Written for APEX Experience magazine – Issue 9.4 – September/October 2019
Retro airline liveries are just cool. Maybe it’s the feeling of nostalgia that comes with seeing long-gone airlines like Allegheny, Piedmont or Trans World Airlines resurrected on American Airlines jets. Or that unmistakably mid-century-modern vibe of the bright blue cheat line over the windows of El Al’s Boeing 787-9s. And the fact that a Lufthansa 747-8 looks just like its 707s did when they plied the world’s airways in the 1970s. Whatever the reason, travelers groove to the retro look, and planespotters drape themselves along airport fences hoping to catch the latest vintage design.
Airlines often celebrate a milestone by unveiling a retro livery on a modern plane, but it’s even more of a treat if the retro-jet is the latest in a long line of aircraft, like the Boeing 747. This year, British Airways (BA) celebrates its one-hundredth birthday and has repainted three 747s and an Airbus A319 to create a multigenerational homage to the airline’s liveries over the years.
“So many British Airways customers and colleagues have fond memories of seeing, spotting and flying on our previous liveries, so it’s only right that they feature so prominently in our celebrations,” says Hamish McVey, BA’s head of Brand and Marketing.
Each of the 747s proudly wears a vintage livery – the Negus, Landor and blue-and-gold British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) designs – that once flew on the airline’s “Queen of the Skies” fleet. British European Airways’ classic Red Square 1960s livery is on the A319, honoring the airline, which merged with BOAC in 1972 to create British Airways.
The repainting of each aircraft took a couple of weeks, scheduled when the planes were due for regular paint work. The heritage liveries will remain on the aircraft until they are retired from service, and passengers can read about the designs and BA’s centenary on special cards tucked in the seat pockets.
The response to BA’s celebratory fleet shouldn’t come as a surprise to any AvGeek. “We couldn’t have hoped for a better reaction,” says McVey. “We have been sent photos from across the globe of the different aircraft, while social media has been awash with excitement. You only had to look around the Heathrow perimeter fence for the delivery flights to see just how much this means to our customers.”