The Evolution Of The British Airways Livery

Liveries are an interesting way to mark the time and history of an airline. In this article, we wanted to go over the evolution of the British Airways livery – from its creation through the merger of several airlines through to today and the livery we are all used to seeing.

The Evolution Of The British Airways Livery
British Airways BEA, BOAC, Negus, Chatam Dockyard and Landor liveried aircraft at London Heathrow
(Picture by Nick Morrish/British Airways)


As you may have already known, British Airways was formed through the merger of several airlines: BOAC, BEA, NEA, and Cambrian. For quite a few years after the official merger, many of the aircraft kept their old colors and applied British Airways titles.

A British Airways 747 BOAC livery
After airlines were merged to form British Airways, many existing aircraft kept existing color schemes but added “British Airways” titles. Photo: Steve Fitzgerald via Wikimedia Commons

Negus & Negus

Then in 1974, the fleet was given a fresh look designed by firm Negus and Negus. British Airways described it as “a modern and fresh design was based on the British national colors 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.”

In 1980 there would be a slight change to the titling while in 1984, there would be experimentation with a silver top – as you can see in the photos below (and their respective captions).

British Airways 747 Negus
Its bold red tail distinguished the Negus design. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikipedia
British 757 negus
At the beginning of the 1980s, British Airways dropped the “Airways” from its livery in favor of just the word “British” enlarged. Photo: Mark Harkin via Wikimedia Commons
737 Silver negus
In late 1984 BA experimented with a silver-topped version of the Negus scheme on a 737-200. Photo: Eduard Marmet via Wikimedia Commons

Landor Associates

Designed by the famous design house Landor Associates, an updated scheme was unveiled in December 1984. It was quite similar to the Negus scheme, but the white roof was replaced with ‘Pearl Grey’ and the belly replaced with ‘Midnight Blue’. The speedbird was replaced with a ‘Brilliant Red’ speedwing running along the lower fuselage. The title font was also changed and capitalized.

747 British Airways Landor
On the tail, the quartered Union Flag was carried over from the previous ‘Negus’ livery, and its very own Coat of Arms was placed over the midnight blue as a ‘touch of class.’ Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

An interim livery

Then, in 1996, some of the BA fleet began appearing with an odd lowered lighter blue belly without the speedwing. While the tail remained in the Landor scheme, the changes seemed to indicate that BA was preparing for a new livery and was unwilling to repaint aircraft into the old Landor scheme. This “interim” design appeared on several 737s, 747s, 767s, and A320s.

Notice the Landor tail yet lowered blue bottom and “British Airways” below the window line. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia Commons

Project Utopia/World Images

In 1997 British Airways unveiled its new World Images livery, designed to replace the Landor livery across the airline completely. Given the name Project Utopia, the livery intended to ‘reflect the best of British values blended with the nation’s more modern attributes. The airline described it as “friendly, youthful, diverse and cosmopolitan, open to many cultures.”

757 british airways world images utopia
At the heart of the livery change were 50 images representing examples of ethnic art from across the world. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

As for the fuselage, the ‘Pearl Grey’ upper was replaced with a bright white, and the blue belly was lowered and lightened. A new ‘Speedmarque’ logo was added on the upper fuselage, and the titles moved under the window line.

Chatham Dockyard

One of the 1997 Project Utopia tails, also known as ‘Chatham Dockyard’ was initially applied only to the Concorde. However, it became the standard BA tail livery after phasing out all other Utopia tails.

The design was based upon a stylized 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.

757 British Airways Chatham Dockyard
Early Chatham Dockyard liveries had the title “United Kingdom” at the rear of the fuselage. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr
The Evolution Of The British Airways Livery
From 2000 to 2011, the tail flag was enlarged and raised higher on the tail. The title ‘United Kingdom’ was removed from the rear of the fuselage. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying
British Airways, Airbus A380, Aircraft Graveyard
In 2011, a new ‘To Fly To Serve’ crest was added next to titles, and this design has remained ever since. Photo: British Airways

Other special liveries

In 2012, British Airways repainted nine A319s with a dove design to mark the London 2012 Olympics. Additionally, British Airways created a distinctive yellow, orange, and gold livery for the aircraft that transported the Olympic Flame from Athens to London – named The Firefly.

A319 olympic british airways
Nine A319s were painted white and gold with a feather pattern. Photo: via Wikimedia Commons
British Airways, Team GB, Tokyo Olympics
A British Airways Airbus A319 carried the Olympic flame to Great Britain. Photo: British Airways
British Airways, Airbus A380, Aircraft Graveyard
It should also be noted that the airline also has a unique OneWorld design for some of its 747-400s. Photo: Getty Images

In early 2019 BA unveiled four special retro liveries to mark its centenary. The four designs were BOAC, BEA, Negus, and Landor. While the BEA design was painted on an Airbus A319, the other three designs were applied to Boeing 747-400s. The first image at the top of this article shows the four designs together.

Were you aware of all the different liveries that British Airways aircraft have worn? Let us know in the comments.