British Airways has been flying the flag for Britain since 1974, a result of the merger of British Overseas Air Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA). Despite the airline celebrating its 45th Anniversary this year since the modern airline was formed, the airline celebrates its Centenary as the airline can trace its history back to the first flight of Air Transport & Travel (AT&T) and their DeHavilland DH.16 which flew from London to Paris on August 25th 1919.
From 1919 until 1974, the airline operated as AT&T, Daimler Airway, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA until the two former airlines merged alongside two smaller regional airlines; Newcastle based Northeast Airlines and Cardiff based Cambrian Airways.
British Airways has also added more airlines to expand its operations in 1988 it acquired London Gatwick based British Caledonian (BCal) after years of financial trouble & government interference as UK air travel was regulated at the time, financial woes plagued another long time London Gatwick airline during that time: Dan Air London, which also merged with BA in 1992 after a £1 buy out, making the basis for BA’s current European network at their secondary hub.
In the 1990s to mid-2000’s BA operated franchise agreements with GB Airways and British Mediterranean (BMED), until 2008 when both airlines were brought out by easyJet (who had five years earlier bought BA subsidiary GoFly) and British Midland International, who subsequently in 2012 was merged into British Airways following years of financial loss making.
So lets get down to the fleet profile of British Airways. In this article I’m only focusing on the London Heathrow and London Gatwick based fleets and I’m counting BA Cityflyer and the LCY based Airbus A318 as a separate airline/operation.
Airbus A320-ceo Family
The main centre of the short haul fleet in BA’s 100th Year is the Airbus A320-ceo family which consists of Airbus A319, Airbus A320 and Airbus A321 at London Heathrow. These planes fly domestic UK routes, European routes across the continent and selected routes in Western Asia and North Africa.
The airline has a few ex-BMED Airbus A321 aircraft from the 2012 BMI Merger which the airline uses on flights to the middle-east, these planes have a different cabin configuration dedicated for these operations that carry 154 passengers in a dedicated Business Class/Economy Class layout. They are often seen on the likes of Beruit, Tel Aviv, Moscow and Cairo operating so-called “Long and Skinny” routes, inherited from BMED/BMI.
The Airbus A319 are the start of the current BA fleet which began to arrive at regional bases in 1999, following the consolidation of BA’s operations to London Heathrow/Gatwick, and the retirement of Boeing 737-200/300/500 by 2009, the Airbus A319 fleet has become a common sight at London Heathrow, with ex-BMI A319 air frames exiled to London Gatwick to see the hasty retirement of the final Boeing 737-400’s.
British Airways has 42 mainline A319 active in their LHR/LGW based fleet. Notably there is no G-EUPI in the A319 fleet due to the 1972 Staines Disaster which involved a BEA Trident wearing a “Papa India” registration. The BA A319’s wear registration patterns of G-EUP* and G-EUO*
From 2012 until 2018, nine Airbus A319 wore the London 2012 Olympic Dove colour-scheme, and G-EUPC wore the Olympic “FireFly” colours for a few months in 2012. In 2019, G-EUPJ wears the vintage British European Airways 1958-1967 livery as part of the BA 100 celebrations.
British Airways has 67 Airbus A320-ceo in their fleet. The Airbus A320’s that wear G-EUU* and G-EUY* registration patterns were delivered new to BA from 2002 until 2014, two ex-GB Airways air frames have flown with BA since 2008 after the merger of the former franchise partner with easyJet, and various BMI air frames operate at LHR and some at LGW alternating. A fleet of Airbus A320 delivered to London Gatwick for their operations in 2015/2016 wear G-GAT* registrations and are all second hand from airline including TAM Brasil and Wizzair.
Whilst majority of BA A320’s have the older “triangle” wingtip design, “sharklet” devices have been introduced to 10 of the youngest air frames (G-EUYO to G-EUYY).
BA wasn’t an initial Airbus A320 customer, but inherited a small fleet of already ordered Airbus A320-100 from the merger with BCal in 1988, thus operating a fleet of 7 Airbus A320-100 (G-BUS*) from 1989 until 2007.
The BA Airbus A321 fleet are all registered G-EUX* and make up a fleet of 11 delivered from brand new. More Airbus A321 arrived through the BMI Merger in 2012, which introduced the afore mentioned long-haul A321s, resulting in 22 Airbus A321-ceo air frames in total.
The mainline BA A321’s have 199 seats in a flexible Club Europe/Euro Traveller cabin in similarity to the other two model Airbus. Whilst not always popular with frequent flyers who use Club Europe, this is an industry standard in Europe to allow lower costs and flexibility on different routes and travel seasons.
Since July 2013, the Airbus A380 has become a staple of the British Airways long haul fleet. Whilst some airline are having trouble filling their A380 fleet and are already planning their retirements, British Airways has a good market for their fleet of 12 aircraft at the heavily slot constrained London Heathrow. The Airbus A380 is one of 4 aircraft being used to replace the ageing Boeing 747-400 fleet.
When first introduced, the Airbus A380 was used on the London Heathrow to Frankfurt Main service for crew training in the late summer of 2013.
The A380 in the British Airways fleet carry 469 passengers across four cabins which include First Class, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller. The aircraft are used on high demand tourism routes and OneWorld hubs; which include: Hong Kong, Singapore, Los Angeles, Vancouver, Miami, Johannesburg and Boston. Other routes do change at times subject to demand and operational reasons, this has allowed BA to reduce or condense services and open up new routes with smaller long haul aircraft like the Boeing 787 & 777.
Rumours and hints in the last year have circulated about BA being interested in gaining more second hand Airbus A380 aircraft to allow the airline to condense more flights/services at LHR, but the airline, but for now the airline is seemingly only interested in retaining their current fleet of twelve.
British Airways and the Boeing 747 go all the way back to the beginning of the 747’s history, with Boeing 747-136 G-AWNA delivered in 1970 to BOAC. G-AWNF would do the inaugural flight to JFK from LHR the following year, since then the passenger fleet of BA 747s has featured 101 aircraft spanning three models (-100, -200 and -400).
At the height of their operations, BA operated 57 Boeing 747-436 air frames. The planes featuring one of three patterns of registration: G-BNL* was the first batch starting in 1989, G-CIV* arriving from 1993 and the final aircraft featuring a higher Club World seating capacity than the previous models G-BYG* which came in 1998 & 1999.
G-BNLA was the first to arrive in June 1989 and flew until October 26th 2009, retiring to Victorville in California where it was finally scrapped in 2018. The oldest active Boeing 747-400 in the BA fleet as of 2019 is the City of Swansea, the Landor retro jet delivered in February 1993. The youngest is G-BYGG, which was delivered in April 1999 and is still active in the BA fleet at 20 years old.
Sadly, with the rise of ETOPS aircraft and the delivery of brand new Airbus A380-800, Airbus A350-1000 & Boeing 777-300(ER), Boeing 787-9/10 aircraft since 2013, the Boeing 747-400 fleet is on the way out. The last examples due to retire in 2024, BA’s 50th Anniversary year.
The Boeing 747 has been the only aircraft active in BA’s fleet since its 1974 formation, despite going through three models.
Three of the four heritage aircraft in the BA fleet are Boeing 747’s with G-BYGC wearing the 1969-1974 BOAC livery (also coinciding with the 747’s 50th Anniversary), G-CIVB wearing the original BA livery “Negus” Red Tail and the “City of Swansea” G-BNLY wearing its original “Landor Associates” livery.
The only BA planes in the fleet to wear the “ONEWORLD” logo titles are Boeing 747-400, these air frames are: G-CIVC, D, I, K, L, M, P & Z.
Unfortunately, one of BA’s Boeing 747-436 had an early retirement in November 2013 when G-BNLL struck a building at Johannesburg Airport which resulted in the plane being an insurance write off. Though thankfully no one on either the ground or plane was hurt.
The Boeing 747-400 with the G-BNL* & G-CIV* registrations carry a passenger load of 337 passengers across First Class, Club World, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller, the younger G-BYG* have a higher capacity of Club World (business class) seats, carrying 275 passengers in four cabins with 86 Club World seats, making them ideal on routes to the United States and Arab region where a higher yield of business travellers and frequent flyers can be marketed to.
Despite their final days being announced, the BA 747’s still find themselves flying across a wide variety of locations including: New York JFK, Washington Dulles, Los Angeles, Chicago O’Hare, Accra (Ghana), Nairobi (Kenya), Dubai (UAE), Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait City (Kuwait), Lagos (Nigeria), Las Vegas, Phoenix Sky Harbour (until late 2019), Rio De Janerio (Brazil), Cape Town (South Afirca) and Mexico City (Mexico).
The Boeing 777 has become the largest fleet in the long haul network for British Airways, having over taken the Boeing 747-400 as the back bone. The Boeing 777’s operate out of London Heathrow and Gatwick, as well as flying to all the continents on BA’s Network. Using three variants, the fleet of 58 strong fleet (BA has had 61 all together), has been going strong since 1996.
The airline took on five Boeing 777-200 from 1996 to 1998, which featured G-ZZZA through G-ZZZE, “Zulu Delta” & “Zulu Echo” have left the fleet and at twenty years old, the first three Boeing 777-200 will retire as three newer Boeing 777-300(ER) arrive adding extra capacity and range.
The first Boeing 777-200(ER) arrived in June 1997, and wears an out of pattern registration of G-RAES, a salute to Britain’s ROYAL AERONAUTICAL SOCIETY. All subsequent Boeing 777-200(ER) wear a registration pattern of G-VII* or GYMM*.
G-YMML wears a unique “GREAT Festival of Creativity” livery having worn the unique and noticeable colour scheme since February 2015.
In 2010 the first Boeing 777-300(ER) arrived to begin the replacement of older Boeing 747-400, and these planes now sit at a fleet of twelve with three on order wearing a registration pattern of G-STB*.
On January 17th 2008, G-YMMM operating as BA038 from Beijing Capital to London Heathrow was on final approach into London when its engines ceased to function. Captain Peter Birkhill and F/O Johnathan Coward managed to keep the gliding 777 airborne long enough to clear A30 perimeter road, Hatton Cross train station and Myrtle Avenue (a popular spotting site at LHR) before the plane slammed into the side of Runway 27L, shutting the runway for a period of time whilst emergency services scrambled to the aid of the downed plane. All 152 passengers and crew survived the crash landing, though G-YMMM was destroyed in the crash. Ice crystals had formed in the fuel during the 10 hour flight from China and during landing, a number of these crystals formed and eventually blocked the engine’s oil-heat exchange system causing dual engine flame out on landing. It was a close call for the airline!
The Boeing 777-200 have 216 passenger capacity load factor across four cabins, the Boeing 777-200(ER) carry 226 on a four class cabin layout and either 275 or 336 on a three class layout with no First Class, the Boeing 777-300(ER) carry 299 passengers on a four class layout. This means BA can change aircraft to demand and not have to change crews as the Boeing 777 crews are trained and certified on all types.
The route network covered by the Boeing 777-200/-300 from LHR is varied to include: Madrid (the only European route the 777 flies), New York JFK & EWR, Seattle/Tacoma, Toronto Pearson, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston Intercontinental, Moscow Domededovo, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, Sydney (having replaced the 747-400 in 2014), Mumbai, Dubai, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah, Buenos Aires, Phoenix Sky Harbour (replacing the 747 in late 2019) and Bangkok.
All London Gatwick long haul routes are operated by Boeing 777-200(ER) which includes: Barbados Grantley-Adams, St Lucia, Lima, New York JFK, Toronto Pearson, Las Vegas McCarren, Orlando International, Trinidad Piarco International and Cancun International.
Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The new kid on the block and latest Boeing long-haul airliner in the British Airways fleet, the Boeing 787 has opened up new markets and destinations for BA which previously wouldn’t have been economically viable to perform.
The first two Boeing 787-8 were delivered in July 2013 alongside the first Airbus A380-800 with G-ZBJB arriving shortly before G-ZBJA after the Dreamliner had a technical fault at Seattle before delivery.
The Boeing 787-8 initially replaced the Boeing 767-300(ER) on their long-haul services by 2016. For crew training (like the A380), the Boeing 787 performed flights to Stockholm Arlanda during the summer of 2013. The Boeing 787-8 carry 214 passengers with 35 Club World (business class), 25 World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and 154 World Traveller (economy class) seats. The Dreamliner at the time of its delivery was the first long-haul aircraft at BA to not feature a First Class across the entire fleet.
The Boeing 787-9 fleet began to arrive in September 2015. Allowing for some retirements of older Boeing 747-400, freeing Boeing 777’s to take over some of the 747’s routes. The Boeing 787-9 carries 216 passengers (two more than the smaller -8 model) but unlike the Boeing 787-8, the Boeing 787-9 does feature a First Class Cabin, across 216 passengers and four cabins, the layout consists of eight First Class seats (same as the 777-300ER), 42 Club World seats, 39 World Traveller Plus and 149 World Traveller seats.
British Airways has the Boeing 787-10 on order, they are due to arrive at the start of the new decade with 12 aircraft delivered from 2020 until 2023, alongside the already arrived Airbus A350-1000, they will replace the final dozen Boeing 747-400 aircraft.
The Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 operate a range of destinations new and old. ex-767 routes they operate include: Calgary, Toronto, Baltimore, Cairo, Abu Dhabi and Newark.
Some other destinations they’ve been introduced on either new or replacing the Boeing 747/777 include: Nashville, Seoul, Philadelphia, Santiago (BA’s longest direct route from LHR), Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Tokyo Narita, Austin, New Orleans, Muscat and Jeddah.
The newest member of the British Airways fleet- the Airbus A350-1000 arrived to the BA fleet in late July 2019. Only the second Airbus long haul aircraft to enter the BA fleet (six years after the A380), the A350-1000 has only been used so far on crew training flights to Madrid Barajas so far.
The aircraft is due to be debuted in September 2019 on the Toronto and Dubai routes, this will soon see Bangalore and Tel Aviv added as more Airbus A350-1000 arrive.
A noticeable design feature to the A350 is the “Chatham Dockyard” tail design featuring on the winglets, something not seen on other aircraft in the mainline BA fleet (Airbus A320-ceo/A320-neo or Boeing 747-400).
17 aircraft are due to enter the fleet between 2019 & 2022, the planes carry three cabins; Club World suite (the upgraded business class product) and World Traveller Plus and World Traveller allowing for 331 passengers on a full capacity.
The new jet is show casing the new Business Class cabin which is one of the first major long haul cabin upgrades since the early 2000’s. Members of Travel Radar were present for the aircraft’s media debut to the public a few weeks ago.
Airbus A320-neo Family
The Airbus A320-neo and Airbus A321-neo are the latest move by British Airways to upgrade their short haul fleet. Introducing them to allow the retirement of 22 older Airbus A319 aircraft and various ex-BMI Airbus A320 aircraft.
The Airbus A320-neo have 180 seats per aircraft and allow for an adjustable Business Class to Economy Class cabin ratio for each flight they perform. So far ten aircraft have arrived between April 2018 and February 2019, with another twelve on order. Initially these planes operated out of Terminal 3 at LHR, before branching out into the Terminal 5 network and see service across the entire European network. Given the A320-ceo carries 168 or 177 passengers in one aircraft, the A32N carries 12 or 3 extra passengers on a full capacity.
So far five Airbus A321-neo have been delivered to the airline. They are serving as the replacement for the Boeing 767-300, retried in late-2018. These jets carry 220 passengers on a flexible Economy/Club Europe layout, carrying 21 more passengers than their “A321-ceo” counterpart.
And an extra special honourable mention…………
So I’m doing a fleet review of BA to celebrate their 100th Anniversary.
I just couldn’t bring myself to leave out the Concorde….
Technically, even though they haven’t flown since 2003, the airline still owns their fleet of six Concorde aircraft, which are now scattered across Britain, America and the Caribbean.
When it comes to British Airways- arguably, you can’t think of BA and not think of the pointed, super-sonic airliner that set them apart from other iconic airlines during the 1970’s/1980’s that included: Pan Am, TWA, Lufthansa, KLM, SAS Scandinavian, Finnair, American Airlines and Laker Airways.
British Airways obtained their fleet of seven Concorde aircraft for £1 each in 1976, after a massive oil price crisis and mass environmentalist opposition several airlines backing away from SST aircraft orders, BA and Air France (both airlines being state run at the time) took on the constructed air frames.
British Airways soon found a niche market for their Concorde fleets allowing them to spend most of the aircraft’s 27 year run running a profit and successful marketing tool for the airline. The airline was a keen option for business travellers between London and the East Coast of America (namely New York and Washington DC) as well as chartering their spare planes for luxury holidays and once in a life time experiences.
Fred Finn, a British business man and the most travelled man in the world, logged up 718 flights on Concorde from its inaugural flight to Bahrain in 1976 until the final Speedbird 2 JFK-LHR service on October 24th 2003.
Sadly after the Paris crash in 2000 involving F-BTSC, the 9/11 Attacks which led to a sharp drop in air travel as well as a sudden oil price hike after the Gulf War in Iraq began, alongside Airbus wanting to increase maintenance costs to Concorde- which Air France objected and refused to pay, led to British Airways to retire their iconic super-sonic aircraft.
Six of the Concorde’s ended up in Museums, with G-BOAB stored at London Heathrow allowing BA to keep a Concorde forever present at their hub. Using the plane for training new maintenance personal and occasionally using her at staff family events.
The other six BA Concorde’s are located:
- G-BOAA, East Fortune Museum of Flight- Scotland, UK
- G-BOAC, Manchester Airport Runway Visitor Park- England, UK
- G-BOAD, USS Intrepid Air & Space Museum- New York, USA
- G-BOAE, Barbados Concorde Exhibit- Bridgetown, Barbados (closed)
- G-BOAF, Aerospace Bristol Museum- Filton, England, UK
- G-BOAG, Museum of Flight Renton Field- Seattle, USA
And on that note, I just want to say thank you for reading this article on British Airways fleet and let’s all wish British Airways a happy 100th Anniversary and here’s to the next 100 years! #BA2119
And here are a selection of images of British Airways from spotting sessions and flights I’ve had in the last few years!