Airlines and their Jersey routes
At times in its history Jersey Airport has been the second busiest in the British Isles and the sixth busiest in the whole of Europe. The growth in international air travel in the last 75 years has meant that these achievements have long been overtaken, but the airport remains extremely busy and offers scheduled services to airports throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.
Guernsey was the first Channel Island to have a commercial air service. Seaplane flights between the Island and Woolston were operated by the British Marine Air Navigation Company from 1 September 1923.
They were followed by Imperial Airways, which in May 1926 offered vacant seats to anyone wanting to fly from Jersey to Guernsey or England, but there were no takers so the aircraft never arrived in Jersey. Flights to and from the Channel Islands were not sufficiently popular in the 1920s for any of the fledgling services to survive for long, despite British Government subsidies to Imperial Airways to get the routes established.
There were busy days - a bank holiday in August 1924 saw 3,000 passengers travelling to and from Jersey, but in general the expensive tickets remained unpurchased. Jersey wanted regular air services to carry mail and newspapers, but the early airlines could get better business on longer routes.
By 1930 the Jersey Chamber of Commerce was lobbying for an airport to be built to attract regular services, but as sites were being considered, Jersey Airways was formed and introduced regular flights from the beach at West Park, using the appropriately named De Havilland DH84 Dragon St Aubin's Bay.
The first commercial service took place on 18 December, with a passenger service from Jersey to Portsmouth. The first flights from Heston (with a special bus connection from London) to Jersey began on Sunday 28 January 1934, flights from Southampton began in March, and a service to Paris operated during summer 1934. In its first full year, Jersey Airways carried 20,000 passengers, using a fleet of eight DH 84 Dragons, each capable of carrying eight passengers.
A service to Rennes, in France, operated from 8 January 1935 to 29 March. A Plymouth-Jersey service began in April 1936, and to Exeter, Dinard and Shoreham in 1938.
Flights moved from the beach to the new Airport in 1937, and business was booming when war and the German Occupation brought everything to a halt. Following the liberation Channel Islands Airways resumed scheduled services in June 1945 using ex-RAF Dragon Rapides. Jersey Airways and Guernsey Airways flights then terminated at Southampton and at Croydon.
British European Airways/British Airways
On 1 January 1946 the British European Airways division of the British Overseas Airways Corporation was formed to take over the services from the United Kingdom to continental Europe that had been operated by the Royal Air Force.On 1 August 1946, the Civil Aviation Act 1946 was given royal assent and the independent British scheduled airlines were nationalised, including Jersey Airways, which had been the main carrier operating before the Occupation and since from the island's new airport. BEA became the British European Airways Corporation to operate all Domestic and European flights.
Initially BEA operated De Havilland Rapides on services to Southampton and London, but from the early days they struggled to cope with the enormous variations in demand between the winter and summer months. They demanded lengthened runways and then a tarmac surface was laid in 1952 so that larger aircraft could be operated to meet peak demand.
This process was continue over the coming decades as British European introduced the Airspeed Ambassador (Elizabethan), Viscount, Vanguard and ultimately the BAC One-Eleven jet.
Initially the timetable grew, and routes were introduced to Croydon and then Northolt, to serve London, followed ultimately by Gatwick and Heathrow. Direct flights were made available to Birmingham, Southampton, Manchester, Guernsey, Alderney and France. The Paris route, however, was abandoned in 1950 because of lack of demand.
BEA ceased operations in 1974 when it was merged with the British Overseas Airways Corporation to form British Airways, which continued to operate from Jersey. There was further expansion of routes, but the airline was struggling to make them financially successful, and in August 1979 they announced that they were pulling out of all but the major routes, with the others taken up by a variety of independent airlines.
Jersey Airlines was formed in 1949 as a charter airline as British European failed to cope with the peak summer demands. BEA held the monopoly on routes between Jersey and the UK but other airlines could operate under licence, and in 1959 they received over 100 applications for charter flights.
Silver City Airways
Silver City Airways was founded as a charter airline in 1946 and began to operate from Blackbushe, transferring its headquarters to the new Ferrybridge Airport when it was opened. They operated services to Jersey using a variety of aircraft, including Dakotas and Viscounts, but it is for their Bristol Freighter car ferry service that they are probably best remembered.
They operated a ferry service to Jersey from the south coast of England, and also, for a short period in the 1960s, a link from Jersey to Cherbourg, offering an alternative to sea links to St Malo.
Silver City could not compete once regular sea ferries were re-established and moved their freighter aicraft to more profitable year-round routes across the Channel from the south coast of England.
The airline continued to operate passenger services to Jersey until it became part of the BUA group in 1962.
Morton Air Services
Morton Air Services was one of the earliest post-World War 2 British airlines, formed in 1945.It mainly operated regional short-haul scheduled services within the British Isles and between the United Kingdom and Continental Europe. Morton won traffic rights to operate fully fledged scheduled services from Croydon to the Channel Islands, Deauville, Le Touquet and Rotterdam.
In 1958 Morton became part of the Airwork group, retaining its identity following the 1960 Airwork — Hunting-Clan merger that led to the creation of British United Airways (BUA). The reorganisation of the BUA group of companies during 1967/8 resulted in Morton being absorbed into British United Island Airways (BUIA) in 1968.
In 1951 a Morton DH89 Rapide tipped up after a heavy landing in Jersey but the aircraft survived and was eventually sold to Norway. There were no fatalities, but a year earlier, on 8 May 1950 an Airspeed Consul (G-AHJX) belonging to the airline was destroyed in a crash off Guernsey killing all four occupants.
Former RAF Squadron Leader Jack Jones founded East Anglian Flying Services in 1946, which became Channel Airways in 1961.
The new airline was based at Southend Airport andoperated charter flights and regional scheduled services along the UK's South Coast, as well as between the South Coast, the Channel Islands and the Continent. Jack Jones applied for a licence to fly into Ostend, which was refused, and so hit on the idea of linking up with a hotel and operating some of the earliest inclusive-tour flights.
The airline has a patchy start, and Jones' co-directors left to find work. Scheduled flights were halted and the services to the Channel Islands only resumed when the economic climate improved. The aircraft were brought out from the hangars and the co-directors returned. By the end of 1957 a figure of 30,000 passengers per annum was recorded, and two Bristol 170 passenger/freight aircraft were obtained, plus three Vikings from the King's Flight. On 29 October 1961 East Anglian Flying Services officially changed its name to Channel Airways.
The airline prospered and in the early 1970s it pioneered jet services to Jersey, introducing the Trident on local routes. A total of 85,000 passengers were carried to the island in 1971, but there was a rapid downturn and the airline folded in 1973.
Cambrian was set up on 25 April 1935 as Cambrian Air Services. The first aircraft to be operated was a single de Havilland DH.60 Moth, with the main activity of training pilots, and flights for tourists. With the outbreak of World War II, Cambrian stopped its activities.
In 1946 it was the first British airline to restart operations after the war, with freight flights between Cardiff and Bristol. During 1949 flights between Birmingham and Jersey were begun. During 1953, Cambrian took over Olley Air Service and Murray Chown Aviation and began services between Southampton to Dinard and Paris. This route was served with de Havilland Dove and later with Douglas DC-3s.
In 1956 the name was changed to Cambrian Airways and by 1964 it was operating the Vickers Viscount on charters throughout Europe. Cambrian operated from Swansea to Jersey from 1957 onwards, using Doves. At that time the Channel Island routes dominated their timetable, with 44 return flights a week from Cardiff, Gloucester and Whitchurch to Guernsey and Jersey, as well as direct flights from Liverpool.
In 1967 BEA took over Cambrian, although it continued to operate as a separate airline. The following year the last flight with the DC-3 was flown and 1969 saw the first jet arrive in the form of the BAC 1-11, which were used for charter flights in addition to operation on the scheduled network.
In 1972 Cambrian was incorporated into the new British Air Services group and gradually lost more and more of its independence. By 1975 it operated only in the standard British Airways colours and by 1976 it had been wholly swallowed into British Airways and ceased to exist.
Derby Aviation/British Midland
British Midland Airways, which has been one of the main carriers to Jersey for the past 30 years, started life as Derby Aviation in 1949. Derby Aviation was a subsidiary of Air Schools Ltd, which had been formed in 1938 to train pilots for the RAF. In 1949 the company formed both Derby Aviation, based at Burnaston near Derby, and Wolverhampton Aviation based at Pendeford, near Wolverhampton, offering charter and freight flights with De Havilland Dragon Rapides, as well as aircraft maintenance and brokerage.
Flying instruction ceased in 1953 with the start of scheduled flights from Derby and Wolverhampton to Jersey. When the first Douglas DC-3 arrived in 1955, Wolverhampton Aviation had been phased out and the company's sole base became Burnaston Airport. International services commenced in 1956 to Ostend and holiday flights to mainland Europe began. In 1959, the company changed its name to Derby Airways. Domestic scheduled flights within the United Kingdom were launched toward the end of the decade.
In 1964 the company's name changed to British Midland Airways, and it has subsequently changed again to British Midland, British Midland International, BMI and the cut-price bmibaby.com, which now operates the Jersey routes. Over the years the company has also had a succession of owners, including Lufthansa, who have recently sold BMI to British Airways's parent company.
The irony of this purchase will not be lost on those with an interest in Jersey aviation because it was British Midland which picked up the numerous routes abandoned by British Airways when they cut back their Channel Island operations in 1979.
Dan Air was formed in 1953 as a subsidiary of shipbrokers Davies and Newman, and from small beginnings with a single Dakota aircraft, went on to operate the Jersey to Gatwick service with Airspeed Ambassadors until 1971.
Dan-Air operated its first seasonal scheduled service during summer 1956 between Blackbushe and Jersey. The acquisition of Skyways International in 1972 enlarged the scheduled operation. Four additional HS 748s operated a year-round service linking Bournemouth with Jersey and Guernsey.
BAC-111 jets were introduced to the season Gatwick-Jersey service in 1975.
In April 1980 Dan Air took over British Airways's loss-making regional services from Bristol and Cardiff to Jersey and Guernsey and the following year they launched a a new, seasonal scheduled service linking Newcastle with Jersey.
In May 1984, Dan Air began stationing an aircraft in Jersey, increasing the frequency of its scheduled service to Gatwick and converting it into a year-round operation. At its peak in the mid-1980s Dan Air was operating from Jersey to Gatwick, Newcastle, Leeds-Bradford, Cork, Cardiff and Bristol, with a fleet including BAe146s, BAC 1-11s, HS748s and Boeing 737s, followed later by the Airbus A320.
Towards the end of the '80s Dan Air, which had been very profitable, began to make a loss as its charter operations for tour operators declined, and in 1992 the airline was sold to British Airways fo £1, plus its liabilities, and absorbed into the airline's Gatwick operations.
On 7 February 1952 BKS Aerocharter Ltd began flying from Southend Airport. BKS stood for the initials of the founders Jams Barnaby, Thomas Keegan and Cyril Stevens, three pilots who had been given a DC3 Dakota when Crewsair, for whom they were working, had financial problems.
At the beginning of 1954 the name was changed to BKS Air Transport Ltd and the company started running charters from Woolsington Airport, Newcastle. They were to become the major operator from the north-east of England and started summer services to Jersey in 1955, operating from Newcastle, Teeside and Leeds/Bradford.
Among the aircraft they operated was the Airspeed Ambassador, and they ran their last passenger flight in 1967.
The airline went through difficult times in the early '60s, but maintained its service from Leeds/Bradford to Jersey, and then introduced flights to the new Teeside airport in 1964.
BEA bought a controlling interest in the airline, together with Cambrian Airways and formed a single holding company, British Air Services. The BKS symbol was retained on the tail, but the aircraft had the name "British Air Services" painted on the fuselage.
In October 1970 BKS became wholly owned by BEA and changed it's name to Northeast, eventually becoming one of the four component parts of British Airways.
Jersey Ferry Airlines
This short-lived airline was set up in 1972 and folded the following year. It operated a strange collection of aircraft, including a Twin Pioneer, a Heron and a Britten Norman Islander, mainly out of Portsmouth. Although services may have been run to Jersey there was no scheduled timetable.
British United Airways
British United Airways was formed as a result of the merger of Airwork Services and Hunting-Clan Air Transport in July 1960, making it the largest wholly private airline based in the United Kingdom at the time.British and Commonwealth Shipping was the new airline's main shareholder. It took over a fleet of 90 assorted aircraft and helicopters and continued to operate mainly non-scheduled services. Gatwick became the main operating base.
An order for ten BAC One-Eleven jet aircraft in May 1961 launched BUA's fleet re-equipment programme in support of its long-term policy to develop primarily as a scheduled airline.
In January 1962 BUA merged with British Aviation Services, the holding company of rival UK independent airlines Britavia and Silver City Airways. This made BUA the largest unsubsidised airline outside the United States. The subsequent merger with Jersey Airlines in May 1962 resulted in further growth, giving BUA a fleet of more than 100 aircraft and 6,000 staff.
At first Maldwyn Thomas, founder of Jersey Airlines, remained with BUA (Jersey) but he resigned in 1965. After the nationalisation of Jersey Airways in 1947 and absorbtion into British European Airways, Jersey's second truly local airline had also disappeared within BUA and by 1968 BUA (CI) as it had become, ceased trading separately and was merged with the Isle of Man operation into British United Island Airways.
BUA operated BAC-111 jets into Jersey from Gatwick, but in 1970 they had run into financial difficulties and were taken over by Caledonian Airways, soon to trade under the British Caledonian name.
British Air Ferries
Formerly British United Air Ferries, this was a sister company of British United Airways and started operations in 1963, particularly the car ferry operations of Silver City Airways, which had been taken over. The new airline had scheduled routes from Southend, Lydd Ferryfield and Hurn to ten points in the Channel Islands and Continental Europe. Bristol Superfreighters were used on the routes to Jersey, Guernsey, Cherbourg, Le Touquet, Calais, Ostend and Rotterdam.
Sister airline BUA (CI) assumed the former Silver City routes linking the North of England with the Channel Isles and the Continent. BUAF subsequently added routes linking Southampton with Rotterdam, Ostend, Calais, Deauville, Le Touquet, Jersey, Guernsey, Dinard and Cherbourg to its scheduled route network.
As a consequence of the reorganisation of the BUA group during 1967/8, BUAF changed its name to British Air Ferries (BAF) in September 1967 and in October 1971 the airline was sold by Air Holdings to the Keegan family. It continued to operate to Jersey and the larger more modern Airspeed Carvair freighter was seen on the island routes, although these were soon replaced with Dart Heralds and the car ferry services ceased in 1977.
On 1 January 1979, BAF transferred its entire scheduled operation including associated aircraft and staff to British Island Airways (BIA).
British United Island Airways
BUIA commenced operations on 1 November 1968 as a wholly owned subsidiary of BUA (Holdings) Ltd, taking over BUA's regional domestic and international routes, the majority of which served the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man on a seasonal basis.
BUIA's main operating bases were at Gatwick, Southampton, Blackpool, Exeter, Jersey and the Isle of Man. Services from Gatwick and Southampton to the Channel islands and from Blackpool to the Isle of Man and Belfast operated year-round. All other services were seasonal summer only services. Dublin and Paris Orly were among the international destinations served.
BUIA competed with British European Airways (BEA) on scheduled routes linking London with Jersey and Guernsey. While BUIA's flights used Gatwick as their London terminal, BEA served these routes from Heathrow.
By 1968, BUIA had operated its last DC-3 passenger flight. Eventually, all passenger flights were operated with Herald turboprops.
BUA was sold to the Scottish charter airline Caledonian Airways on 30 November 1970. This sale specifically excluded BUIA. It therefore became a wholly owned subsidiary of B&C, which had taken direct control following its divestment of BUA. In July 1970 BUIA changed its name to British Island Airways (BIA) and adopted a new livery.
British Island Airways
British Island Airways was the new name BUIA, the regional affiliate of British United Airways (BUA), adopted in July 1970. Following the completion of BUA's sale to Caledonian on 30 November 1970, BIA officially began its life the following day.
BIA's headquarters was at Redhill, Surrey. The airline's main engineering base was at Blackpool and its main operating base was at London Gatwick. Airports that used to receive BIA's regular scheduled passenger services in the early to mid-1970s included Antwerp, Belfast, Blackpool, Dublin, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Manchester, Newcastle, Paris Orly and Southampton. Many of the services to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man were operated on a seasonal basis — exceptions being year-round operations linking Gatwick with Guernsey and Southampton with both Channel Islands. BIA's scheduled route network was considerably enlarged in 1979 when it assumed the entire scheduled operation of British Air Ferries.
All passenger services were operated with a fleet of 50-seat Handley Page Dart Herald turboprops. Each of these aircraft was convertible, enabling them to be used to operate all-cargo services as well. BIA inherited most of these aircraft at the time of its inception from BUIA. It subsequently acquired additional second-hand examples from various other sources.
Jersey Air Ferries
Despite the name, Jersey Air Ferries did not operate to the island. After British Air Ferries was sold to Jadepoint in 1983 the set up Jersey Air Ferries, using two Viscounts and began flying on 27 April 1983 between Southend and Le Touquet. However by October 1983 it was decided to quietly drop the airline with the two Viscounts returning to BAF.
From 1970 until 1988 British Caledonian was one of the most successful British and European airlines. What is not widely known is that one of the two founders of the original Caledonian Airways was Jerseyman John de la Haye.
Air UK, which was formed by the merger of BIA and Air Anglia in 1979, was one of the major operators to the Channel Islands for many years, even more important to Guernsey than Jersey because it took over the Guernsey-Heathrow route when it was abandoned by British Airways.
Intra Airways/Jersey European Airways/British European Airways/FlyBe
Formed by four former BUA pilots, Capts D H Stuart, A I Le Gresley, L C Thomas and G L Gillborn on 18 February 1969, Intra is still flying today as one of Britain's major independent airlines, FlyBe.
It has undergone a number of changes in between, being renamed Jersey European Airways in 1985, and taking up the old airline name British European Airways in 2000. On 18 July 2002 it became a low fare airline and was renamed FlyBe.
Aurigny Air Services
Aurigny were formed in 1968 to operate a walk-on walk-off service between Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney, and remain in operation today, now owned by the States of Guernsey.
Countless other airlines have operated in and out of Jersey Airport on scheduled services or charter flights during its first 75 years. Details of more of these airlines' activities will be added to this page as they become available.