British air transport company formed in April 1974 in the fusion of British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC, formed in 1939), British European Airways (BEA, formed in 1946), and their associated companies. The company, state-owned from its inception, was privatized in 1987. Its major subsidiaries include BA CityFlyer, which serves destinations in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, and OpenSkies, which flies between Paris and New York City
. Headquarters are at Harmondsworth in the London
borough of Hillingdon
, near Heathrow Airport.The airline’s history began on March 31, 1924, when, with the award of government subsidies, four small postwar companies (Handley Page Transport Ltd., Instone Air Line Ltd., Daimler Airway, and British Marine Air Navigation Co.) merged to form Imperial Airways
Ltd., one of the pioneers of intercontinental air routes. Inheriting 1,760 miles (2,830 km) of British and cross-Channel routes, Imperial Airways spanned Europe and Asia as far as India, Malaya, Hong Kong
, and Australia and linked imperial territories in Africa as far as South Africa
.Meanwhile, three other airlines (Hillman’s Airways Ltd., Spartan Air Lines Ltd., and United Airways Ltd.) had merged in 1936 to form British Airways, to handle domestic and northern European flights. In November 1938, following parliamentary investigations of alleged inefficiencies, the government decided to merge and nationalize Imperial Airways and British Airways. The result was the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), formally established in 1939. In 1946 British European Airways (BEA), formerly a division of BOAC, was split off to become a government corporation in its own right, responsible primarily for British air services in the British Isles and continental Europe.
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