British Airways (BA) is celebrating its 100-year anniversary with a nod to the past. The airline announced on January 21, 2019, it will be painting one of its Boeing 747s in the design of its predecessor airline, British Overseas Airways Corporation or BOAC. The “iconic” livery on the equally iconic jumbo jet is to be debuted next month.

According to British Airways, the BOAC-adorned Boeing 747-400 (reg: G-BYGC) will be rolled out of its Dublin (Ireland) paint shop and arrive at the carrier’s main home, London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR), on February 18, 2019, where it will enter scheduled service the following day.

Concept of the BOAC Boeing 747 design (British Airways)

The carefully orchestrated debut of BA’s “retro” 747 will mark several anniversaries. Primarily, the 50th anniversary of Boeing 747’s first flight in 1969. The particular aircraft will also celebrate its 20th birthday with British Airways when it takes to the skies on February 19th in the new livery.

But for British Airways, there is an even more nostalgic note to all this. As the UK’s flag carrier celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, it intends to pay tribute to its predecessor airline, the British Overseas Airways Corporation.

“So many British Airways customers and colleagues have fond memories of our previous liveries, regularly sharing their photos from across the globe, so it’s incredibly exciting to be re-introducing this classic BOAC design,” stated Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, in the company’s official press release.

The 747 is to be painted in livery that dates back to the 1964 – 1974 “BOAC era” (also the “golden age” of the jumbo jet). And again, it is no coincidence this airliner has been chosen. BA says the 747 is a later version of the same aircraft type that carried the design when it was initially in operation.

BOAC's Boeing 747-100 (British Airways)

BA says the particular 747 is only the “first” aircraft to receive the BOAC design. Teasingly, the carrier promises to reveal more details of further designs in due time. Meanwhile, all new aircraft entering the airline’s fleet, including the Airbus A350, will continue to be painted in the current well-recognizable livery, known as the “Chatham Dockyard” union flag design.

British Airways intends to keep the “iconic” BOAC livery on the 747 until it retires in 2023, by which time, the airline expects to have retired the majority of its 747 fleet. The carrier says it set to take delivery of 18 A350s and 12 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the next four years to serve its long-haul routes.

Revisiting History

So what is the mysterious “BOAC”? Let us go down the memory lane. The early 1920’s Britain's four starter airlines merged to form Imperial Airways Limited, a privately-owned commercial airline. The original British Airways Limited entered the scene later, in the mid 30‘s, when a number of smaller UK air transport companies decided to join forces, challenging Imperial Airways on its European routes.

In 1939, Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalized to form the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). As its name suggests, BOAC focused on overseas services, while domestic flights and European routes were flown by a new airline, British European Airways (BEA).

The businesses of BOAC and BEA were eventually brought together under the newly established British Airways Board in 1972. Two years later, the airlines merged to become British Airways (privatized in 1987).

Today, British Airlines is the UK’s largest international airline, a subsidiary of International Airlines Group (IAG), which also holds carriers Aer Lingus, Iberia, Vueling and Level under its wing.

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