DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Cunard-Eagle Airways was renamed British Eagle International Airlines (EG) in 1963. The name change came as the carrier ended its association with the famous shipping line, Cunard.
Cunard had for several years watched with dismay as its passenger numbers declined on transatlantic sailings as more people chose to travel by air. With the advent of the jet age, passenger numbers dropped from 1.2 million crossings by ocean liner in 1958 to just 882,000 in 1959. And the decline continued.
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Sir John Brocklebank, Cunard’s new boss, examined joining forces with an airline and, in March 1960, purchased a 60% share in UK independent British Eagle Airways (EG).
The £30 million investment allowed the airline to purchase a pair of brand new Boeing 707-420s with options on a third example. Subsequently, EG would become the first British independent to operate jet aircraft.
Management applied for the rights to commence scheduled services between London and North America. Permission was granted in June 1961. However, national carrier BOAC (BA) appealed the decision, and the rights had been withdrawn by November.
BOAC Tie Up
Behind the scenes, BOAC itself was in talks with Cunard to establish their own joint venture. ‘BOAC-Cunard’ was launched on June 6, 1962. EG’s two 707s would be transferred to the new carrier, joining eight 707s and four Vickers Super VC-10s from BOAC. The inaugural flight departed London Heathrow (LHR) bound for New York (JFK) on June 24.
Harold Bamberg, the founder of EG, took back control of his airline on February 14, 1963 and quickly dropped the Cunard name. Due to mounting financial issues, the airline ceased trading on November 6, 1968.
Featured Image: British Eagle Boeing 707 (G-AWDG). Photo: Ken Fielding/https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.