Earlier this year, British Airways announced it would paint four of its aircraft in special retro liveries – unlike other airlines, BA has largely shied away from special aircraft designs (with a few notable exceptions like a dove design for the 2012 London Olympic Games). But as part of its 100 year centenary celebrations the airline is clearly feeling nostalgic and the project has gained a lot of attention.
The first aircraft to feature a retro livery was a 20-year old Boeing 747-400 which was flown to the IAC paint bay at Dublin Airport in February to be painted in a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) livery that adorned the fleet between 1964 and 1974.
At this point it becomes clear that British Airways isn’t in itself 100-years old. In fact, British Airways has traced its history back through a series other airlines that evolved to eventually become the carrier that we know as British Airways in 1974. Going back to 1919, BA’s first forerunner company was actually known as Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T) – credited with launching the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris.
The second livery to be unveiled was on a much smaller scale – an Airbus A319 (G-EUPJ) which would feature a British European Airways (BEA) livery that was originally seen between 1959 and 1968. Unfortunately, the paintshop had to make a slight change, with the upper side of the wing painted in grey rather than the original red in order to comply with modern safety requirements.
The third livery wasn’t much of a surprise but was most definitely a fan favourite. Known as the Landor livery after the design agency that created it, a second Boeing 747-400 (registration: G-BNLY) emerged from the Dublin paint bay earlier this month. The design featured across BA’s fleet between 1984 and 1997 – and considering that this particular 747-400 was delivered new to British Airways in 1993, it means it has repainted in its original paint work.
“The Landor livery is one of our most famous designs,” explained BA’s current chief executive, Alex Cruz.
“Many will remember seeing it in the skies at some point in their lives. Introducing these liveried aircraft has been a huge honour, and we’re excited to reveal details of the final design soon.”
And now we know what the final design is – not that it is much of a surprise either. British Airways has revealed what has long been rumoured – the fourth retro livery will be the Negus design (again, named after the agency that created the design) which will also feature on a Boeing 747-400 (registration: G-CIVB).
British Airways said of the Negus livery:
“When it initially flew, the Negus livery was the first time an aircraft had carried “British Airways” since 1939, when the original British Airways Limited merged with Imperial Airways to form BOAC. Interestingly, the Union Flag is not present on the side of the aircraft as, like the final BEA aircraft livery, the flag began to be fully celebrated on the aircraft’s tailfin instead.”
The aircraft has already flown to Dublin and will return to service later this month. Initial routes for the aircraft have not yet been revealed – although this Twitter account is a good place to keep track of all the retro livery aircraft movements:
Coming soon and just announced…… B747-400 G-CIVB will be returning to the skies in the original version of the Negus & Negus livery, created for British Airways in 1974 upon the merger of BOAC, BEA, Cambrian and Northeast. #BA100 pic.twitter.com/2r3bEQXNYK
— BAretrojets (@BAretrojets) March 14, 2019
Some aviation enthusiasts are sure to be disappointed that British Airways didn’t pick another aircraft model for the final retro livery – perhaps a Boeing or maybe even a 787 Dreamliner. However, BA has made it clear that these liveries are only temporary – they’ve chosen aircraft that are set to be retired in the next few years, with the final two aircraft feating a retro livery (the BOAC and Landor liveries) being retired in 2023.
The BEA livery is being retired next year and the Negus livery will be retired in 2022.
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.