|Hubs||Berlin Schönefeld Airport|
|Headquarters||Schönefeld, East Germany|
Interflug GmbH (German: Interflug Gesellschaft für internationalen Flugverkehr m.b.H.; [ˈɪntɐfluːk])[note 1] was the national airline of East Germany from 1963 to 1990. Based in East Berlin, it operated scheduled and chartered flights to European and intercontinental destinations out of its hub at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, focusing on Comecon countries. Following German reunification, the company was liquidated.
Until 1945, Deutsche Luft Hansa had served as German flag carrier. Following the end of World War II and the subsequent allied occupation of Germany, all aircraft in the country were seized and the airline was liquidated. In 1954, a West German company acquired the Lufthansa trademark. In 1955, Deutsche Lufthansa was founded as rival East German flag carrier. It soon became obvious that the East German airline would likely lose a lawsuit over the use of the Lufthansa branding. As a consequence, Interflug was set up on 18 September 1958 as a "back-up" company, initially intended to complement the East German aviation industry by operating chartered flights. In 1963, the East German Lufthansa was liquidated, officially due to poor profitability (though this step foreclosed the imminent stripping of the Lufthansa name). Its staff, aircraft fleet, and route network was transferred to Interflug, which henceforth served as the East German flag carrier.
As a state-owned airline, Interflug with its approximate 8,000 employees was under control of the National Defense Council, which held the supreme command of the East German armed forces. The majority of the pilots of Interflug were reserve officers of the National People's Army (and as such required to be members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany), and all of its aircraft could have been requisitioned for military purposes at any time. Klaus Henkes, who became General Director of the airline in 1978, had previously served as General of the East German Air Force. Applicants for the job of a flight attendant needed to be approved of by the Stasi, in order to assess their so-called political reliability, minimizing espionage and escape attempts in Western countries. On warning of suspension, Interflug crews were not allowed to associate with employees of airlines from non-socialist countries.
Over the 1960s, the airline saw a significant growth, concerning both its route network and fleet of Soviet-built aircraft. The Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop airliner became the backbone of Interflug's short haul flights during that period. The company had been the intended primary operator of the Baade 152, an early jet airliner constructed in East Germany. The development never went beyond the prototype phase, though, and was abandoned in 1961. In 1969, the Tupolev Tu-134 was introduced, the first jet airliner operated by Interflug. It was operated on the airline's European routes. The long range Il-62 became part of the fleet in 1971. In the same year, the number of annual Interflug passengers reached 1 million.
Following the 1970s energy crisis with its growing fuel prices, Interflug gradually dismantled its domestic route network. The last scheduled flight (from East Berlin to Erfurt) took place in April 1980.
During the 1980s, Interflug had to cope with increasing problems due to its ageing fleet: The fuel efficiency proved to be inferior compared to contemporary Western airliners, and noise protection regulations meant that the company had to pay increased landing fees, in some cases even facing bans from operating at certain airports. With some exceptions, Western-built airliners (most notably those produced by Boeing, McDonnell Douglas or Airbus) could not be delivered to countries of the Soviet bloc because of the CoCom embargo. Following a deal between Boeing and LOT Polish Airlines for the purchase of six Boeing 767 aircraft and in order to acknowledge the Perestroika movement, commercial airliners were exempted from the trade embargo in 1988. Also Malév Hungarian Airlines bought Boeings in 1988. In the same year, Interflug placed an order for three Airbus A310 long haul aircraft, worth DM 420 million. The deal was secured with the sponsorship of Franz Josef Strauss, then Minister-President of Bavaria, chairman of the Airbus supervisory board and responsible for West German loans granted to East Germany.
The first Airbus A310 was delivered to Interflug on 26 June 1989. The East German crews for the new aircraft type were trained in West Germany, where any maintenance work was carried out, too. The A310 allowed for non-stop flights to Cuba (previously, flights had needed a fuel stop at Gander International Airport in Canada).
Following the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 and the subsequent political changes in East Germany, several foreign airlines expressed intentions to take over parts of the highly unprofitable company, in order to get a grip on the German air traffic market, especially concerning Berlin. In early March 1990, Lufthansa signed a letter of intent to acquire 26 percent in Interflug, but the offer was blocked by the Federal Cartel Office. Plans for a take-over by British Airways did not materialize, either (instead, Deutsche BA was formed in 1992). On 1 July 1990, Interflug became a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
As a consequence of the German reunification on 3 October 1990, Interflug came under the administration of the Treuhandanstalt, along with all other state-owned property of East Germany. As no investors could be found, it was announced on 7 February 1991 that Interflug with its then 2,900 employees and 20 aircraft would be liquidated. Subsequently, the airline was dismantled. The last commercial flight (on the Berlin-Vienna-Berlin route using a Tu-134) took place on 30 April 1991.
Following the liquidation, a group of former Interflug employees acquired five of the company's Ilyushin Il-18 airliners and set up Il-18 Air Cargo, which soon became known as Berline, operating chartered cargo and leisure flights out of Schönefeld Airport.
The three Airbus A310 purchased by Interflug in 1988 were handed over from Treuhandanstalt to the property of the Federal Republic of Germany. Henceforth, they were operated by the German Air Force, also being used for the representative VIP transport of high-ranking politicians like the German president or chancellor.
Several former Interflug aircraft have been preserved in different places in Germany.
As the national airline of East Germany from 1963 to 1991, Interflug operated scheduled passenger flights to the following destinations.[note 2]
|Algiers||Algeria||Maison Blanche Airport||ca. 1966|
|Vienna||Austria||Vienna International Airport||ca. 1970||1991|
|Brussels||Belgium||Brussels Airport||ca. 1982|
|Burgas||Bulgaria||Burgas Airport||ca. 1982|
|Varna||Bulgaria||Varna Airport||ca. 1982||1991|
|Beijing||China||Beijing Capital International Airport||1989||1991|
|Havana||Cuba||José Martí International Airport||ca. 1975||1991|
|Larnaca||Cyprus||Larnaca International Airport||1991|
|Nicosia||Cyprus||Nicosia International Airport||ca. 1966|
|Bratislava||Czechoslovakia||Bratislava Airport||ca. 1982|
|Poprad||Czechoslovakia||Poprad-Tatry Airport||ca. 1982|
|Copenhagen||Denmark||Copenhagen Airport||ca. 1970||1991|
|Cairo||Egypt||Cairo International Airport||ca. 1966||1991|
|Helsinki||Finland||Helsinki Airport||ca. 1982||1991|
|Barth||East Germany||Barth Airport||1963||1977|
|East Berlin||East Germany||Schönefeld Airport (hub)||1963||1991|
|Dresden||East Germany||Klotzsche Airport||1963
|Erfurt||East Germany||Erfurt Airport||1963||1980|
|Heringsdorf||East Germany||Heringsdorf Airport||1963||1979|
|Leipzig||East Germany||Schkeuditz Airport||1963||1991|
|Cologne||West Germany||Cologne Bonn Airport||1990|
|Düsseldorf||West Germany||Düsseldorf Airport||1989|
|Hamburg||West Germany||Hamburg Airport||1990|
|Athens||Greece||Ellinikon International Airport||1979||1991|
|Conakry||Guinea||Conakry International Airport||ca. 1966|
|Baghdad||Iraq||Saddam International Airport||1963|
|Tel Aviv||Israel||Ben Gurion Airport||1991|
|Milan||Italy||Linate Airport||ca. 1980||1991|
|Rome||Italy||Fiumicino Airport||ca. 1980||1991|
|Beirut||Lebanon||Beirut International Airport||1963|
|Tripoli||Libya||Tripoli International Airport||ca. 1982||1991|
|Valletta||Malta||Malta International Airport||1991|
|Maputo||Mozambique||Maputo International Airport||ca. 1975|
|Amsterdam||Netherlands||Amsterdam Airport Schiphol||ca. 1980||1991|
|Lagos||Nigeria||Murtala Muhammed International Airport||ca. 1982|
|Karachi||Pakistan||Jinnah International Airport||1970s|
|Singapore||Singapore||Singapore Changi Airport||1988|
|Kiev||Soviet Union||Boryspil International Airport||ca. 1982|
|Leningrad||Soviet Union||Pulkovo Airport||ca. 1982||1991|
|Minsk||Soviet Union||Minsk National Airport||ca. 1982|
|Moscow||Soviet Union||Vnukovo Airport
|Stockholm||Sweden||Stockholm Arlanda Airport||ca. 1982||1991|
|Damascus||Syria||Damascus Airport||ca. 1966|
|Bangkok||Thailand||Don Muang Airport||1989||1991|
|Tunis||Tunisia||Tunis–Carthage International Airport||ca. 1982||1991|
|Istanbul||Turkey||Istanbul Atatürk Airport||ca. 1980||1991|
|Dubai||United Arab Emirates||Dubai International Airport||1991|
|Hanoi||Vietnam||Noi Bai International Airport||ca. 1975||1991|
|Ljubljana||Yugoslavia||Brnik Airport||ca. 1982|
|Split||Yugoslavia||Split Airport||ca. 1982|
|Zagreb||Yugoslavia||Zagreb Airport||ca. 1966||1991|
As a state-owned company of East Germany, Interflug had the important role to secure foreign exchanges, as the national East German mark was considered a weak currency. For most of its existence, Interflug was not a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and therefore could significantly undercut ticket prices of other European carriers. From the 1970s, an increased effort was put on operating chartered flights to Merranean and Black Sea holiday resorts, many of which specifically catered for West Germans (as travel restrictions applied for East Germans). From the 1970s, Interflug gained traffic rights to several destinations in Western Europe. All of these flights could be booked at travel agencies in West Berlin and West Germany, which had signed sale contracts with Interflug. To simplify the transfer from passengers from West Berlin to and from Schönefeld Airport, a dedicated border crossing checkpoint was inaugurated at Waltersdorfer Chaussee, and scheduled shuttle busses were operated from the Central Bus Terminal in the Westend locality.
By the early 1980s, the low Interflug ticket prices had resulted in a considerable impact on Berlin Tegel Airport in West Berlin, which experienced a severe decline of holiday flights. Reportedly, pilots of Pan American World Airways, which had a hub at Tegel, considered operating flights to Greece without payments, in order to allow the airline to compete with Interflug.
With Turkish Airlines, Interflug had signed an agreement, by which the two airlines were established as the only ones to offer dedicated flights for Turkish Gastarbeiter to and from West Germany and West Berlin. With KLM, Interflug set up a partnership for a joint operation on the East Berlin-Amsterdam route during the 1980s. Of the six weekly flights, two were operated by KLM's Fokker F28 Fellowships, and four by Interflug's Tu-134s and Il-62s. As neither airline was entitled to cross the intra-German border,[note 3] the KLM flights were routed via Denmark, and Interflug chose a southern routing over Czechoslovakia.
During the annual Leipzig Trade Fair, which at that time was considered the most important meeting place for businessmen and politicians on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Lufthansa and Interflug were granted special permits to operate flights between Leipzig and West Germany. In 1986, Lufthansa and Interflug applied for joint traffic rights for year-round scheduled intra-German flights over the Iron Curtain, which was initially rejected by the Western Allies (probably due to concerns that their unique market position for flights to and from Berlin might be weakened), and only granted in August 1989. As a consequence, Interflug launched flights on the Leipzig-Düsseldorf route, with Lufthansa serving Frankfurt-Leipzig. In 1990, Interflug flights from Dresden to Hamburg and Cologne were added.
|Dash 8-100[note 5]||1990||1991|
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