Explore our past: 1980 - 1989

British Airways Boeing 757 in Landor colours.
Explore our past: 1980
March British Airtours began replacing its Boeing 707-436 aircraft with Boeing 737-236 aircraft.

A small change to the airline’s livery was introduced. ‘British Airways’ titles were replaced by the single word ‘British’ in large letters on the upper fuselages.


The seventh and final Concorde was delivered.

October BA’s first Boeing 747 freighter, G-KILO, entered service but soon fell victim to the developing economic problems. The aircraft was eventually sold to Cathay Pacific in March 1982.

Deliveries began of a fleet of new Boeing 737-236 aircraft for use on British Airways’ European and UK domestic services, and by Gatwick-based British Airtours.


Fuel prices were rising at the alarming rate of 70% per year. Immediate action came in the form of a survival plan, which called for unprofitable routes to be dropped, staff reductions and the early retirement of older aircraft. Many Trident 1 aircraft had already been retired and these were soon followed by some Trident 2, 707 and the Super VC-10 aircraft, all of which were withdrawn by March 1981.

Explore our past: 1981

Two Boeing 747-136 aircraft were sold to TWA.


The recession continued to deepen. Several Boeing 747-236 aircraft were delivered directly into storage in the USA and offered for sale.

Explore our past: 1982

A reorganisation into business centres took place, creating an Intercontinental Division to administer long-haul routes, European Division for short-haul and UK domestics and the Gatwick Division for all operations from Gatwick including British Airtours.


British Airways launched into the Concorde charter market.


The Highlands Division was established as an autonomous unit in a successful attempt to reverse many years of losses on Scottish routes. Three additional HS748 aircraft were acquired on lease to replace the airline’s final Viscounts.

Explore our past: 1983

Boeing 757 aircraft were introduced, initially on Shuttle routes followed by European routes during the summer. The airline’s Tristar 500 aircraft were sold to the Royal Air Force.


“The World’s Favourite Airline” advertising campaign was launched.


16 additional Boeing 737-236 aircraft were order as Trident replacements, ahead of the 1986 noise deadline.

Explore our past: 1984

Concorde services to Washington were extended to Miami, three days a week.


BA retired its final Boeing 707, which had been operating with British Airtours.

1 April The airline became British Airways plc.
July A Civil Aviation Authority review led to the publication of a White Paper which recommended a reduction in the size of BA and the transfer of many route to British competitors. After much pressure from the airlines and its employees the final result was the transfer during April 1985 of the Saudi Arabian routes to British Caledonian (BCAL) in exchange for the South American routes.
4 December BA unveiled a new livery, designed by Landor Associates of California. The design was to portray a different image while retaining some elements of the previous style.
Explore our past: 1985
April Two Air Lanka Tristar 500 aircraft were leased to operate the ex-BCAL South American services.
31 December The last two Trident aircraft were retired.
Explore our past: 1986
4 April British Airways longhaul flights at Heathrow moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 together with selected shorthaul routes. All other shorthaul services continued to operate from Terminal 1.
August The largest single aircraft order ever placed was made by British Airways, for 16 Boeing 747-436 aircraft plus another 12 on option worth US$4.3m and destined, at the time, to replace the 747-136 aircraft.

British Airways and United sAirlines announced a worldwide marketing partnership.


The inaugural British Airways Concorde scheduled service to Barbados was operated.

Explore our past: 1987
February British Airways was finally privatised in a hugely oversubscribed flotation. Over one million applications were received for shares, offered at 125p, making the offer 11 times oversubscribed. Trading in British Airways shares began on 11 February.
July A merger with financially troubled British Caledonian was announced and implemented in December after an agreement to drop some of BCAL’s slots had been reached. BA acquired a fleet of eight DC-10 aircraft, five miscellaneous Boeing 747 aircraft, 13 BAC 1-11-500 aircraft and an order for 10 Airbus A320 aircraft. This was the first time that British Airways had owned DC-10 aircraft and they remained in operation at Gatwick for another 11 years.
August Eleven Boeing 767-336 aircraft, plus another 15 options, were contracted for.
Explore our past: 1988
January Two new brands, Club World and Club Europe were introduced.
March British Airways services at Gatwick transferred to the new North Terminal.

Airbus A320 aircraft began service, initially from Gatwick’s new North Terminal. The A320 aircraft were eventually transferred to Heathrow in November and have been based there since.


As part of the changes associated with the BCAL merger, British Airtours was re-named Caledonian Airways and adopted a lion-tailed livery and tartan uniforms similar to those of BCAL.

October An order for 24 Boeing 737-300, 400 and 500 aircraft was placed along with another for six Boeing 767-336 aircraft and a Boeing 757. The new 737 aircraft were delivered from 1991.
Explore our past: 1989
January The BAe Advanced Turbo-Prop (ATP) entered service.
March The airline’s new First Class service was introduced.
28 July BA’s first Boeing 747-400 service; G-BNLC flew London-Philadelphia-Pittsburg.
September The Super Shuttle brand was relaunched, flying to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester and Belfast.
October Shareholders approved a 15% investment in United Airlines. However, the bid was withdrawn when other partners in the planned buy-out failed to raise financing.
December An agreement was reached to acquire a 20% shareholding in Sabena World Airlines. The other partners in the joint venture were Sabena and KLM. The proposal was eventually approved by the UK Monopolies and Mergers Commission in July 1990, but the European Commission had already issued a statement of objection, requesting further information in June 1990. In December 1990, the three partners eventually decided not to proceed with the plan.