Travel: Britannia Rules the Skies: 100 Years of British Airways
As anyone who remembers when flying commercial meant fine china, smoking sections and nary a flip-flop or yoga pant in sight will tell you, a lot has changed with air travel in just a few short decades. Which is nothing compared to the evolution British Airways has seen.
Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the airline was known as Air Transport & Travel when it flew the world’s first commercial scheduled air service from Hounslow Heath to Paris on August 25, 1919. Since then, the legacy airline has operated under several names (including BOAC, Imperial Airways, and BEA) and undergone many changes (including the success—and discontinuation—of its supersonic Concorde service), but through it all, the company has continued to evolve to serve the needs of contemporary travelers. Today, a British Airways aircraft takes off somewhere in the world every 90 seconds, on its way to one of over 200 destinations in more than 75 countries.
To commemorate its milestone birthday,British Airwaysis investing £6.5 billion in new developments and launches over the next five years, from new designer-crafted uniforms to lounge openings, re-envisioned cabins, and upgraded tech amenities. It’s also a time to celebrate the airline’s past, notes Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO. “Our history has shaped who we are today, so our centenary is the perfect moment to revisit our heritage and the UK’s aviation landscape,” he says.
With up to 145,000 customers flying with the airline every day, BA is actively investing in and pioneering the use of technology and automation to enhance the passenger experience and ensure that flights depart on time. This includes being the first UK airline to introduce automated biometrics, including facial recognition, at self-service boarding gates for domestic flights, which helps cut boarding time in half. This has also been introduced on some international flights, with smartphone facial identification or cutting-edge AI allowing passengers in Los Angeles, Orlando, and New York to board using only their faces—no passport required. Self-service bag drops; high-tech remote-controlled Mototok tugs that help planes push back faster; and other new technologies are also being rolled-out more extensively. It all makes us wonder—what will the skies look like for BA in another 100 years?