Back in 1978, a former Pan Am captain, Kim Lundgren, founded Air Berlin as a US supplemental carrier, incorporating it under the name Air Berlin, Inc. in Oregon, USA. Air Berlin’s first flight was on the 28th of April 1979 with a Boeing 707 with destination to Palma de Mallorca (Spain). At that time, Air Berlin’s fleet consisted of only two aircrafts.
The newly formed airline started flying using a second-hand Boeing 707-320, operating short- to medium-haul IT charter flights to the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean on behalf of Berliner Flug Ring.
During the early 1980s, Air Berlin briefly operated a weekly scheduled service from Tegel via Brussels to Orlando, Florida, USA.
In 1982, Air Berlin acquired two Boeing 737-200 that were leased from Air Florida. During most of the 1980s, Air Berlin operated one Boeing 737-200 and one 737-300.
In 1989-1991, the German reunification meant several changes. For Lundgren, it meant a major challenge since he had two alternatives: finding German shareholders or closing the company. That is when Air Berlin was bought in 1991 by Joachim Hunold (LTU International, sales and marketing director).
By the 16th of April 1991, Air Berlin GmbH & Co. Luftverkehrs KG was set up and Hunold became its managing director and had the majority stakes in the company. Hunold changed the company, and it went from being a little charter company to become one of German’s major airlines. Its growth began in 1992 with two Boeing 737-400 that transported 400,000 passengers to holiday destinations in the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.
By the end of 1994, the airline had six Boeing 737-400 and transported over 1 million passengers.
In 1997, airberlin joined IATA and started serving European business capitals such as Zurich, Vienna, Barcelona or London.
In 1999, airberlin continued its growth with the acquisition of ten Boeing 737-800 and had a fleet of 12 aircrafts.
In 2001, airberlin becomes the first airline to fly Boeing 737-800 with blended winglets on its scheduled flights, allowing the aircraft to climb faster, reduce the fuel consumption and the noise experienced by people that lived near the airport. Also on that year, airberlin introduces two female pilots to its crew.
In November 2003, airberlin acquired 60 Boeing 737-800 and 15 Boeing 737-700, all equipped with blended winglets to improve fuel efficiency. The delivery of these aircraft began in 2007.
In December 2003, airberlin became the second largest German airline, after Lufthansa.
In 2004, as airberlin’s growth continues, it acquires a 24% stake in NIKI luftfahrt GmbH in Vienna, creating the first European low-fare alliance. That same year, airberlin’s fleet expands when it signs a contract with Airbus for the acquisition of 70 aircraft by 2011.
In 2005, airberlin changed its structure to PLC under English law. The first of the 70 jets order by airberlin and NIKI, an Airbus A320 (the most modern medium-range aircraft), arrived in Berlin. That same year, airberlin is the first airline to offer a mobile WAP service, where passengers can have information about the service, time departures, flight schedule and seat availability.
On the 11th of May 2006, for the very first time, airberlin’s shares were traded on the Frankfurt stock exchange.
In August 2006, airberlin took over the dba airline. Their routes complement each other, and dba’s domestic routes integrated into airberlin’s European network rapidly, bringing a noticeable increase of business travelers.
In March 2007, airberlin took over LTU airline, gaining access to the long-haul flight market and becoming the 4th largest airline in Europe, in passenger traffic. This lead to the introduction of Airbus A321 and A330 aircraft to airberlin’s fleet.
In July 2007, airberlin ordered 25 Boeing 787-5 Dreamliner long-haul aircraft. Also in 2007, airberlin acquired a 49% of stake of Belair Airlines (a Swiss airline).
In 2008, airberlin gets a new image with its white and signal red livery. airberlin began to use GBAS, the safest navigation instrument, and is the first European airline to use it. With all these investments and innovations, airberlin gets to be for the second year in a row the World’s Leading Budget Airline.
In 2009, airberlin celebrated its 30th Anniversary with a gala event. That same year, airberlin expanded its destinations when it started cooperation with Bangkok Airways, Hainan Airlines and Pegasus Airlines, allowing its customers to access more destinations on a code-share basis.
Also in 2009, airberlin signs a partnership with TUI Travel and took over all TUIfly domestic German routes and those of Italy, Croatia and Austria. All TUIfly’s Boeing 737-700 were incorporated into airberlin’s fleet.
In 2010, airberlin expanded its code-share agreements with S7 airlines, American Airlines and Finnair, expanding its destinations to Irkutsk, Perm, Rostov, the American market and Europe. Also that year, airberlin joined oneworld (a global airline alliance) and made a joint venture with Follow Me Entertainment GmbH.
In 2011, airberlin continued with its code-share agreements with British Airways, Iberia, Malev and Royal Jordanian, opening other routes, and sigend a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways that adds future flights to Abu Dhabi and will open a gateway to Asia and Australia.
In January 2012, airberlin began to offer nonstop flights from Berlin to Abu Dhabi seven times a week.
In March 2012, the entry of airberlin into the oneworld alliance is completed, and this allows its passengers to take advantage of 800 destinations in 150 countries and 550 airport lounges.
In May 2012, airberlin presented Your Fare, the new fare structure offering individual rates to all the target groups.
In December 2012, airberlin expanded its code-share agreement with Etihad Airways to include flights via Abu Dhabi to Chengdu, Beijing, Nagoya, Shanghai and Tokyo.
In January 2013, the first Airbus A330-200 was introduced with a new Business Class that enables a complete flat position.
In March 2013, airberlin connects Berlin with Chicago, using the Chicago hub as a way to connect within the United States. airberlin focuses on the core markets and increases its flights frequencies to Los Angeles, New York JFK, and Miami.
On 13th of January 2014, airberlin and Etihad Airways unveiled an Airbus A320 aircraft in specially designed joint livery, marking the launch of a new Moving Forward media campaign.
In September 2014, airberlin, as part of its restructuring program, canceled the orders for all remaining Boeing 787s and Boeing 737-800s. It is assumed that an all Airbus fleet was planned.
In September 2015, airberlin phased out the last Boeing B737-700 aircraft owned by the company. This type of aircraft, as well as Boeing B737-800 aircraft, since airberlin plans to cut costs by focusing its short-haul and medium-haul fleet on the Airbus A320 family.
In May 2016, airberlin shut down its hub operations at Palma de Mallorca Airport by ceasing all seven Spanish domestic routes which are connected to several routes from Germany. At the same time, in order to meet the growing demand for travel to the Caribbean, airberlin increased its services to Cuba for the 2016 summer.
In July 2016, airberlin was no longer owning any of the aircraft it operates, after having sold and leased back all of the aircraft it had previously owned. However, the airline announced a significant increase of non-stop flights to the US for 2017, an almost 50% expansion in the US route network, and also the introduction of Business Class on its short-haul and medium-haul flights.
In September 2016, under the « The new airberlin » project, the airline announced a far-reaching restructuring of its business to deliver long-term growth. The project will lead to a dedicated network carrier focused on long-haul and higher-yielding routes from its two key hubs, Berlin and Dusseldorf, with a core fleet of 75 aircraft and includes a drastic reduction of the network, from 140 destinations to only 70, the expansion of its long-haul business, target on business travellers, concentration on domestic German destinations and flights to Scandinavia, Italy, and eastern Europe, a massive downsizing of leisure routes (either transferred to NIKI or cancelled), and a staff reduction of up to 1,200 jobs.
In December 2016, as part of the restructuring plan, airberlin announced the sale of its 49% stake in NIKI, its Austrian subsidiary, to Etihad Airways. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals, and Etihad will not own the majority or effectively control NIKI.
The atmosfair Airline Index 2016 awarded airberlin first place in Europe and second place worldwide. The ranking of the climate organization compares the greenhouse gas emissions and rates their CO2 efficiency of the 200 largest airlines.
In February 2017, three new A330 joined airberlin fleet, thus nearly 1,000 extra seats boosting the growth of the long-haul flight network. During summer 2017, airberlin will operate 84 non-stop flights a week to eight destinations in the US.
At the end of the 2017 summer schedule, as part of the restructuring plan, the subsidiary Belair will be liquidated after being wound down in an orderly fashion over several phases. Until then, Belair will continue to operate flights from Zurich with four Airbus A321 aircraft, which will be transferred at the end of October 2017 to the Austrian airline, NIKI.
No notable accidents/incidents involving airberlin aircraft have been recorded so far.