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British Airways celebrates its 100th birthday

British Airways Concorde. Photo: © Ralf Manteufel

At 9:10 am on 25 August 1919 an Airco DH. 4A, for Air Transport and Travel Ltd. (AT & T) started at London Hounslow Heath Airport in the direction of Le Bourget Airport in Paris. It was the brand's first international commercial flight that became British Airways today. The flight lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes with a single passenger, Evening Standard newspaper reporter George Stevenson-Reece.


The development of the brand since this first historic flight was complex. AT & T itself lasted only 1

5 months when it was bought in 1920 by Daimler Airway, a subsidiary of BSA – Birmingham Small Arms' own Daimler Company. In December 1920, AT & T ceased operations as a separate unit and officially became Daimler Airway. The brand remained as such until in April 1924 Daimler Airway merged with British Marine Air Navigation, Handley-Page Transport and Instone Airline to form Imperial Airways.

With the birth of Imperial Airways, the brand of an aviation legend was born. The British brand was the main European rival of the US aviation pioneer Pan American World Airways and began as a flagship of the then British Empire to map routes around the world. The Imperial Airways logo was the "Speedbird", a brand that has become synonymous with the brand over its 95-year history.

The name British Airways, however, began on a parallel timeline. In 1935, Hillman's Airways, United Airways and Spartan Air Lines merged to form British Airways Ltd. In November 1939, Imperial Airways merged with British Airways Ltd. to another new airline: British Overseas Airways Corporation, also known as BOAC. The new flag-headed airline sported the Speedbird logo, taking the call sign "Speedbird" that British Airways still uses today.

BOAC Boeing 747-100. Photo: © Richard Vandervord

Today's British Airways

In 1974, BOAC merged with British European Airways (BEA) to form what is now British Airways. The BEA airline was born in 1946 and flew, as the name implies, short and medium distances within Europe. Interesting information about BEA is that although the airline had many hubs in the UK, its only hub abroad was the now defunct Tempelhof Airport in Berlin, which established British Airways' historic connection with Germany – and even a subsidiary, the Germans BA (later), founded In 2011, the Spanish airline Iberia merged with British Airways to form the International Airlines Group (IAG), which today is among the largest airline group in the world. As a result, the Irish airline Aer Lingus and the low-cost airlines Vueling and Level have been merged and all IAG airlines have retained their own identity.

While British Airways has always and continues to use the call sign "Speedbird", the logo itself was adapted to the "Speedwing" in 1984 with the introduction of Landor livery. In 1997, this changed again in today's "speed marque" of Chatham Dockyard.

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