffic on the grounds its called British Airways, and because of its history, not because it's the best. I've hardly ever flown with BA, the other operators having been KLM (Amsterdam), Aer Lingus (Dublin) and Iberia (Madrid). Mind you, last time I flew anywhere was 1994 to Madrid and someone else picked up the tab (employer) for that one.

      First time I ever flew anywhere was with Clarksons in 1983 to Italy. Before that I travelled frequently across the Continent by train from Ostend to southern Austria with my Mum, and on my own (never going to get my Air Miles bonus at this rate, mate)!

      The wife and 'kids' are much more widely travelled than I am, having been to the USSR, USA, Australia and various other places by different airlines. She prefers Emirates (flying to Australia via Dubai) to BA., and most of the time she's flown with other national airlines. We flew to Rome together in 1980 by BA. I can't say service was any better then than now. Naturally the likes of Seb Coe and 'Becks' get Club class. I might think differently if I had their cash.

    • profile image


      5 years ago


      Nice post. I am expecting a friend from the UK who might be flying on one from London. Familiarity with British airlines helps because my friend will be fetched from the airport in my country.


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