Remembering Interflug: 30 Years Since German Reunification

Today is German Unity Day, marking 30 years since the reunification of Germany. This move saw the fall of Interflug, which was the national carrier of the German Democratic Republic up until 1990. Let’s take a look at this historic airline.

Interflug Jet
Interflug had a mix of Soviet jets within its fleet. Photo: Ralf Manteufel via Wikimedia Commons

Following the war

Up until the end of World War II, Deutsche Luft Hansa was the flag carrier of Germany. However, all planes in the nation were seized following the allied occupation, and the airline ceased to exist by 1954. Nonetheless, the title of Lufthansa was soon trademarked in West Germany, which was met with the trademarking of Deutsche Lufthansa in East Germany.

East German officials were concerned about legal issues that could arise with a name so close to the initial trademarking across the border. So, it had set up Interflug in 1958 just in case of any problems. Subsequently, due to poor financials, Deutsche Lufthansa was liquidated in 1963. Its operations were then transferred over to Interflug to handle.

A look at the fleet

Interflug was based at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, and over the years, it mostly operated a fleet of familiar Soviet aircraft. Types included the Ilyushin Il-18, Ilyushin Il-62, Tupolev Tu-134, and Tupolev Tu-154. However, there were some other additions along the way. For instance, the Czechoslovakian Aero Ae-45 joined in 1956 before leaving in 1961.

Additionally, in Interflug’s final years, an Airbus A310 joined in 1989. Then, the following year, a Dash 8-100 arrived. However, following reunification in 1990, these units didn’t see much action as the firm was soon liquidated.

Interflug Plane
An Interflug Ilyushin Il-62 in January 1988. Photo: Aldo Bidini via Wikimedia Commons

Economic connections

During its operating years, the airline mainly served countries that were part of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON). This organization was an economic union that mostly involved nations that were part of the Eastern Bloc and other socialist states across the globe.

Therefore, the operator served several Soviet Union and Yugoslavian destinations such as Moscow, Minsk, Kyiv, Leningrad, Ljubljana, Split, and Zagreb. Moreover, it flew to several cities across both East and West Germany.

Alongside several other short and medium-range routes to European, North African, and Middle Eastern cities, the airline flew to other far-distant COMECON countries around the world. From 1975, it conducted flights to Havana, Cuba, and Hanoi in Vietnam.

Tupolev Tu-134
An Interflug Tupolev Tu-134 in September 1977. Photo: RuthAS via Wikimedia Commons

The fall of the wall

Altogether, Interflug was notably unprofitable in its latter years, but it did have a potentially lucrative route map. Live And Let’s Fly shares that following the fall of the Berlin Wall, Lufthansa was interested in purchasing 26% of the airline. Eventually, this move was blocked by antitrust groups. Furthermore, British Airways made an offer, but the flag carrier of the United Kingdom instead formed Deutsche BA.

Following unification, the airline couldn’t find any suitable investors, and it was liquidated in April 1991. Before its final days, it held 20 planes and employed 2,900 people. Several prospective buyers preferred to let the carrier dissolve so that they could develop the market with their own assets. A Tu-134 performed Interflug’s last flight, which was an operation from Vienna to Berlin on April 30th, 1991.

As we look back at society during the period before the reunification of Germany, we notice that there are many historic companies that are no longer with us. Altogether Interflug symbolizes a unique yet important era in history.

What are your thoughts about Interflug? Did you fly with the airline over the years? Let us know what you think of the carrier in the comment section.