A new British Airways takes off for the new millennium with a new strategic direction and a radical new identity, backed by a £6 billion three-year programme of investment in new services, products, aircraft, facilities and training.
Based on what is believed to be the largest consumer research exercise in the history of the travel industry, the aim is to establish British Airways as the undisputed leader in world travel and to build on its British strengths as it flies into the 21st century.
The new corporate identity is the 'visual promise' of the many improvements that will flow for customers from the company's repositioning.
It reflects the best of British values blended with the nation's more modern attributes - its friendly, youthful, diverse and cosmopolitan outlook which is open to many cultures.
It underpins sweeping corporate and cultural change within the airline, which began with the launch of British Airways' business efficiency programme last September. This represented a wide-ranging review of every aspect of the company's business to ensure it is fully equipped with the right people with the right skills in the right places to meet the challenges of the new millennium.
It was unveiled in what was believed to be the world's largest corporate television satellite broadcast, screened live to some 150 locations around the world, watched by tens of thousands of viewers. Highlights were shown in-flight on the airline's aircraft in the afternoon, with passengers in every cabin offered a glass of champagne to join in the celebrations.
Driving the change programme is a new corporate mission - to be the undisputed leader in world travel.
British Airways is aiming to set new industry standards in customer service and innovation, deliver the best financial performance and evolve from being an airline to a world travel business with the flexibility to stretch its brand into new business areas.
Radical changes within the industry, the emergence of super groupings such as the recently announced 'Star Alliance', the growth of low-cost niche carriers and changes in the regulatory climate have also had an impact on the airline's strategic review.
At the heart of the new corporate identity is the creation of more than 50 world images which will appear on the airline's 300 aircraft plus ground vehicles, stationery, signage, timetables, baggage tags and ticket wallets - everything that bears the British Airways name.
The company's corporate palette of red, white and blue is being brightened and lightened, more closely drawn from the British union flag than the current scheme, to reflect the airline's British heritage.
The name 'British Airways' will be printed in a new softer, rounder typeface, and a new three-dimensional Speedmarque has evolved from the flat red Speedwing symbol along the side of the aircraft fuselage.
Fifty world images are planned, with 15 unveiled today including a tartan from the Scottish highlands, a tent panel from Egypt, calligraphy from China, a Japanese painting, Delft potteryware, a Polish paper cut, murals from the Ndebele tribe of South Africa, a wood carving from North America, a painting from the bush people of the Kalahari Desert and a stitched Union flag from Chatham Dockyard, Kent, England.
A further three images from Germany will be used by British Airway's subsidiary Deutsche BA.
One of the first aircraft off the paint-line at Heathrow was Concorde, British Airway's supersonic flagship, bearing a red, white and blue interpretation of the British Union Flag on its tail, based on the original flag used by Admiral Nelson in the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.
The aim is to present British Airways as an airline of the world, born and based in Britain with a community of people passionately committed to serving the communities of the world.
This is particularly reflected in the world images which celebrate and unite the communities British Airways serves. They reflect the company's awareness of the cultural differences of its customers, three in every five of whom originate from outside the UK, and reinforces British Airways as a global brand.
The airline's existing livery, designed by Landor Associates of San Francisco, was introduced in 1984 to prepare for a new era of privatisation.
On the wings of this identity, British Airways became a case history in change management, turning around a company considered to be awful into one of the most profitable privatised companies and the world's leading international airline, carrying more people to more destinations than any other airline.
All of the airline's research confirms that it now needs to change again if it is to continue as the industry leader into the 21st century.
The new corporate identity created by London-based design consultancy Newell and Sorrell will create a new global personality for British Airways for the new era ahead.
Bob Ayling, British Airway's Chief Executive said, "To stand still in this industry is to be overtaken. For British Airways this is not an option. To continue to be the world leader, we have to do again what we did in the last decade: put clear blue sky between us and our rivals. People have suggested we may somehow be turning our backs on Britain. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are blending the best of traditional British values with the best of today's Britain - diverse, creative, friendly, youthful and cosmopolitan in its outlook but open and responsive to change.
"We have to reach out to people around the world and deliver a service that meets their needs. They want to deal with people who speak their language. They want food that suits their palate. In short, they want to feel as if they are travelling 'home from home'.
"Our new corporate identity will send an important message to our existing and new customers all over the world. British Airways wants to be your favourite airline and is responsive to your needs."
The company has set aside £2 million for the world images and the overall design. Implementing it will cost £60 million over three years, although most of this would have been spent on the regular repainting of aircraft and signage and restocking of stationery even if the old livery had been retained.
A cost-conscious approach, therefore, is being adopted for its implementation. It will be carried out over three years to take full advantage of natural wastage and economies of scale. More than 40 aircraft scheduled for re-painting this year have already been painted in an interim livery based on the new identity, saving £2 million.
The extensive customer and employee research that lies behind the new identity showed that British Airways needed to be more open, cosmopolitan, dynamic and aware of the differing cultural needs of its customers. Employees confirmed their commitment to customer service, but told the company it needed to develop a more open culture, responsive to change.
The £6 billion investment programme covers 43 new aircraft on order for delivery in the next three years, including 29 Boeing 747-400s, nine 777s and five 757s. It also includes the costs of new buildings, such as the airline's new corporate offices at Harmondsworth near Heathrow and the World Cargocentre, also at Heathrow, plus other facilities.
Hundreds of millions of pounds will be ploughed directly into improved services and products for customers in every cabin.
Backing up all these innovations is a programme of new training initiatives for all employees to ensure even better customer service.
Tens of thousands of British Airways' employees have already been given sneak previews of the new identity in an operation dubbed by the airline, 'The World's Biggest Secret'. They have given the new look an overwhelming thumbs up.