24 years after it was listed on the Stock Exchange, British Airways ceased to exist from the trading floor last week. On Monday, shares in the company formerly known as British Airways Plc started trading as International Consolidated Airline Group.
As Willie Walsh and crew embark on the next step in the airline’s future with Spain’s Iberia, let’s take a look at just a handful of BA’s most memorable moments from the past 24 years:
In 1987 Lynn Barton became BA’s first female pilot, flying the 747 fleet. Barton went on to be the first pilot to fly into Heathrow T5. In 2000, BA achieved another first when an all-female crew of seven flew from Manchester to Madrid.
Concorde flew its inaugural service from London Heathrow to Bahrain in 1976. After a turbulent adventure in the skies, BA retired the supersonic airliner from service in 2003.
A new boss
In 2005, 43 year old Willie Walsh was appointed as CEO of Britain’s flag carrier, replacing Rod Eddington who returned to Australia.
A shiny new terminal
Despite the shaky start in March 2008, those that travel through terminal 5 at Heathrow hail it as the best thing since sliced bread. BA worked hard to get its new terminal and, it appears, the pain was worth it. (T5 was initially given the go-ahead by the U.K. government in 2001)
In September 2009, BA commenced a historic new all-business class service from London City to New York’s JFK on two Airbus A318s. The new service defied even its harshest critics and proved to be an enormous success for BA.
Long-haul investment in-short haul
In September 2009, the airline took delivery of the first of its new fleet of 11 e-jets. The E170s and E190s replaced the airline’s ageing Avro fleet at London City.
14 years after British Airways and American Airlines first sought antitrust immunity for a transatlantic pact, the two carriers, along with Iberia, finally joined forces in October 2010 to announce “a new era in competition on the transatlantic”.
757 waves goodbye too
It’s not quite on the scale of Concorde, but a friend at BA told me that one of the most anticipated aircraft retirements she’s seen in her 20-odd years with the company is none other than the 757.
A founding airline of Oneworld, BA has been instrumental in the success of the alliance since it launched in 1998. In November 2010, Russia’s S7 joined the alliance, making it the 12th member and helping BA and its Oneworld friends further extend their reach across the world.
Demonstrating just how seriously BA takes its commitment to charity, the airline joined forces with Unicef in 1994. Over the course of its 15-year partnership with Unicef through the Change for Good program, BA raised over £26 million for the charity. The airline has now joined forces with Comic Relief.
And still to come…Sir Willie in waiting
Since its privatization in 1987, only five men have been at the helm of British Airways: Lord King, Lord Marshall, Sir Bob Ayling, Sir Rod Eddington and of course Mr Willie Walsh. BA’s incumbent chairman, Martin Broughton, was knighted by the Queen in the 2011 honours list, making him Lord Broughton.
It’s only fair that Her Majesty bestows Willie with this very royal honour in 2012.