Battling The State

The airlift was one of several things Bamberg had in common which his fellow airline entrepreneur, Freddie Laker, but he later denied it had been a lucky break for his fledging operation. “If we hadn’t joined we’d have been requisitioned,” he insisted. “The trouble was we went for some months without agreeing how much we should be paid. One day I went to a meeting with the government. They said: ‘How much do you want?’ I said we wanted cost plus 12.5% They thought it was quite reasonable. People think we made lots of money out of it but we didn’t.”


Eagle went on to acquire two more Halifaxes and a fleet of Avro Yorks so that by 1951, when the airline had been awarded regular government trooping contracts, it was employing 100 people including 12 pilots. But although things had improved under the new Conservative government, the independent carriers were still limited to ad hoc operations with scheduled services remaining the province of the state-owned airlines. “I thought that any businessman who tried to tangle with the government or state airline should have his brains tested,” Bamberg later told Roger Bray, co-author of Flight to the Sun, the story of the holiday revolution.


Disheartened, he sold the Yorks to rival operator Skyways and considered packing up. He was, however, persuaded to carry on by colleagues who included operations director John Sauvage who was later to run Britannia Airways and then the Thomson Travel Group.