• Sunday, July 21, 2024
businessday logo


Glamorous entry into the ‘Forty club’: British Airways vintage history delights travellers


Turning forty has never been so glamorous, as seen by presenter Denise Van Outen who modelled a vintage Hardy Amies 1974 air hostess uniform, to mark British Airways fortieth anniversary this week.

The airline, which charts its history back to 1919, became British Airways in April 1974 following the merger of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA).

It’s in good company, along with Victoria Beckham, Leonardo di Caprio, Robbie Williams, David Mitchell, Emilia Fox and Denise Van Outen in Britian- who all join the ’40 Club’ this year.

According to Denise Van Outen,  “Forty is no longer seen as a scary age and I’m looking forward to celebrating my milestone birthday in a few weeks.

“It was really fascinating looking at the vintage British Airways uniforms, to see the craftsmanship and history attached to them. It takes me back to family holidays when I was a kid!”

The airline has searched its historic archives to release past, present and possibly future uniforms to coincide with its ruby anniversary.

They include the first uniform from 1922 on Daimler Airways,  one of British Airways’ predecessors, the Hardy Amies two-piece from the seventies, the current Julien Macdonald uniform, and a sci-fi futuristic concept.

British Airways is also celebrating with special ‘Ruby Murray’ curry dishes on board selected flights departing from London and America in World Traveller cabins in April.

These include a Chettinad Chicken dish and a Keralan vegetable curry – both served with pilau rice and a side of tadka dhal and naan bread.

For those wanting to take an in-depth look back at the airline’s complete history spanning more than 95 years, Paul Jarvis, archivist at the British Airways Heritage Centre has written ‘British Airways: An Illustrated History’, which features historic advertising posters and imagery, which show how attitudes to travel and culture have changed.

Jarvis, said: “The year 1974 was an important milestone for us, bringing together our short-haul and long-haul operations under the same name and organisation.

“The era began with Concorde, then privatisation, then a whole string of innovations right up to the present day. What is most fascinating however, is how attitudes to travel have changed. Forty years ago, a hop over to New York for a shopping trip would have been unthinkable – today it’s a weekend break many of us enjoy every year.

“Today the world is a pretty accessible place, but look back forty years ago and Jersey was the most common holiday destination and the Greek Islands was as exotic as it got!”

In 1974 when BOAC and BEA, amalgamated as British Airways, it had more than 200 aircraft. Today, British Airways has a fleet of more than 280 and flies to nearly 180 destinations around the world. It was voted the Consumer Superbrand in 2014 – the first time an airline has ever been awarded top position.

Prior to 1974, Charles Hardie was appointed as  Chairman of BOAC in succession to Sir Charles Guthrie.

Also, the first flight of Concorde 001 from Toulouse, France took place and was shortly followed by Concorde 002 from Filton, UK on 9 April.

BEA and Air France joint operations began on internal German services while BEA Airtours Ltd., a new subsidiary charter company, was formed.

The first BEA Super One-Eleven flight from London to Berlin took place.  ‘Polar Route’ London-Anchorage-Tokyo-Osaka was inaugurated by BOAC Boeing 707 aircraft.

BEA’s inaugural flight from London to Stuttgart took place. The BOAC Cabin Crew Training Centre at Cranebank opened.

BEA became world’s first airline to publish an entirely computer-produced timetable while Passenger Acceptance and Load Control (PALC), BEA’s computerised check-in system, came into use at the West London Air Terminal.

Between 1979 and 1979: the arrival in 1971 of the Boeing 747, the first wide-bodied jet, and the advent in 1976 of supersonic flight with Concorde presented contrasting new commercial opportunities and challenges. In 1974, British Airways was created by the merger of BOAC and BEA.

Between 1980 to 1989, a new corporate identity, designed by Landor Associates, was unveiled in December 1984 and in 1986 the airline’s longhaul services moved into the newly-built Terminal 4 at Heathrow. The privatisation of British Airways was completed in 1987 under the leadership of Chairman Lord King. In 1988, BA was merged with Gatwick-based British Caledonian Airways.

Around 1990 to 1999, the airline unveiled its new corporate identity incorporating on its aircraft designs from around the world. A new fleet of Airbus aircraft was ordered for short haul services.

The formation was announced in 1999 of a new global alliance – oneworld – which also included Qantas and American.

Also, between 2000 to 2009, with much acclaim Concorde retired from service in 2003. Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was opened by the Queen in March 2008 and orders for new Airbus A380s and Boeing 787 Dreamliners were announced. Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge retired as Chairman of British Airways and was succeeded by Martin Broughton. The airline inaugurated the first longhaul route from London City Airport – to New York.

And from 2010 to present day, subsidiary Open Skies commenced services between Paris Orly and Washington Dulles while the newly-created International Airlines Group (IAG) was formed and takes over British Airways and Iberia.

Willie Walsh became Chief Executive of IAG and Keith Williams takes over as Chief Executive of British Airways. Joint Business Venture with American Airlines is approved. BA takes delivery of B777-300ER aircraft and retires the last B757s.

Terminal 5C opened for business, and London City Airport celebrates 25 years. BA and Iberia cargo are integrated into IAG Cargo Limited while Sir Ross Stainton and Lord Marshall passed away.

At that time, IAG bought  bmi while BA carry the Olympic flame on board an Airbus A319 specially named Firefly and sponsor the Olympics and Paralympics.

Also, S7, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Open Skies all joined oneworld aiance.

In the same period, BA and Qantas terminated their longstanding commercial agreement while BA and Japan Airlines formed new joint business venture.


Sade Williams