The world's favorite airline

British Airways was founded in 1974 following the merger of BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) and BEA (British European Airways).
BOAC always had a developed intercontinental network, it started in the 1920's as Imperial Airways and merged with the then British Airways to become BOAC in 1946. I believe that the first aircraft was the Bristol Britannia. BOAC inaugurated the very first intercontinental jet service in 1952 with the DH Comet from London to Johannesburg with intermediate stops. Since then BOAC operated the Vickers VC-10 and later on the Boeing 707 on long haul flights. BOAC was also an early customer for the Boeing 747-100 Series aircraft.
BEA, unlike BOAC, had a short haul network within Europe only and it flew mostly British built airliners which included the Vickers Vanguard, the BAC 1-11 and the HS Trident. BEA flew also the Douglas DC-3 but it was phased out long before the merger.

When the two airlines merged in 1974 into the new airline, a new livery was adopted: a white top and a blue belly, with the British flag on the tail of each aircraft. British Airways became then the main airline of the UK based in London Heathrow. It had a well developed network both in the Europe sector and in the intercontinental sector.
At that time British Airways was flying mostly HS Trident on short haul flights within Europe but it had quite a varied fleet in the long haul sector: the VC-10, the Boeing 707 and 747-100 coming from BOAC as well as the Lochkeed L-1011 Tristar which began service not long after the merger. Eventually the longer range B747-200 Series was added to the fleet.
In 1976, British Airways inaugurated supersonic travel with the Concorde. The Concorde flew initially to Bahrain, Washington DC and New York JFK but for most of the Concorde career at the airline it flew exclusively on the very busy London-New York route until its retirement.

British Airways was, with Eastern, the launch customer for the twin jet Boeing 757 aircraft. The first aircraft arrived in 1983 and eventually over 40 units would be added to the fleet, those would be operated on Shuttle flights within the UK as well as many short and medium haul flights within Europe.
In the middle of the 1980's after the VC-10 and Boeing 707 were retired, a new livery was unveiled. This new livery, called Union Jack, consisted of a gray top with a thin red arrow on the blue belly. It was to be more stylized and show the traveling public a business oriented image. This was not long after two new airplanes where phased in: the Boeing 737 and 757 which I mention above. Those two narrow body Boeings would eventually replace the BAC 1-11 and HS Trident which didn't stay long in the fleet (neither did the L-1011) after the new livery was adopted. The airline was going towards privatization. This was the time when Margaret Thatcher was the Prime Minister of England. Only the Concorde would still be painted in white.
In 1988, Gatwick based British Caledonian which was founded in 1970 was taken over, therefore a fleet of DC-10 and A320 aircraft was inherited. British Caledonian also ordered the A310 but that one didn't stay long in the fleet so it never flew in British Airways colors. BCal was going to buy MD-11's from Mc Donnell Douglas to replace the DC-10's but this order was canceled after the merger. The Boeing 777, which you see clearly in the picture below, was instead chosen as the DC-10 and L-1011 replacement.

About a decade later, not long after the first Boeing 767 and 777 were phased in, the airline progressively moved towards an other livery, a livery showing various features of the world's countries on different aircraft in the fleet. Although the blue belly was still kept, the gray top was eliminated. The airline returned to a white top livery.
In the early 2000's, a new livery was again adopted although only a subtle change. The tails showing various cultures of the world were replaced by a red and blue scarf on the white top and tail on each aircraft, like the scarf of a woman when she walks outside in the wind.

British Airways was one of the founding members of the One World alliance in 1998 with Cathay Pacific, Qantas and American Airlines. Although AA and BA customers are allowed to earn and redeem miles on both airlines either way, earning miles either way was not allowed on transatlantic flights probably because of anti-trust immunity. In other words, if you had an AAdvantage number with American, you could not earn AA miles on BA transatlantic flights or vice versa.
This rule has changed in the early 2010s when AA, BA and IB (Iberia became a One World member in 1999) agreed to build a strong alliance between them. AA and BA customers can now earn and redeem miles on either airline when flying transatlantic.

British Airways received their first Boeing 747-400, G-BNLA, in 1989 when they were still flying the classic 747-200. BA which was the largest operator of the Boeing 747-400 aircraft with as many as 57 units at one time ordered in 2007 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 12 Airbus A380 Super Jumbos. The Dreamliners, the first of which was delivered in the middle of 2013, are to replace the 767's and the A380s, the first of which was delivered also in the middle of 2013, are to replace part of the B744 fleet. A380 service started from LHR to HKG and LAX, JNB being next to see the BA A380 in 2014. The rest of the B744 fleet will eventually be replaced with additional B777's in the long run. I flew in the Summer of 2013 on a BA 747-400, G-BNLV, from LHR to JFK. It doesn't look like the all new B747-8 is appealing to British Airways for future plans in the long haul market. BA is aiming to be "747-free" by the early 2020s, building its future long haul fleet on A380s, B777s and B787s instead.
In the short and medium haul sector, British Airways still has a few 737-400s left but flies mostly A319/320/321 narrow body equipment within UK and Europe. The majority of BA 757's are now flying with DHL as freighters. British Airways flew the final flight of the 757 in October of 2010 from Glasgow to its London Heathrow home base, the airplane registered G-CPET was repainted in the original BA livery unveiled in the 1970s after the merger of BOAC and BEA.

The last Concorde was withdrawn from service in 2003, the era of supersonic travel ended after 27 years. The 757 also lasted 27 years at BA, from 1983 to 2010.

This particular bird, registered G-BOAD, wears the latest livery and remains preserved near the aircraft carrier in Manhattan (New York).
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