Germany’s most popular leisure airline celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. On March 29th, 1956, the first Condor plane took off from Frankfurt and was heading for Jerusalem. At that time, Condor still operated under the name Deutsche Flugdienst GmbH. Since then, Condor has made aviation history. Since being founded, the company has transported 214 million passengers on their vacations.
In December 1955 “Deutsche Flugdienst GmbH” is founded by the four partners Norddeutsche Lloyd (27.75%), Hamburg-Amerika-Linie (27.75%), Deutsche Lufthansa (26%) and Deutsche Bundesbahn (18.5%). The fleet consists of three British-made Vickers Viking two-engine propeller aircraft, each with 36 seats. On March 29, 1956, the company’s tourism flight operation begins with a large-scale round trip to the “Holy Land” and to Egypt. Within the first year of operation, Majorca, and the Canary Island of Tenerife are already added to the flight schedule. Now, around 75 dream destinations are included in the airline’s portfolio.
In 1959, Lufthansa AG takes over 100 percent of the capital. In 1961, Deutsche Flugdienst GmbH takes over “Condor Luftreederei Hamburg”, founded in 1957 by the Oetker group, and changes its name to Condor Flugdienst GmbH. One year later, Condor Flugdienst GmbH has a 63.3% market share on all German tourism air travel. Some 66,000 passengers are transported this year – Majorca is the leading destination with 36,000 passengers. Still in the same decade, the first longhaul flights follow in 1966. This makes it possible for passengers to travel to previously exotic destinations like Thailand, Sri Lanka and the Dominican Republic.
The introduction of the “Jumbo”
A further milestone in the company’s history follows in 1971. Condor is the world’s first leisure airline to use a Boeing 747 “Jumbo”. During that time, this aircraft was the biggest passenger aircraft on the market, and Condor used it to fly up to 494 passengers from Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg and Cologne-Bonn to Spanish vacation destinations like Majorca, Malaga and Las Palmas. During the winter season, the Jumbo carried out longhaul flights for the first time, to destinations like Karachi, New-Delhi, Bangkok and Colombo in Sri Lanka from Frankfurt. In 1973, with a turnover of 291 million Deutschmarks, Condor is the world’s leading leisure airline. The fleet consists of a total of 14 Boeing aircraft: two Boeing 747s, two Boeing 707s and ten Boeing 727s.
At the end of the decade, in 1979, the fleet grows with the introduction of the first DC-10 from the manufacturer McDonnell Douglas. The aircraft carries 373 passengers. Two additional DC-10s are soon added to the fleet, taking over from the Boeing 747s.
Ten years later, a further important step follows, which sets Condor apart from other leisure airlines. Under the name “Condor Flüge Individuell”, Condor no longer markets only charter capacities, but now also uses individual seat business to sell airline seats directly to customers.
First Comfort Class in leisure flights
During the years 1990 to 1992, Condor takes the modern Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 jets into service. They had been initially operated by the production company Südflug, a 100 percent subsidiary of Condor. As an additional highlight, in 1991 Condor introduces the Comfort Class. Condor is the first leisure airline to introduce a separate, more comfortable class into its aircraft: The new Condor Comfort Class creates new quality standards. In Fall 1992 the subsidiary Südflug is integrated into Condor. In 1995 Condor expands its shareholdings. Meanwhile Condor-Touristik-Verbund owns holdings in alpha GmbH (30 percent), Fischer Reisen GmbH (100 percent) and 10 percent of Öger Tours GmbH. Condor additionally assumes the 40 percent owned by Lufthansa in the Turkish charter airline SunExpress, which will later be extended to 50 percent.
For Condor’s 40th birthday celebration in 1996, American pop-artist James Rizzi creates a special painting and transforms a Boeing 757 into a flying piece of art, the so-called “Rizzi-Bird”. With twelve firm orders, Condor is the launch customer for the Boeing 757-300.
Thomas Cook powered by Condor
As of 1997, Condor Flugdienst GmbH belongs to C&N Touristic AG (today Thomas Cook AG): With the merger of Condor Flugdienst GmbH, Deutsche Lufthansa AG and KarstadtQuelle AG have created the basis for an integrated tourism group with a European format – both partners each hold 50 percent in the company.
In 1998, the leisure airline founds “Condor Berlin GmbH”, a 100 percent subsidiary with its headquarters in Berlin Schönefeld in order to completely reposition the management of aircraft with fewer than 200 seats. By the end of the year, Condor is awaiting six Airbus A320-200 aircraft, one of the most modern and fuel efficient aircraft in the world. During the next couple of years, the fleet expands to twelve aircraft.
At the start of the new millennium, Condor redesigns the Comfort Class in its Boeing 767 aircraft, featuring new seats with significantly increased space between seats and an on-board entertainment system equipped with portable DVD players. The aircraft are even redesigned on the outside. Thomas Cook becomes the first integrated international tourism brand: Condor is transformed into the new brand, “Thomas Cook powered by Condor”. In Germany, the Condor and Condor Berlin airplanes gradually bear the new Thomas Cook design: The fuselage sections of the aircraft feature the Thomas Cook lettering and the tail unit features the Thomas Cook logo. The reference “powered by Condor” makes it clear that the new airline brand is relying on tried-and-true Condor quality. In June of 2002, the first Condor aircraft displaying the new livery takes off. It is clear that the German market did not embrace the name-change as expected. Since 2004, the Thomas Cook AG airline in Germany returns to the skies under the Condor brand name. As the first and up to now only German airline, the “new Condor” also begins offering discount prices on longhaul flights: Starting from 99 Euros, guests can fly to America, the Caribbean, to Africa and to Asia.
In 2006, Condor Flugdienst GmbH celebrates its 50th birthday. In the anniversary year, Condor flies a declaration of love around the world: The uniquely designed Boeing 757-300 called “Willi”. On October 16, Condor welcomes on board its 150 millionth passenger since 1956.
Introduction of the Premium Economy Class
While overhauling the cabins in its Boeing 767 longhaul fleet, Condor introduces a new Premium Economy class in addition to the regular Economy Class in 2008. Compared to the regular Economy Class, it offers 15 centimeters of extra leg space. With Condor Technik GmbH, Condor sets up its own technical unit to perform the highly demanding repair and maintenance work of the Condor Boeing fleet at Frankfurt airport. In 2009, Thomas Cook AG acquires the remaining 24.9 percent of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which means Condor is now a 100 percent subsidiary of Thomas Cook, one of the biggest European travel groups.
In the following year, Condor, as the first German airline, retrofits its Boeing longhaul aircraft with newly developed aerodynamic winglets. This wingtip extension reduces fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. The energy efficiency per aircraft for around 1,300 tons of Kerosene lies at around 5 percent. Boeing 757-300 aircraft are also being equipped with winglets.
In 2010, after the devastating earthquake in Haiti and the successful transport of relief supplies in January of the same year, Condor and the aid organization “Luftfahrt ohne Grenzen” e.V. – “Wings of help” set up a partnership. Condor places great importance on social responsibility. As part of the “ConTribute” program, which was started in 2009, Condor and its employees from various divisions of the company support aid projects for children who suffer from the effects of natural disasters, or sustainability and cultural diversity programs.
In Spring 2012, Condor moves into its newly built company headquarters in the Gateway Gardens area of Frankfurt. The leisure airline is on a course for growth and is expanding its longhaul fleet to a total of twelve aircraft. Next to Frankfurt, Vienna is established as an additional departure airport for longhaul flights. The airline gains recognition in a customer satisfaction survey of the German Institute of Service Quality (DISQ) in December 2012. Condor is voted the most popular airline among German travelers.
Thomas Cook Group Airlines is born
Condor merges with Thomas Cook Airlines UK, Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia and Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium to form the Thomas Cook Group Airlines. Since October 1st, all companies within the Thomas Cook Group are united under a common symbol: The Sunny Heart. The group’s airlines carry 17.2 million passengers every year. By this coming summer, the group’s combined fleet will comprise 95 aircraft.
In February and April 2014, the newest generation of Airbus A321-211 with Sunny Heart design and winglets, so called Sharklets is delivered to Condor. The refurbishment of Condor longhaul aircraft with new cabins with in-seat entertainment in all classes and new, fully automated, comfortable angled-lie-flat seats in the new Condor Business Class is completed in June.
In 2015, Condor starts a unique Germany-wide concept: Airshoppen. Passengers can choose from over 950 products at home, shop tax-free and save up to 60 percent. The goods will be brought to the passenger’s seat on the booked outbound or return flight, according to the passenger’s preference.
Anniversary year 2016
The anniversary year will be characterized by growth. A further three Boeing 767-300ERs will be added to the Condor fleet from Summer 2016 and additional routes to Austin Texas, Fort-de-France in Martinique and twice the number of flight destinations from Munich will expand the route network. Another special painting will also be created for Condor’s 60th birthday, which will be unveiled in Summer 2016.
In the past 60 years, Condor has grown soundly. Today, it comprises around 4,000 employees and a fleet of 42 aircraft, which in the summer, will increase to 45. Every year, more than 7 million passengers fly with the airline, which has developed from Germany’s first, to Germany’s most popular leisure airline.