Amit Roy: British Airways in ‘epic mess’

A BOAC plane
A BOAC plane

LAST Sunday (25) should have been a happy day for British Airways, for it marked the 100th anniversary of what it likes to describe as “the world’s favourite airline” – instead of being in an “epic mess”.

There is an impending pilots’ strike, thousands of passengers were left stranded by cancelled flights and, perhaps worst of all, countless people received an email telling them their flights had been cancelled when they had not.

It should have been all so different with British Airways recalling its glory days by painting a number of aircraft in the livery of the old BOAC (British Airways Overseas Corporation)
– indeed, visiting Calcutta for the first time as a child, I remember the neon-lit BOAC sign was once part of the city’s skyline.

The Queen on British Overseas Airways

British Airways has issued a photograph of a 747 repainted in BOAC livery and another flying with the Red Arrows and the young Queen coming down a BOAC Stratocruiser
during her first Commonwealth tour after her coronation in 1953.

There also exist evocative ads urging the adventurous to fly to romantic India by BOAC – from New York the journey could be done in as little as three days. BOAC, which
operated from 1946 to 1960, gave way to British Airways in 1974 and was privatised in 1979.

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ chairman and CEO, had proudly announced: “We have had a fabulous year so far marking our centenary and thanking our customers for making us
the airline we are today – we wouldn’t be here without their pioneering spirits and sense of adventure.

“From that first customer who flew from Hounslow Heath to Paris on 25 August 1919 in a single-engine De Havilland DH4A to the millions who choose to fly with us every year on more than 800 flights a day to 200 destinations around the globe – we thank them all. Our customers truly enable us to bring Britain to the world and the world to Britain and we look forward to serving them for the next 100 years.”

Fast forward to present times when BA passengers are in anything but a grateful mood. However, BA remains an important airline for Indians because – along with Air India – it helps maintain the people to people “living bridge”.