In 2019, to mark its centenary, British Airways announced that it would paint four of its aircraft in the airline’s most-loved designs from throughout its history.
“The history of various liveries, badges and other marks of identification used by British Airways and its predecessor companies is long and varied, spanning the last 100 years.”
The BEA ‘red square’ livery flew predominantly on domestic and European routes between 1959 and 1968. The modernised design saw the Union Flag removed from the tailfin and a smaller one placed on the nose. A deep black line traced the window line and tip of the tail, while a prominent large red square was added to the tailfin with the initials BEA. Red elements on the wings were added to give an impression of streamlining, speed and elegance. Red has since featured in our colour palette and can be seen in the current Speedmarque.
The BOAC ‘Gold Speedbird’ livery was used on BOAC aircraft between 1963 and 1974. The BOAC livery colours of dark blue and gold were taken from BOAC’s coat of arms, with the main body painted white. It was discovered in the 1950s that painting the body white reflected the sunlight, keeping the aircraft cooler than retaining the natural silver finish or the aluminium bodywork.
The British Airways ‘Negus’ livery which was used between 1974 and 1984. As BEA (British European Airways) and BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) merged to become British Airways in 1974, elements of both of their liveries were incorporated together to create this new livery, designed by creative agency Negus & Negus. The modern and fresh design was based on the British national colours of red, white and blue. It featured a streamlined evolution of the BOAC and BEA insignia by way of a quartered Union Flag with a red tip on the tailfin and the Speedbird symbol on the nose.
The iconic British Airways ‘Landor’ livery was designed by Landor Associates and used between 1984 and 1997. As British Airways prepared for the privatisation that would take place in 1987, a new livery and fresh corporate identity was created. A key part of the design was incorporating the best of British Airways’ past while being innovative and recognisably British. The quartered Union Flag on the tailfin was retained from the previous ‘Negus’ livery and the addition of the Coat of Arms against the midnight blue was promoted as a ‘touch of class’. The Speedbird symbol, that had been ever-present on British Airways and aircraft, was stylised to create the new red Speedwing; which was designed to become an integral part of the livery and synonymous with British Airways.
In 1997 British Airways unveiled its new World Images livery, designed to completely replace the Landor livery across the airline. Under the code name Project Utopia, the livery intended to ‘reflect the best of British values blended with the nation’s more modern attributes – its friendly, youthful, diverse and cosmopolitan outlook which is open to many cultures’. At the heart of the livery change were 50 images representing examples of ethnic art from across the world.
“At the heart of the livery change were 50 images representing examples of ethnic art from across the world.”
British Airways repainted nine A319s with a dove design to mark the London 2012 Olympics. The design, by Brighton-based designer Pascal Anson, was the result of a contest, run by the company with the aim of promoting British talent in the run up to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Turner prize-nominated artist Tracey Emin was on the judging panel which picked Mr Anson’s design from hundreds of entries. Additionally, British Airways created a special yellow, orange and gold livery for the aircraft that transported the Olympic Flame from Athens to London – named The Firefly.
Union flag / Chatham Dockyard
One of the 1997 Utopia tails, also known as ‘Chatham Dockyard’, became the standard British Airways tail livery after the phased withdrawal of all other Utopia tails. The design was based upon a stylised Union flag as flown by English naval commander Lord Nelson who’s fleet was based at the historic Chatham Royal Dockyard. This remains as the airline’s most current livery.