STUNNER: British Airways’ Retro Livery 747

Filed Under: British Airways

As far as I’m concerned, the 747 is still the most elegant plane in the sky. While the A380 is my favorite plane to fly as a passenger, nothing can ever compete with the grace and curves of the 747. It’s sad that the plane is becoming an increasingly rare sight, as many airlines keep retiring them.

One of the things that I appreciate about British Airways is that they still fly the 747, and are committed to doing so for several more years. Today they unveiled something very special with one of their 747s.

British Airways is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year (or more accurately 100 years since the founding of Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited, which eventually became British Airways), and to celebrate that the airline will be rolling out four planes in retro liveries over the coming months, to commemorate their history.

Today British Airways has revealed a 747-400 in a British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) retro livery. This was the standard livery in the BOAC fleet between 1964 and 1974. Here are some pictures:

The plane was repainted in Dublin, and the process began on February 5, meaning that it took just under two weeks to repaint the aircraft.

The plane was ferried back to London Heathrow this morning using the special flight number BA100, and tomorrow morning will enter passenger service, as it operates BA117 to New York JFK. There’s significance to the route, as it’s also the first route that a BOAC 747 flew.

The plan is for this special livery to remain on the aircraft until it retires in 2023, to allow as many customers as possible to have the chance to see it. This plane has the registration code G-BYGC, so you can track it on Flightradar24 to see what routes it operates.

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz had the following to say about this plane:

“The enormous interest we’ve had in this project demonstrates the attachment many people have to British Airways’ history. It’s something we are incredibly proud of, so in our centenary year it’s a pleasure to be celebrating our past while also looking to the future. We look forward to many more exciting moments like this as our other aircraft with heritage designs enter service.”

Bottom line

It’s cute when airlines go through the effort of repainting planes in retro liveries, since I can’t imagine there’s much of a direct ROI on that.

While I’m a fan of retro liveries in general, the BOAC livery on the 747 has to be one of my favorite retro liveries yet.

It’s funny how style changes over time… or doesn’t. This livery was introduced 55 years ago, and I think it looks sharp as heck — not in a retro way, but I’d be impressed if an airline nowadays came up with a livery like that. I guess it’s the very definition of timeless.

Do you love the BOAC 747 livery as much as I do?

  1. It looks utterly sublime.

    Which, when you think about it, is a bit of a condemnation of most modern liveries.

  2. Philippine Airlines will also take delivery of their 5th A350-900 this month with a ‘The Lovebus’ decal in celebration of the 40th anniversary of partnership with Airbus. It’s also in time with Valentines month. Their A300B4 first sported the decal in 1979. But I heard that initially, they wanted to paint it in PAL’s previous livery, but ‘Feng Shui’ allegedly got in since the billionaire who owns the airline is a Chinese-Filipino. The Marcos dictatorship is noted for its extravagance and brutality, so anything associated with Marcos might be bad luck. So the aircraft will still sport the current livery with the decal added on.

  3. It looks great and, also (unexpectedly) rather modern. I think next is an A319 in BEA livery, and while they’ve said that two more 747s will received retro liveries, they’ve not said which ones they will receive (I think). I assume it will Landor and Negus. Can’t wait to see Landor again, it’s instantly the 1980s again in my mind when I see one. And also a reminder of a time when BA was genuinely a premium airline which others aspired to be like.

  4. This looks incredible – I really hope I get this aircraft one of my trips to JFK this year.

    I do wish BA would make more use of the speedbird logo which is truly timeless. I agree totally this looks sharper than, and not at all dates against, most modern liveries.

  5. @ Kerry

    The speedbird symbol was supposed to have been modified into the “ribbon” in the last corporate identity overhaul. Not very successfully, in my view.

  6. Gorgeous livery! Why in the heck couldn’t the likes of Lufthansa or Aer Lingus come up with something like this, rather than the incredibly uninspired “tail swoosh and while body” livery that seems to be the trend?

  7. I think it looks very plain, Lufthansa’s 747-8 livery looks much much more elegant in my opinion. Also it is very confusing for ATC seeing as the airline is no longer called BOAC. The whole point of a livery is to make the plane recognizable not so they can advertise a now-defunct airline which they merged with…

  8. Sharp! Love the way the “chinstrap” cuts back to perfectly highlight the windows. Can’t wait to see the other liveries rolled out.

  9. Very cool. A 747 makes a lot of things look good, though.

    Also, now I understand the first line of Back in the USSR! Thanks, Lucky!

  10. Agree with Ben, this does look sharp and as great as the A380 is, there is just something so damn beautiful about the 747. Sad to think both of these will likely be gone from passenger service in the not to distant future.

  11. I remember seeing this on 707’s when I was a kid. Just the name BOAC is so awesome to see again. I’d put the liveries of that era against anything flying today: Eastern, Continental, Braniff, Pan Am, TWA, Western, Northwest Orient, National — the great airlines of my childhood.

  12. Wonderful job by the paint department at British Airways!
    Great job by British Airways for remembering their past and I wish United Airlines would have done this with their last 747.
    British Airways will make their 50th anniversary of Boeing 747 service in 2021

  13. @ James

    “it is very confusing for ATC seeing as the airline is no longer called BOAC”

    Seriously? You think ATC is that ignorant?

  14. LOVE.

    Overall, I actually like the newer, more streamlined liveries of recent years better. I also think the original BA 747 livery (pre-Thatcher/handkerchief) is a great balance of the older 50’s/60’s/early 70’s styles, and where things are today.

    AND YET there’s something so classy about these older ones…BOAC, TWA, the original Pan Am 747-100 liveries. The text is a bit blocky, but SO CLASSY!

  15. Too bad they couldn’t update the interior of the plane as well. I bet they still have the aweful business class seats.

  16. “Oh, flew in from Miami Beach BOAC
    didn’t get to bed last night.
    On the way the paper bag was on my knee
    man I had a dreadful flight”

    I remember hearing this song in the 60s as a kid in Miami thinking that the airport isn’t in Miami Beach, but just down the street from me. But, hey!, there’s the BOAC flight coming over the house! I would love to fly that livery.

  17. I love retro liveries, but I don’t think most people know the business case behind them.

    Obviously there’s free media and goodwill generated, but the real driving reason is to protect copyright and trademark protections for these legacy marques and trade dress.

    Such protections are “use it or lose it”. Certainly, BA would hate to have another company use the BOAC or BEA names or liveries, so they’re essentially “camping” on one of these marques by using them here. I’d expect an narrow body plane in full retro BEA colours soon as well.

    When I worked in the fast food business, we’d routinely do a limited (one or two restaurant) sale of old deleted menu items to retain protections on those names. Our product development team would put together enough ingredients to last a day or two, I’d print up some signage, we’d take some pictures of the exercise, submit those along with our trademark renewals, and we’d be good for another 10 years or so.

  18. @Mallthus is right on the money. Reminds me of very recently McDonald’s losing the Big Mac trademark in the EU.

  19. @Jame: What is going to confuse ATC? It doesn’t matter what make, model, livery; every BA flight is Speedbird XXX to ATC.

  20. This looks absolutely stunning.

    Really nice to see an airline proud of its heritage.

    So much better than many current liveries

  21. @The nice Paul,

    Yes, I am aware that – in theory – the “Speedmarque” is supposed to echo the Speedbird, but agree with you that it’s not very successful!

    It would be nice if they would find a better way to bring the iconic Speedbird shape back into play in the next corporate rebranding, or at least a more effective echo of it…

  22. The best colour scheme ever ! Wouldn’t mind seeing a BEAline one as well . (The reason the engines aren’t an “exact” replica – the RB211 are a bit dirty so keeping them white would be impossible).

  23. This is just simply stunning to me. Nothing beats the elegant lines of the 747. And this one suits it so well. I don’t often compliment American Airlines, but I think they also did a great job with their Retro Liveries. The Air Cal and PSA liveries are great!

  24. Very nice. So remember flying the VC10 and 707 and early 747 with this BOAC livery. Qantas have also done retro livery on a couple of their smaller planes.

  25. Personally, it just looks… old. Fine for a museum, but doesn’t look contemporary or anything special. Just of its time.

  26. This livery looks absolutely gorgeous. I agree with so many other comments about its classy, classic and timeless nature.

    We in the UK seem to have a talent for great design, well done to the original team who concived this; like all great design, it stands the test of time!

  27. Too bad American Airlines got rid of all of Trans World Airlines’ 747s years ago. AA could have used one of the 747s for the TWA retro livery as part its heritage fleet (instead of the 737) of merged airlines.

  28. Lucky:

    Love the retro livery for one of the few remaining B747-400’s. Truly Striking…now as an old timer and former Airline worker for 27 years….Let me say what BA’s pals of years past used to say what BOAC stood for…..

    Better On A Camel

    Yes it is fun….and hope it brings smiles

  29. Just this plane flight over my house about two minutes ago which is about two minutes out of JFK. Pictures are not clear.

  30. Actually I really like the current BA livery but my word how fabulous is it to see the BOAC livery again in all it’s glory?! Suddenly I’m 5 years old!

  31. Love that they’re using also heritage idents on the departure screens for flights operated by the retrojets when departing Heathrow.

    The BOAC aircraft and BEA design look amazing. Really looking forward to seeing & hopefully getting to fly on the Landor B747 – this is the British Airways that we remember growing up and for us this will be the most exciting to see! Not long to go now.

  32. Great liveries. Negus reminds me of when I saw my first Concorde at JFK. Landor is so elegant with the crown on the tail. Sadly, Landor will be retired in November. Great memories.

  33. Sitting at IAD today and saw this plane pull up. I wasn’t the only one taking photos! It’s quite beautiful!

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