Battling The State

In 1958, Bamberg came up with Very Low Fares. Although several other independent operators followed suit there was no question that Bamberg was first to offer scheduled tickets at a fraction of state airline fares. Eagle proposed, for example, to fly to Malta for £19 compared with BEA’s £52.60 and to Singapore for £199 when BOAC wanted £351.

 

Other destinations included the Bahamas and the Caribbean, East and West Africa, Cyprus and Gibraltar. The opposition was predictable. BEA, which was facing a £284,000 annual loss, refused to believe Eagle could operate services economically, predicting that “sooner or later they will come back for a fare increase”

 

To nobody’s great surprise, the nationalised airlines’ objections to the Air Transport Advisory Council were upheld. Yet in early I960, the year Eagle moved its base from Blackbushe to Heathrow, Bamberg was sounding an optimistic note with Flight’s Frank Beswick, who, as a Labour peer, would mastermind the nationalisation of Britain’s aerospace industry nearly two decades later.

 

Bamberg said Eagle could boast “the largest British network of independent scheduled services in Europe.” The airline, he said, had “tried desperately to get a decent scheduled pattern,” with 12 routes in Europe which broke-even in 1959 and “should show a profit in I960.” Bamberg added: “It’s taken us a matter of six years but it’s been worthwhile to build on this basis.”

 

By that time Bamberg had another fight on his hands. Along with the other independent airlines, Eagle was lobbying for a change in the law to loosen the corporations’ grip on scheduled operations. That, said Bamberg, would place the industry on an “enormously better basis… We see our future largely in terms of international scheduled flying, both passengers and freight. Trooping, charter and inclusive tour work don’t lend themselves to planning ahead.”