The Jersey Airlines story
Maldwyn Thomas, a welshman who was working in the travel business in Jersey in the late 1940s, had no previous experience of airlines, but decided to establish his own.
Trips to France
During the summer of 1948 Maldwyn Thomas was working with a hire car company in St Helier. He was continually asked by his customers how they could get to nearby France and so he chartered a variety of aircraft from Croydon to take tourists on day trips to Dinard in Brittany. These trips became so popular that he decided to form a company and make the charters available on a longer term basis.
Airlines (Jersey) Limited was formed in November 1948, with the express purpose of operating aircraft for tourist traffic. Thomas had tried to name the company Jersey Airlines Ltd, but the similarity to Jersey Airways Ltd, the first local airline, recently absorbed into British European Airways, ruled that out. He had to settle for registering Jersey Airlines as a trading name.
The following year he chartered an ancient DH 89A Rapide G-AGLP from Barclays International Airways at Croydon for the Easter period, taking on its pilot, Bernard Gardiner, who was to be chief pilot of Jersey Airlines throughout its existence.
Early flights were mainly day trips to Dinard or St Brieuc, but soon Guernsey, Alderney and Paris (Toussus le Noble) were added to the list of destinations, along with one-off charters to places such as Clermont Ferrand, to pick up a family injured in a car crash. In its early years Jersey Airlines was also involved if flying deceased people to Guernsey for cremation, because that island had a crematorium before Jersey.
Two reconditioned Rapides were purchased in 1949 and 1950 and pilot Alan Spencer joined to fly the second, remaining with the airline alongside Bernard Gardiner until it was purchased by the parent company of British United Airways in 1963.
In 1951 Maldwyn Thomas took Jersey Airlines into partnership with British European Airways under an associate company scheme which involved BEA taking a stake in the airline, which was then able to compete on BEA routes. Thomas applied for all BEA's routes. He didn't get them, but he did start a Jersey-Exeter service, followed by Jersey to Paris - Orly, and then Le Bourget. By the early 1960s Dakotas and Hart Heralds were being operated to Amsterdam.
BEA had lost the monopoly given it by the Labour administration in 1947 and Jersey Airlines bought back their 25 per cent holding, giving them more freedom to compete. But soon came another change of direction, with the partnership with British United Airways in 1962. This was supposed to retain Jersey Airlines' identity while bringing increased business, but it didn't work and Thomas soon pulled out, allowing his airline to become submerged by the larger organisation.
By the mid-50s Jersey Airlines were operating scheduled services to Gatwick, Southampton, Exeter, Bournemouth, Brittany, Paris and Guernsey and Alderney. When Gatwick closed for two years for redevelopment, they switched their London operations to Croydon, but operated the first scheduled service into Gatwick when the airport reopened.
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