Independence Crushed

Yet the airline’s days were numbered. Harold Wilson’s Labour government didn’t favour the independent airlines. Sterling had been devalued, a £50 limit had been slapped on the cash Britons could take abroad and the trooping contracts were ebbing away. The final straw came when BOAC called for British Eagle’s licence to fly Caribbean charters to be revoked because of”irregularities.”


The Air Transport Licensing Board, successor to ATAC, threw out BOAC’s case but upheld its subsequent appeal. The nationalised airline had left the board “in no doubt” that British Eagle had abused the terms and conditions of its inclusive tour licence by advertising it as “little different from a scheduled service.”


British Eagle had already agreed terms on a pair of ex-Qantas 707s but representatives of the owners, Kleinwort Benson, and British Eagle’s bankers, Hambros, left a meeting with aviation minister Roy Jenkins in a gloomy frame of mind. “He said there was no future for the independent airlines,” Bamberg said. “It wasn’t surprising they got cold feet.” The banks withdrew all their credit,” added Ralph Kohn. “That meant Boeing wasn’t going to be paid for the aeroplanes and that Eagle wasn’t able to pay the fuel bill; for the existing fleet.”