65 Years Ago Condor Airlines Took Its First Flight

Today marks 65 years since Condor made its first flight and kicked off its rise to becoming one of the most popular leisure operators in Europe. The airline was based out of Frankfurt when it was founded, operating a small fleet of Vickers Vikings. Since then, the airline has quickly grown, and after a few tough years recently, continues to fly today. Let’s find out more about this airline’s long history.

Condor 767-300
Condor has had a long history as Germany’s leading leisure airline. Photo: Condor

Beginnings

Condor was officially founded on 21st December 1955 and owned by a consortium of companies, including Lufthansa. The airline made its first-ever tourist flight on 29th March 1956, a pilgrimage flight from Frankfurt to the Holy Land (Jerusalem). Soon after, Condor added destinations like Majorca and the Canary Islands in Spain, spots that remain popular to this day.

Condor quickly cornered the leisure market, and in 1959, Lufthansa took full ownership of the carrier. By 1962, the carrier had a market share of 63.3% and carried 66,000 passengers, an impressive figure at the time. Seeing the high demand for tourism, Condor added long-haul routes to countries like Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Dominican Republic.

Condor added the 747 to its fleet in 1971, making the first and very few leisure airlines to take on the jumbojet. Photo: Daniel Tanner via Wikimedia Commons

Condor’s fleet grew alongside the airline and by the early 1970s it flew an all-Boeing fleet of 747s, 727s, and 707s. However, competition quickly followed and the airline made some interesting moves to remain dominant in the market.

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Direct

In 1989, Condor began selling flight tickets directly to customers instead of only offering tourist packages through provides. According to FlightGlobal at the time, the market was being shaken up by other EU airlines (like Britannia Airways), who undercut Condor on ticket distribution prices. However, it survived this challenge and continued to grow.

By the late 1990s, the airline began to expand its reach and set up low-cost subsidiaries (Condor Berlin) in Germany to offer cheaper tickets. The carrier also ordered the Airbus A320 in 1998 to complement its fresh fleets of 757 and 767s.

65 Years Ago Condor Airlines Took Its First Flight
To celebrate its 50th birthday in 2006, Condor painted one of its 757s in a special “Willi” livery, named after designer Wilfried Meyer who influenced the airline’s branding. Photo: Condor

After being integrated into a tourism platform, the 2000s saw Condor find a new owner: Thomas Cook. The now-defunct group bought up Lufthansa’s shares in the leisure airline to cement its lead in the European market. After a brief renaming to “Thomas Cook Powered by Condor,” the airline opted to retain its popular branding in 2004.

Rebirth

Under Thomas Cook saw the airline renew its fleet and add competitive cabin products; however, this ended in September 2019. The collapse of Thomas Cook suddenly meant that Condor was at the risk of bankruptcy itself. However, the German government quickly stepped in to save the airline, offering a bridge loan to keep it flying.

Condor exits proceedings healthy company
Expect to see the Condor livery flying in the skies for at least a few more years. Photo: Getty Images

In January 2020, Condor was bought by Polish flag carrier LOT and began the sale process. However, the sale collapsed in April 2020 as the pandemic decimated global aviation, forcing Condor to continue flying as an independent carrier.

For now, Condor remains a popular leisure airline in Germany and plans to bounce back with more flights as aviation slowly recovers.

Have you ever flown with Condor? Tell us about your experience in the comments!

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