British Airways is the UK’s largest international airline by fleet size and second only to EastyJet for the number of passengers carried. As one of the founding members of the OneWorld alliance, British Airways and its partners serve around 1,000 destinations across the globe.
If you’re attending an Assessment Day at British Airways you’ll be expected to have an in-depth knowledge of the airline – and assume that knowledge will be checked. Use this quick cheat sheet to get all the key facts, figures and insider knowledge to impress the recruiters.
The cheat sheet is broken into eight sections: Key Facts, Main Talking Points, History & Heritage, Key Innovations, Classes of Travel, Airline Alliance & Frequent Flyer Club, Charity Efforts, Destinations and Aircraft Fleet
UPDATED: October 2017
Motto: To Fly, To serve
Home Base: London Heathrow Airport
Age: 97 years old. Celebrated its 90th birthday on 25th August 2009
Parent Company: British Airways and the Spanish flag carrier, Iberia, merged in 2011 to form a parent company called International Airlines Group (IAG). Since then, the low-cost carrier, Vueling, Aer Lingus of Ireland and the new low-cost carrier LEVEL have also become part of the IAG group of airlines. The CEO of IAG is Willie Walsh.
Annual Passenger Numbers: More than 40 million passengers a year (interesting fact: Passengers consume 35 million cups of tea, 36.5 million meals and 3.7 million bottles of wine every year.)
Chairman & CEO: Alex Cruz – Having spent his entire career in the aviation industry, Cruz took his position at British Airways in April 2016. Before joining BA, Cruz was the CEO of Vueling.
Employees: Approximately 40,000 – including, 15,000 Cabin Crew and 3,600 pilots
Call Sign: Speedbird (or ‘Shuttle’ for domestic flights)
Main Talking Points
If you need the shortest and sweetest of cheat sheets then this is the section for you.
1. A rich heritage
British Airways has a rich heritage and its history dates back to the very birth of commercial aviation. It is now 97 years old.
2. An iconic brand
The airline is a well-loved British brand that had appeared in the ‘Super-Brands’ list time and time again. It topped the list for both 2015 and 2016. The service and style of British Airways are iconic.
3. An innovative, market-leading airline
British Airways has a proud history of innovating and pushing boundaries. It introduced the world’s first-ever fully-flat beds in both First Class and Business Class. It introduced Premium Economy before other airlines and has invested in the latest aircraft. It has not been afraid to face up to changes in the airline industry – In January it introduced Buy-on-Board on some flights.
4. Famous British Service
People choose to fly with BA time and time again because they love the famous British service they experience. At the same time, BA is proud of its multi-cultural workforce and their ability to provide a personal service to customers, no matter where they’re from in the world.
5. Safety and Expertise
Passengers trust British Airways to get them to their destination safely. They know that BA invests in training, engineering and experience. British Airways cabin crew are highly respected for their competence and ability to remain calm in a crisis.
6. A responsible Airline
Through its Flying Start programme, British Airways has raised £14 million for Comic Relief. The airline also supports local projects and has a number of training schemes for its staff.
The history of what is now British Airways can be traced back to the birth of civil aviation. The forerunner of what is now BA launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris on 25th August 1919.
In turn, Imperial Airways was created in 1920 – opening up services to more European services and even to Africa, the Middle East and India.
A succession of other companies came and went – these included the British Overseas Air Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways (BEA). In 1971, BOAC took delivery of it’s first Boeing 747. A few years later, BOAC and BEA merged to form what is now British Airways.
In 1976, BA introduced commercial supersonic travel with the introduction of Concorde. In 1987 British Airways was fully privatised. The current British Airways logo was unveiled in 1997. Two years later, BA formed the OneWorld Alliance, along with American Airlines and Qantas.
In 2008, Terminal 5 – the dedicated IAG terminal at Heathrow – was officially opened by the Queen. In 2011, British Airways and Iberia merged to form the International Airline Group.
- October 2017 – Luxurious new bedding and amenities exclusively designed for British Airways by The White Company are introduced initially on the LHR to New York JFK. The products will be rolled out across further routes in the coming months.
- April 2017 – an investment programme is announced that will see £400 million pumped into improving the Club World service. This will see lounges being updated, an improved in-flight dining experience and a better experience for passengers who wish to sleep onboard. Select premium lounges are also set to be refurbished (See ‘classes of travel’ for more information).
- April 2017 – A new ‘First Wing’ opens at Terminal 5, Heathrow. First Class passengers have an exclusive check-in area with dedicated security lanes and direct access to BA lounges.
- January 2017 – In partnership with Marks & Spencer, BA introduces buy-on-board food and beverages for all economy passengers on domestic and European flights.
- January 2017 – British Airways marks its 1 millionth follower on Twitter – it becomes the UK’s most popular airline on the social media site.
- December 2016 – Marks four years of operating services from Leeds Bradford Airport to London Heathrow. In that time more than half a million passengers have been travelled with BA between the two airports.
- September 2016 – Paralympians representing Great Britain arrive home from the Rio 2016 Paralympic, on a specially commissioned British Airways flight – BA2016.
- August 2016 – Team GB arrive home from the Rio Olympic Games on British Airways flight BA2016. The plane used for the special service was named ‘victoRIOus’ and had the hashtag #greattobeBAck painted on its side.
- August 2016 – The ‘Flying with Confidence’ course for nervous flyers marks its 30th year. In this time, the course has helped 50,000 people overcome their fear of flying.
- January 2016 – BA announces that it intends to recruit a record number of pilots and Cabin Crew. The number of flying crew will top 20,000 for the first time in the airline’s history.
British Airways has a proud tradition of innovating and pushing the boundaries within the airline business. BA transformed premium travel in the 1990’s and has fearlessly changed the way it operates in a constantly changing market.
- September 1995 – Fully flat beds are introduced to First Class. British Airways is the first airline to install this new type of seat for premium travellers.
- March 2000 – The first airline to introduce fully flat beds in Business Class. The famous ying-yang design was patented by British Airways and the basic layout is still the same today.
- November 2000 – Premium Economy is introduced. BA becomes the world’s first airline to introduce a fourth travel class to its aircraft.
- August 2013 – A Business Class-only service begins between London City Airport and New York. The flight takes the famous call sign: Speedbird One.
- January 2017 – Responding to the threat from low-cost carriers and the changing needs of travellers, BA introduces Buy-on-Board for economy passengers on European and domestic routes.
- April 2017 – Short-haul Wi-Fi will be introduced later this year. BA is getting Europe’s first ever 4G in-flight network. By 2019, 90% of the short-haul fleet will be connected.
Classes of Travel
British Airways has four main classes of travel: Economy, Premium Economy, Business Class and First Class. These, in turn, are broken down into categories depending on whether the service is a domestic, European or long-haul flight. BA have their own names for each class of travel.
UK Domestic: Since April 2017, domestic routes have been rebranded Euro Traveller and Club Europe.
Euro Traveller: The main cabin on all European and domestic flights (from 01st April). BA offer three fare types in this cabin – Basic (hand luggage only), Plus (with checked luggage allowance) and Flex Plus (fully flexible ticket). In January 2017, BA removed complimentary catering in Euro Traveller. Customers can now buy Marks & Spencer snacks onboard.
World Traveller: The name for economy class on all long-haul flights. Passengers enjoy complimentary catering and most flights offer audio/video entertainment on demand. On flights from Heathrow, BA offers a generous seating configuration of 3-3-3 on Boeing 777 flights.
Premium Economy Class
World Traveller Plus: Only available on select long-haul flights. Passengers receive an enhanced meal service in a smaller cabin. Seats are wider than the standard Economy class with an increased pitch, recline and the addition of a footrest.
Club Europe: A smaller cabin at the front of the plane on all European and domestic routes. Passengers gain access to BA lounges and are served complimentary food and drink onboard. The seats are the same as the economy cabin but the middle seat is blocked out.
Club World: The standard Business Class for the majority of long-haul flights. The seat converts into a 6ft fully flat bed with memory foam mattress and quilted blanket. Passengers enjoy an enhanced meal service and drinks selection. Toiletries are provided by British skincare brand, Elemis.
From September, a new restaurant-style, dining service will be introduced with dishes served on beautiful new table settings.
New bedding designed by The White Company is being introduced from October. This will include new linen, bigger pillows, a soft mattress topper and duvet.
Club World London City: A specially operated Airbus A318 aircraft with just 32 seats that convert into fully flat beds. The service operates between London City airport and New York JFK. Passengers pre-clear U.S. Immigration and Customs at Shannon Airport where the plane stops briefly to refuel.
First: Marketed as a private suite with a seat that converts into a 6ft 6in fully flat bed. The turndown service includes a quilted mattress, cotton duvet and pillow. Passengers are provided with a sleep suit and a Liberty London amenity kit that contains Aromatherapy Associates products. A special lounge, reserved exclusively for First passengers is available at select airports.
Airline Alliance & Frequent Flyer Club
British Airways is a member of the Oneworld airline alliance. The alliance brings together 15 global airlines who cooperate for mutual benefits. BA was one of the founding members of Oneworld, along with American Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
The Oneworld member airlines operate 14,000 daily flights to some 1,000 destinations across the globe.
British Airways Executive Club
First launched in 1985, the British Airways frequent flyer club now has more than seven million members. The programme recently switched from a mileage-based system to revenue based. This means that the highest spending customers are most rewarded.
The currency for the Executive Club is called Avios. Members earn Avios on every British Airways and partner airline flight they take. Avios can also be collected from other programme partners – such as at hotels, wine clubs, car rental etc.
Avios can be spent on reward flights or as part-payment towards the full cost of a standard ticket.
Whenever a passenger flies with British Airways or a partner airline they also earn Tier Points. By collecting Tier Points a member can gain status with BA and other Oneworld airlines that reward them with additional benefits. There are four levels of the Executive Club:
- Blue: The initial level that every member starts at.
- Bronze: Priority check-in and advanced seat selection. 20% bonus Avios collection.
- Silver: Priority check-in, priority boarding, access to BA business lounges, free seat selection at the time of booking and additional luggage allowance. 50% bonus Avios collection.
- Gold: First Class check-in and boarding, access to BA First Class lounges, free seat selection at the time of booking and additional luggage allowance. 100% bonus Avios collection.
British Airways works in partnership with Comic Relief through its Flying Start programme. Over £14 million has been raised to help “children living incredibly tough lives around the world” in the last six years.
BA encourages its staff to become Flying Start Champions who take part in individual and group fundraising activities.
The airline also supports Dreamflight. For thirty years, the charity has raised money to charter a British Airways jet and fly almost 200 children with a serious illness or disability to Florida for a trip of a lifetime.
Number of Destinations: 183
British Airways flies to more than 170 destinations in 70 countries. It is said to be one of only a few airlines to fly to all six permanently inhabited continents.
These are just some of the new routes that British Airways have launched in the last 12 months. As well as strengthening its core long-haul business from London Heathrow, BA is also introducing seasonal routes from smaller UK airports to popular holiday destinations.
- British Airways will launch a brand new 5-times weekly service from Heathrow to Nashville starting May 2018.
- From March 2018, British Airways will restart its direct service from London to the Seychelles with a seasonal twice weekly service.
- Four times weekly service from Heathrow to New Orleans started on 27th March 2017. Ahead of the official launch, BA operated a VIP-charter flight for Mardi Gras with a live performance from Nicole Scherzinger.
- New seasonal summer-only flights from Birmingham and Bristol to Malaga, Ibiza and Palma and the Italian city of Florence.
- A new all-year round to service to Milan from London City and London Stanstead airports began on 24th April 2017.
- The first BA route from Gatwick to California started on 28th March 2017 with a new service to Oakland.
- Another addition to the Gatwick schedule will be a new service to Fort Lauderdale in Florida that begins on 06th July 2017.
- In September 2016, British Airways restarted services to the Iranian capital, Tehran.
- Marking BA’s longest flight, a new service to Santiago, Chile began on 03rd January 2017. The flight takes 14 hours and 40 minutes on the way out and is operated by a Boeing 787-9.
Click the following link for a full list of new British Airways destinations for 2017.
Aircraft & Fleet
BA operate a wide range of aircraft and has 268 planes in its fleet to serve domestic, European and long-haul routes.
The following aircraft are based at London Heathrow airport:
- Airbus A319 – 44 in the fleet. Flies to destinations that include Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester, Nice and Brussels.
- Airbus A320 – 68 in the fleet. Flies to destinations that include Glasgow, Paris, Tenerife, Madrid and Rome.
- Airbus A321 – 18 in the fleet. Flies to destinations that include Newcastle, Cairo, Glasgow and Moscow.
- Boeing 767 – 7 in the fleet. Flies to destinations that include Athens, Istanbul, Rome, Frankfurt and Stockholm.
- Boeing 777-200 – 46 in the fleet. Flies to destinations that include Bermuda, Chicago, Buenos Aires and New York.
- Boeing 777-300 – 12 in the fleet (Passenger capacity: 214 in a four-class configuration). Flies to destinations that include Tokyo, Dallas, Seattle and Sydney.
The Boeing 747-400
British Airways is the worlds largest operator of the iconic 747 jumbo jet. There are currently 37 of the aircraft in the BA fleet.
A total of 18 747’s will undergo a major make-over that will see more Business Class seats added, a refresh of cabin upholstery and a new in-flight entertainment installed.
- Boeing 747-400 – 37 in the fleet (Passenger capacity: 345 in a four-class configuration). Flies to destinations that include Beijing, Lagos, Phoenix, Cape Town and Las Vegas.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner
BA operate both the 787-8 and larger 787-9 aircraft. These new aircraft are 20% more fuel efficient than similar sized jets and are made up of 50% composite material. The serrated edges around the engines reduce noise both inside and outside the cabin by up to 60%.
The aircraft has windows that are 30% larger than similar jets and instead of pull-down shades they have an electrochromic dimming system. Passengers benefit from higher humidity and lower pressurisation in the cabin which makes for a more comfortable journey.
Once all deliveries are complete, British Airways will have a total of 42 787’s in its fleet.
- Boeing 787-8 – 9 in the fleet (Passenger capacity: 214 in a three-class configuration) – Flies to destinations that include Baltimore, Tel Aviv, New Orleans, Toronto and Seoul.
- Boeing 787-9 – 16 in the fleet (Passenger capacity: 216 in a four class configuration) – Flies to destinations that include Abu Dhabi, Dehli, Dubai, Shanghai, Boston and San Jose.
The Airbus A380-800
Said to be the greenest aircraft commercial passenger aircraft in the world. The A380 has the lowest cost per seat and lowest emissions per passenger of any large aircraft. In comparison to BA’s fleet of 747 Jumbo jets, the A380 is 50% quieter on takeoff.
- Airbus A380-800 – 12 in the fleet (Passenger capacity: 469 in a 4 class configuration) – Flies to destinations that include Boston, San Francisco, Washington, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and Singapore.
The A380 service to Boston will begin on 26th March 2017.
The Airbus A350
British Airways is to take delivery of the first of its 18 ordered Airbus A350 aircraft in 2018. The A350 will feature a new Business Class seat – the first upgrade for a number of years. The jet is said to be 25% more fuel efficient than similar-sized aircraft and can perform flights of up to 19 hours.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.