9 Surprising Facts About British Airways

British Airways aircraft lined up at London Heathrow with one aircraft taking off.

The flag carrier of the United Kingdom, British Airways has a long history of records, aviation feats, and creating aviation history as a founding member of… well, you’ll have to read on to find out who!

The history of British Airways is pretty interesting once you begin digging into the details, and so here are 9 facts about British Airways you may not know:

1. Code name: Speedbird

Speedbird is the iconic call sign of British Airways. It originated from the logo of the former British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), which featured a stylized bird in flight. The call sign is still used by British Airways pilots today.

2. Connecting the World

British Airways once operated the world’s longest non-stop commercial flight. From 1989 to 2013, BA operated a route between London Heathrow and Auckland, New Zealand, covering a distance of approximately 11,400 miles (18,450 kilometers) in around 23 hours.

In stark comparison, in 1997, British Airways briefly held a record for the fastest transatlantic flight by a commercial aircraft. A supersonic Concorde, operated by BA, completed the journey from New York to London in just under 2 hours and 53 minutes. Today, on a B777 we’d expect this flight to take 7hrs and 20-50minutes on average!

3. Pioneering luxury travel

In 1991, British Airways became the first airline to offer fully flat beds in First Class initially. This innovation revolutionized long-haul travel comfort and set a new standard for premium cabin experiences.

British Airways was also the first airline to offer fully enclosed private suites in First Class. Known as the “First Suite,” it provided passengers with a private space featuring a seat that converted into a fully flat bed.

4. Did you know they had a Low-Cost Airline?

In 1993, British Airways created a subsidiary airline called “Go Fly“. It was a low-cost carrier intended to compete with other budget airlines operating flights out of London Stansted Airport to destinations in Europe. However, in 2001, GO was sold to easyJet, another prominent low-cost carrier.

5. Founding members of the OneWorld Alliance

Founded on 01 February, 1999, Oneworld was unveiled by its founding members, American Airlines, British Airways, Canadian Airlines International, Cathay Pacific and Qantas with the goal of offering it’s passengers smoother transfers across member airlines, greater support to passengers, and more codeshare agreements to name just a few.

Since Oneworld’s launch in 1999, today there are 13 full members with Oman Air looking to join the alliance in the coming years. Here’s too

6. Now that’s a lot of cuppas!

We know that Brits love their cuppas, but did you know that British Airways serves up approximately 25 million cups of tea each year? Now where’s the biscuit tin!

7. British Airways terminal at Heathrow is worth transiting through!

Love it or hate it, British Airways’ home base is at London’s Heathrow Airport! At the airport, the airline  has its own exclusive terminal at called Terminal 5. Opened in 2008, it is one of the largest free-standing structures in the UK and serves as the main base for BA’s operations.

8. They’ve helped the British war effort

In 1982, during the Falklands War, British Airways operated a secret mission to deliver a replacement engine for a Royal Air Force Vulcan bomber that had been damaged in action. The engine was flown to the Falkland Islands under the cover of a civilian BA flight.

9. It is one of the few airlines which offers a course for nervous flyers

One of my favourite things about British Airways if they offer a course for anxious flyers! Called ‘Flying with Confidence‘ these courses spend a full-day breaking down the technical side of flying, while unpacking your fears with their trained psychologists to help you understand and navigate your anxiety. Finally, in the afternoon there is a flight on a BA jet with running commentary from a course pilot from the flight deck.
The courses run from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Dubai and Johannesburg (the later two cities offer only ground courses). More recently, they’ve also launched an online course for nervous flyers!