British Airways plc (BA) is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom which is based and headquartered in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. British Airways operates a second hub at Gatwick Airport and a third hub, served through its fully owned subsidiary, BA CityFlyer, at London City Airport. British Airways is the largest airline in the UK based on fleet size, international flights and international destinations. 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 much smaller regional airlines, Cambrian Airways from Cardiff and Northeast Airlines from Newcastle upon Tyne. On 31 March 1974 all four companies were dissolved to form British Airways (BA). After almost 13 years as a nationalised company, British Airways was privatised in February 1987 as part of the privatisation plan by the Conservative Government of the time. The carrier soon expanded with the acquisition of British Caledonian (BCAL) in 1987 and Gatwick-based carrier Dan-Air in 1992.
Despite being a longtime Boeing customer, British Airways placed a major order for Airbus aircraft in August 1998 with the purchase of 59 Airbus A320 family aircraft. In 2007, the carrier placed its next major order, marking the start of its long-haul fleet replacement, ordering 12 Airbus A380s and 24 Boeing 787s. The centrepiece of the airline's long-haul fleet is the Boeing 747-400; with 57 examples in service, British Airways is the largest operator of the type in the world.