The airline’s origins date to the birth of civil aviation and the pioneering days after the First World War. On 25 August 1919 its forerunner company, Aircraft Transport and Travel (AT&T;), launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service, between London and Paris. On 31 March 1924, Britain’s four fledgling airlines – Instone, Handley Page, Daimler Airways (a successor to AT&T;) and British Air Marine Navigation – merged to form Imperial Airways, which developed its Empire routes to Australia and Africa.
Meanwhile a number of smaller UK air transport companies had started flights. These merged in 1935 to form the original privately owned British Airways Ltd. Following a government review Imperial Airways and British Airways were nationalised in 1939 to form the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). Post-war, BOAC continued to operate long-haul services, other than routes to South America – these were flown by British South American Airways, which was merged back into BOAC in 1949. Continental European and domestic flights were flown by a new airline, British European Airways (BEA).
In 1952 BOAC flew the De Havilland Comet to Johannesburg, halving the previous flight time. The birth of the mass package-holiday business meant change for the airline industry. BEA met the challenge by establishing BEA Airtours in 1970. In 1972 BOAC and BEA were combined under the newly formed British Airways Board, with the separate airlines coming together as British Airways in 1974. British Airways, simultaneously with Air France, inaugurated the world’s first supersonic passenger service with Concorde in January 1976.