British Airways brand strategy / positioning case study

British Airways Brand Strategy Analysis
British Airways

Travel & transportationairlines

Owner of the brand:
International Airline Group, S.A.

Key competitors:
Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Virgin, Emirates Airline, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines

Brand essence

A quintessentially British airline combining flying expertise with a full service experience.

Brand values

Expertise, customer focus, heritage.

Brand character

British, premium, sophisticated, traditional, friendly.

Dominating archetype

British Airways (BA) is the British national carrier with a heritage dating back to 1919, the year when Aircraft Transport and Travel, one of its predecessors, opened its first international route from London to Paris. The BA brand was launched in 1974, but, since 2011, it has been part of  the International Airline Group, which was created after the merger of BA and Iberia.


BA for decades has positioned itself as a premium airline. This strategy was especially reinforced in 2011, when the company, after years of cost-cutting, announced a five-year £5 billion investment plan designed to put the customer back at the heart of its business[1]From a communications perspective, the main objective of the programme was to improve the brand’s image among the public and, more importantly, boost the morale of BA staff and make them proud of working for BA. This long-term project was initiated with the “To fly. To serve” campaign, which was continued for a few more years. According to BA executives, “To fly. To serve” wasn’t just an advertising slogan but part of the brand’s DNA[2].


The brand strategy at that time, encapsulated in the “To fly. To serve” motto was built on three main pillars: superior flying know-how, thoughtful and warm customer service, and British style[3]“Britishness” to this day is the most apparent part of BA’s brand equity. It is constructed through the use of British English, a British tone of voice, and the British flag colours in the brand’s communication, as well as in partnerships with traditional and modern British brands, supporting British art and sport events (e.g., London Olympic Games, BAFTA) and promoting British values.


Although the brand has not announced a shift in its strategy, it is apparent that, with the appointment of Álex Cruz as BA CEO (previously the CEO of a low-cost Spanish airline), major changes in the company’s philosophy and in how it is operated have started taking place. Due to increasing competition from low-cost carriers, BA began introducing solutions which are more characteristic of cheap rather than premium airlines. For example, it added more rows of seats in the economy class in some of its aircraft, stopped serving free food and drink on its short-haul flights (replacing this with paid catering), and started charging passengers for services which were previously free, e.g., selecting seats. The brand, on its main website, even describes itself as “a full service global airline, offering year-round low fares”[4]which puts a much stronger emphasis on low prices than its previous communication. Currently, references to “To fly. To serve” can only be found in some of BA’s marketing materials. According to the Financial Times, Cruz “has effectively split BA in two: a budget airline focused on price that can compete with its no-frills rivals and a luxury one aimed at the lucrative business traveller market”[5]However, the evolution towards a low-cost airline has received more (negative) publicity than the upgrades in business class.


Some publications refer to BA as a Ruler brand because of its dominating position in the British market. Although the company sometimes acts in this way, in communication, it builds a different image. Its tone of voice is warm, light and not authoritative, and it still emphasizes its focus on the customer, which is more typical of the Caregiver archetype.


Dominant colours: blue, red and white (the colours of the British flag).

Most important campaigns

1. “Made By Britain” (2019)

2. “British Airways Safety Video Sequel” (2018)

3. “Comic Relief £20m Thank You” (2018)

4. “BA Holidays: Table For Two” (2017)


5. “Aviators, British Airways To Fly To Serve” (2011)

Official brand statement:

British Airways is a full service global airline, offering year-round low fares with an extensive global route network flying to and from centrally-located airports.[6]

Interesting facts:

BA and Twinings have introduced a special blend of Twinings tea, which combats the effects that altitude can have on the tea-brewing process and its taste.[7]


1. Marketing Week on the “Made by Britain” campaign
S. Vizard, “British Airways Writes ‘Love Letter To Britain’ In First Brand Campaign Since 2012”, Marketing Week, Feb 2019,

2. Financial Times on the changes in British Airways’ strategy
T. Powley, “Flagging Carrier? BA Begins Recovery Mission After IT Meltdown”, Financial Times, Jun 2017,

3. Marketing Excellence case study
“Marketing Excellence: British Airways – Reigniting Brand Confidence”, Marketing Society, 2013,

  1. “Marketing Excellence: British Airways – Reigniting Brand Confidence”, Marketing Society, 2013,
  2. J. Bacon, “Flying The Brand Flag For British Airways”, Marketing Week, Nov 2012,
  3. “Marketing Excellence: British Airways – Reigniting Brand Confidence”, Marketing Society, 2013,
  5. T. Powley, “Flagging Carrier? BA Begins Recovery Mission After IT Meltdown”, Financial Times, Jun 2017,

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