British Airways (BA) is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations and second largest measured by passengers carried, behind easyJet. BA's UK passengers originating at non-London airports must connect via London after British Airways discontinued all direct overseas flights from UK airports outside London following the sale of BA Connect to British regional carrier Flybe in 2007.
The British Airways Board was established in 1971 to control the two nationalised airline corporations, BOAC and BEA, and two smaller, regional airlines, Cambrian Airways, from Cardiff, and Northeast Airlines, from Newcastle upon Tyne. On 31 March 1974, all four companies were merged to form British Airways. After almost 13 years as a state company, that was sold in February 1987 as part of a privatisation plan by the Conservative Government. The carrier soon expanded with the acquisition of British Caledonian in 1987 and Dan-Air, Gatwick-based carrier, in 1992.
A long-time Boeing customer, British Airways ordered 59 Airbus A320 family aircraft in August 1998. In 2007, it purchased 12 Airbus A380s and 24 Boeing 787 Dreamliner, marking the start of its long-haul fleet replacement. The centrepiece of the airline's long-haul fleet is the Boeing 747-400; with 52 examples in service, British Airways is the largest operator of this type in the world.
British Airways is a founding member of the Oneworld airline alliance, along with American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and the now defunct Canadian Airlines. The alliance has since grown to become the third largest, after SkyTeam and Star Alliance. British Airways' parent company, International Airlines Group, is listed on the London Stock Exchange and in the FTSE 100 Index.
On 12 November 2009, British Airways confirmed that it had reached a preliminary agreement to merge with Iberia. On 14 July 2010, the European Commission approved the merger under competition law, also allowing American Airlines to co-operate with the merged entity on transatlantic routes to the United States. The merger was completed on 21 January 2011, formally creating the International Airlines Group, IAG, the world's third-largest airline in terms of annual revenue and the second largest airline group in Europe. In 2012, IAG purchased British Midland International (BMI) and announced plans to open a new subsidiary based at London City Airport operating Airbus A318s.