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British Airways repaints a Boeing 747 in BOAC livery (and a potted history of the airline)

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It seems that BA’s 100th birthday celebrations are in full swing, given the mysterious appearance of 2,019 Avios as a ‘birthday bonus’ in many accounts and the £100 seats promotion running this week.

British Airways also announced that a Boeing 747 is being repainted in the livery of the British Overseas Airways Corporation.  This is one of two airlines that merged in 1974 to create the current British Airways.

Here is a picture from 1971 of a very early Boeing 747 in BOAC livery (photo by Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images):

The aircraft, G-BYGC, is due to re-enter service on 18th February.  The plan is that it will retain the BOAC livery until the aircraft is retired in 2023.

Here are some drawings of what we will see (click to enlarge):

British Airways bringing back BOAC livery

This is the old BOAC poster which hangs in the Head for Points office.  It is a genuine one – Antikbar on Kings Road usually has a few in stock if you want something similar.

As you are going to be hearing a lot about the British Airways 100th anniversary this year, I thought it was worth running through a potted history of the airline.  This was sent over by the BA press office who take full responsibility for its accuracy:

On August 25, 1919, British Airways’ forerunner company, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris

In 1924, Britain’s four main fledgling airlines, which had by then evolved into Instone, Handley Page, Daimler Airways (a successor to AT&T), and British Air Marine Navigation Company Limited, merged to form Imperial Airways Limited.

By 1925, Imperial Airways was providing services to Paris, Brussels, Basle, Cologne and Zurich.  Meanwhile, a number of smaller UK air transport companies had started flights and in 1935, they merged to form the original privately-owned British Airways Limited, which became Imperial Airways’ principal UK competitor on European routes.

Following a Government review, Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalised in 1939 to form British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Continental European and domestic flights were flown by a new airline, British European Airways (BEA) from 1946. BOAC introduced services to New York in 1946, Japan in 1948, Chicago in 1954 and the west coast of the United States in 1957. BEA developed a domestic network to various points in the United Kingdom, including Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. 

From 1946 until 1960, BOAC and BEA were the principal British operators of scheduled international passenger and cargo services – and they preserved Britain’s pioneering role in the industry. The 1950s saw the world enter the passenger jet era – led by BOAC, with the Comet flying to Johannesburg in 1952, halving the previous flight time. 

Additional airlines began to pass into BEA’s ownership and in 1967, the Government recommended a holding board be responsible for BOAC and BEA, with the establishment of a second force airline, resulting in British Caledonian being born in 1970.

Two years later, the businesses of BOAC and BEA were combined under the newly formed British Airways Board, with the separate airlines coming together as British Airways in 1974.

In July 1979, the Government announced its intention to sell shares in British Airways and in February 1987 British Airways was privatised.

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Comments (43)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • sayling says:

    Huge soft spot for the BOAC livery!

  • Paul says:

    if only their service could be returned to what it was in the past as easily as they can change a livery.

    The 747 fleet is already clapped out and to hear that it will continue to be flogged till 2023 does not ll me with much confidence. They are filthy, decrepit and unreliable now!

    Britain, and not just BA has long and interesting history some of which it can be very proud of. Whilst recalling that history is all very well, Britain does seem to want to live in the past more than it wishes to look forward. It’s perhaps why the country is in something of a mess’today.

    Painting old livery on old planes is quaint but it doesn’t do anything to bring them in line with modern aviation trends. That for BA appears to be a distant dream.

    • Nick_C says:

      “if only their service could be returned to what it was in the past as easily as they can change a livery.”

      Yes. Perhaps they will rip out the IFE and reinstall the projectors and fold down screens at the front of each cabin. There must be while generation who have never experienced a plastic tube stuck in your ears for a couple of hours while you try vainly to hear the sound of a movie you can barely see.

      The flat beds will have to go of course. And the smoking section should return for everyones enjoyment.

      Not all the changes have been good of course, but the fact is that 40 years ago (when I first flew in a (TWA) 747, a long haul economy ticket cost as much as a J class ticket today.

      “The 747 fleet is already clapped out and to hear that it will continue to be flogged till 2023 does not ll me with much confidence. They are filthy, decrepit and unreliable now!”

      I flew back in a 747 from JFK last year. It had been refurbished to A380 standards. It was clean, comfortable, and on time.

      • Alan says:

        Agree UD on 747 is superb, way better than 777.

      • Andrew says:

        Don’t forget to demand the nationalisation of British Airways too.

        Back to the “good old days”…

    • Ebony414 says:

      I believe it’s a good thing they great queen of the sky

    • Victor says:

      Give it up.

      The age of the airframe has nothing to do with the newness of most components or the opulence of the interior.

      In any case the 747 is faster than anything modern – is that progress to you.

      The other nonsense sounds political and irrelevant.

    • Keith says:

      What rubbish you speak – trying to generalise a quite decent press release into something else. The only thing I will add: the interior of the 747 won’t need to retro refurbished. It’s already looking 40 years old.

    • Alex says:

      You take that back right now!

      If I get a choice between 747 or 777/A380, I will fly the Queen anytime.If only because she won’t be there very soon. I missed the Concorde out of being too young and not having the money, I’m making the best of the iconic 747 whilst she’s around.

      And I agree with other comments, the UD in CW is as good as a First service.

  • John says:

    All this makes me think is “what a waste of paint”

    • Rich says:

      Not if it was due a repaint anyway you miserable bloke, and the article says it will remain in this livery until retirement too.

      • Leo says:

        +1. In these miserable times I find something oddly comforting about this re-spray!

    • Ebony414 says:

      It’s 100 years celebrating people come on

  • Nick says:

    Memories….. I can still well remember the thrill I had a s a kid watching my father deplane from a BOAC plane at Heathrow, watching from the terminal roof.

  • Steve Mellor says:

    Various airlines have painted some of there aircraft in 60,s and 70,s livery. Seeing one of our national airlines 747,s
    In BOAC Livery would be great . For me the 60,s / 70,s BOAC livery looked good on all of there aircraft variations. Back home in Johannesburg we always watched the evening flight return to london . My how its all changed since those days .

  • Anna says:

    I do like the BOAC posters in the BA lounge “facilities”, much more to my taste than their other “art” offerings!

  • Seat54 says:

    Great idea, but shame they are returning one of their relics to its original livery.
    Would be great for them to retro the A350 when it pops it’s head out the delivery shed.

  • Nick_C says:

    Sounds like that BA press release was written by someone on a days work experience.

    BA was the merger of four airlines (Cambrian and North East)

    The creation of British Caledonian was a result of a takeover by Caledonian of BUA (British United Airways) and had nothing to do with BA, although it was later acquired by BA (along with Dan Air).

    • Kevin C says:

      I flew British Caledonian to the Caribbean a couple of times in the nineties. My memory is that it was pretty basic.

    • Rob says:

      Hence my caveat in the text 🙂

    • Nick says:

      I have fond memories of flying BCal regularly to Accra back in the 1970’s. The cabin crew were always good to chat with during the flights. I also once stayed at the Robertsfield Hotel, next to the airport in Monrovia, where the Bcal crew stayed. When I was there they decided to party by the pool, late into the night. I’ll say no more… 😉

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