British Airways has been appointed as the official airline partner of Team GB and ParalympicsGB, ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer.

With a long history in supporting the national teams, the airline will ensure the medallist hopefuls arrive refreshed and ready to compete. At the end of the Games, the airline will fly over 1,500 athletes, support staff and equipment back to London for a special welcome arrival.

To announce the partnership, aspiring athletes from two of the sports making their Olympic and Paralympic debuts in Rio – rugby sevens player Dan Bibby and para-triathlete Melissa Reid – attended a launch event at Heathrow airport.

Dan said: “This is a very exciting time for rugby sevens with it coming to the Olympic Games for the first time this year. Every player dreams of being on that British Airways plane bringing a medal home.”

Melissa added: “It’s great news for ParalympicsGB that British Airways is the official airline. I just hope I can be on that exciting team flight home.”

Troy Warfield, British Airways’ director of customer experience, added: “We’re thrilled to once again be the official airline of Team GB and ParalympicsGB. It’s an honour to fly the nation’s heroes and their precious medal haul home – it’s always such a monumental and proud occasion to be part of.”

The Olympic Games open on Friday August 5 and run until August 21. The Paralympic Games open on Wednesday September 7 and continue until Sunday September 18.

Bill Sweeney, CEO of Team GB, said: “Flying home with the airline that carries our flag will be a great way to celebrate the achievements of Team GB, as we look forward to an exciting and hopefully successful Rio 2016 Olympic Games. We are delighted to once again partner with British Airways.”

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of ParalympicsGB, added: “It is fantastic news that British Airways will once again support ParalympicsGB by flying the team back to the UK after they have finished competing at Rio 2016. We hope that there will be a significant ParalympicsGB medal haul on board with us on that flight back and we will look forward to a brilliant welcome home at Heathrow and across the country.”

In 2012 British Airways was the official airline of the Games, as well as Team GB and ParalympicsGB, flying a number of athletes in to London from training camps to compete. It coincided with an award-winning ‘Don’t Fly’ campaign, asking customers to stay at home and cheer on our athletes instead of going abroad. In 2008, the airline also flew the teams back home from the Beijing 2008 Games.