Germany is a key European market for UK flag carrier British Airways. The Heathrow-based oneworld founding member serves several airports in the country, catering to both business and leisure travelers, as well as the cargo market. However, its presence there used to be even stronger, in the form of a subsidiary known as Deutsche BA.
In the beginning
Deutsche BA’s story began in April 1977, when an air taxi service named Delta Air was founded in Stuttgart. Although it began its operations with a Piper PA-31T ‘Cheyenne,’ it acquired a second aircraft (a de Havilland DHC-6 ‘Twin Otter‘) within a year.
With this aircraft, it took over Pleuger Flugdienst’s Friedrichshafen to Stuttgart and Zürich routes. Delta Air continued to grow in the 1980s, with a pair of Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner III turboprops coming onboard. These joined Delta Air in 1982 and 1988.
The 1980s also saw the airline begin operating flights for Dornier workers from Friedrichshafen to Oberpfaffenhofen. These services used a STOL-capable Dornier 228 turboprop. Delta Air established partnerships with several key European airlines during this decade, including Swiss regional operator Crossair, and German flag carrier Lufthansa.
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Time under British Airways ownership
By the 1990s, British Airways was keen to establish itself more solidly in the German market. After negotiations with other carriers like Aero Lloyd and Germania fell through, it was a case of third time lucky for the airline, which acquired 49% of Delta Air in 1992. airBaltic CEO Martin Gauss joined as a Managing Director at this time, staying until 2007.
In May that year, the company was subsequently renamed as Deutsche BA. As well as establishing a stronger presence in Germany, British Airways also hoped that Deutsche BA’s flights could act as a feeder service to its own onward flights from London.
British Airways consolidated Deutsche BA’s fleet throughout the 1990s. It eventually dropped the former Delta Air turboprops in favor of the Boeing 737-300. ch-aviation.com reports that it eventually flew 28 examples of these twinjets. With the 737, Deutsche BA was able to operate its first charter flights to Greece, Ireland, Spain, and Turkey in 1993.
The final years
The turn of the century marked a change of CEO at British Airways, with the role going from Bob Ayling to Rod Eddington. This saw thorough reviews of the airline’s operations be conducted, and they revealed that Deutsche BA had made losses of more than £15 million ($20.8 million). This prompted the UK flag carrier to look to sell its German subsidiary.
Low-cost carrier easyJet, which also purchased BA’s budget arm Go Fly, initially looked set to buy Deutsche BA. However, after this fell through, British Airways eventually opted to sell its German subsidiary to Intro Verwaltungsgesellschaft for just €1 ($1.19) in 2003.
BA promised a £25 million ($34.6 million) investment in return for 25% of its profits until 2006. Under the new ownership, it was renamed as simply ‘dba.’ Air Berlin acquired 25.1% of dba in February 2006, increasing its share to 100% by August that year. The airline’s story came to an end in November 2008, when it was integrated into Air Berlin’s operations.
Did you know that British Airways used to have a German subsidiary? Perhaps you even flew with Deutsche BA back in the day? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.