1958 was a key year for the great transatlantic liners. This year for the first time more passengers traveled by air over the atlantic ocean, than by ship. With the successful start of the Boeing 707 regular scheduled flights, the jet age began this year in passenger traffic and hit the big European and American shipping companies with full force. Although the aircraft in terms of comfort, rest, food, and culture could never match up the luxury liners, the time factor was ultimately the decisive argument for this irreversible trend in a increasingly busy and faster world.
From the early 60s also the America got into financial difficulties. The passengers on the Atlantic routes generally declined noticeably since the new jets increasingly pushed back the market share of great transatlantic liners. The booking rates of America declined in 1960 to 67%. In the following year they fell further to 61%. The situation was worsened due to a series of strikes that confused the schedule of the ship and scared away even more passengers.
Page 3: Difficult times- The economic downrun of transatlantic ocean travel
To counteract the general trend of passenger decline, capacities in still popular tourist class were extended by merging 2nd and 3rd class of the ship. Since 1961 America was a two class liner with 516 first and 532 tourist class capacity. The former third class lounge was converted into a cinema and all passengers now had access to the swimming pool.
America at storm tide in Bremerhaven.
But even that did not help. On her first transatlantic crossing with the new two-class configuration were only about 140 first class and 400 tourist class passengers on board. The reservations for the following discharge dates were so low that even some Atlantic crossings were canceled. Endless strikes and union demands aggravated the financial situation in addition.
To remedy the situation and to get America back to profitability, a cruise program was established for the permit by the U.S. Congress separately, a law was changed, which allowed the subsidized vessel despite the possibility of distortion allowed to perform cruises in American waters.
America in Bremerhaven.
In 1962, the passenger load factor of America recovered then suddenly, sometimes even up to 100%. This was again a result of government intervention, this time in the form of a contract of carriage for military personnel to Europe.
Nevertheless, in the subsequent period, passenger numbers began to decline again, as the number of other civilian passengers continued to decline.
, September 1963, heralded the end. Strikes, triggered by racism allegations against an officer and disagreements within the unions prevented more runs and an end to the crisis was not in sight, so that the entire winter schedule had to be canceled and that America was launched inactive for months.
Then the scheduled transatlantic service was resumed in the summer of '64, but the passenger numbers fell, shattered by trust, and further the atmosphere between crew and US Lines remained tense due to the union strikes and discrepancies.
In this situation, the United States Lines decided to sell the unprofitable vessel. The most promising prospective buyer was the Greek shipping company Chandris Lines.
The sale plans were officially kept secret and denied for inquiries, but it was not long until the first rumors in the summer leaked to the public. Newspapers called the sales later, the worst kept secret of the year '64. As the unions realized that the United States Lines was planning to sell the America to foreign interests, the outcry was load. It was spoken by the sale of American interests and announced further strikes. But the decision was irreversible.
On 9 October started the liner to its last transatlantic crossing, the end of an era.
End of the same month, the America was laid up in her builders shipyard in Newport News, from where she should start a new career soon.
Copy of the notice sent to travel agencies to announce the retirement of America. The reasons for the retirement of the ship are quoted "her age and other factors", hiding the real causes of low booking rates caused by general declining passenger numbers and in relation to that no longer to be paid, ever rising wages enforced by strong unions, plus a shattered relationship between union organized crew members and the shipping company. But to name these "other factors" in front of a travel agency would have been equal to a declaration of a fail of US Lines own business model.
The end of an era and the beginning of a new career: America leaves its builders shipyard in Newport News in November 1964 one last time. Her funnels are already painted blue for her new owners, while her hull still wears the black of a transatlantic liner. Even a new name emblazoned on her bow: Australis.
-Picture: photographed by Alexander Crosby Brown. Courtey of Bill Lee -