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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.