British Airways (BA) was formed in 1974 and is the flag carrier of the United Kingdom. The BA nickname of “Bloody Awful” has been cited in print since at least 1982. In 1990, publications reported that improved service had changed the BA nickname from “Bloody Awful” to “Bloody Awesome.”
American Airlines (AA) has been nicknamed “Absolutely/Always Awful.”
Wikipedia: British Airways
British Airways (BA) is the flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, based in Waterside, near its main hub at London Heathrow Airport. It 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.
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.
THE BIG COMEBACK AT BRITISH AIRWAYS
Who says a troubled airline can’t turn around? By coddling customers this carrier has passed all international competitors in passenger volume—and profits.
By Kenneth Labich REPORTER ASSOCIATE Charles A. Riley II
December 5, 1988
(FORTUNE Magazine) – THE BRITISH DELIGHT in heaping abuse on public institutions—the House of Lords, the National Health Service—that seem archaic or ineffectual. Under government ownership, British Airways slid into that sorry niche in the late 1970s. A huge, unproductive work force and lax management produced losses that reached nearly $1 billion in 1981, and service slipped badly. Long known by its familiar initials, the national carrier had become a laughingstock. ‘’What does BA really stand for?’’ the baggy-pants comedians used to ask on the telly. Came the answer, with a malevolent cackle, ‘’Bloody Awful.’’ Privatized in February 1987, British Airways gets guffaws no more.
New York (NY) Times
By STEVE LOHR
Published: May 07, 1989
In the early 1980’s, state-owned British Airways P.L.C. was known for its service—infamously so. One well-worn joke was that B.A. stood for ‘’bloody awful.’’
25 February 1990, Daily Herald (Chicago, IL), “Thatcher leads the charge of privatization revolution” (Associated Press), sec. 2, pg. 1 cols. 3-4:
A prime example is British Airways PLC, or BA, which, as Business Week described it, has been turned from “Bloody Awful” to “Bloody Awesome.”
Harvard Business Review
Changing the Culture at British Airways
by John P. Kotter, James K. Leahey
Source: Harvard Business School
12 pages. Publication date: Oct 09, 1990. Prod. #: 491009-PDF-ENG
In just 10 years, 1980-1990, British Airways turned around both its declining image and financial situation. Focusing on the paramount importance of customer service, British Airways went from “bloody awful” to “bloody awesome.”
Last Updated: Friday, 5 October 2007, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
THE BREAKDOWN: BA’s classic advert, in which a crowd assembles in a desert to form a face which then smiles and winks, is one of those commercials which has become a cultural reference point. It was arguably the crowning image in the airline’s efforts throughout the 1980s to reinvent itself as the “Worlds’ Favourite Airline”, having been seen by many as a rather tired equivalent of British Rail.
At the top of the list was a newspaper cutting from 1982 which read “BA IS BLOODY AWFUL”.
New York (NY) Times
Colin Marshall Dies at 78; Helped Turn Around British Airways
By DENNIS HEVESI
Published: July 12, 2012
Before Mr. Marshall joined British Airways, the common joke among its disgruntled customers was that its initials stood for “bloody awful.” Created in 1974 in a merger of British European Airways and the British Overseas Airways Corporation, the airline had been deteriorating for several years, and by the early ’80s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was determined to straighten it out.