Euroberlin was a niche airline owned jointly between Air France and Lufthansa to serve markets out of Berlin in what was then West Germany. However, following the country’s reunification and a resulting change in regulations, the airline faltered under competition and was eventually dissolved just six years after it had commenced operations.
The background to Berlin
Euroberlin’s (EE/EEB) story is unique as airlines go. After all, there haven’t been too many airlines over the years that can claim two major international carriers as joint owners. However, that is a claim that Euroberlin could boast in its short life of operations.
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The history of Eurberlin goes all the way back to the end of the Second World War. A civil air service declaration permitted only airlines from three allied countries (UK, US, France) to operate domestic routes from West Berlin’s two primary airports – Tegel and Tempelhof. As the national carrier of West Germany, Lufthansa was not permitted to operate domestic German flights from the city at this point.
British European Airways (BEA) and Pan American Airways (Pan Am) took full advantage of this agreement, opening up services within West Germany and other European countries. Air France also opened up operations from West Berlin, initially using Caravelles, but these flights were quickly dropped following huge losses being incurred.
Air France did not withdraw from the West German city entirely, however. The airline maintained regular flights between Berlin and Paris Orly (ORY), initially using Sud Aviation Caravelles before replacing them with its larger, more modern Boeing 727-200s.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, successive decline was seen in the passenger numbers flying on internal routes from West Berlin’s airports. However, following an upturn in traffic numbers in the mid-1980s, West Berlin once again came to the attention of Air France executives in Paris, who spied on an opportunity to re-enter the German domestic market.
By this point, Pan Am was ailing as an airline, and its West Berlin operation was slowly winding down as a result. British Airways had kept up a presence throughout, but by this point, was also focussing its attention elsewhere on its network.
The competition faltering and a lack of decent domestic connections from West Berlin, combined with the lack of competition in a growing market, caused Air France to look at re-establishing operations on domestic routes within West Germany.
Additionally, with European air transport liberalization taking effect in 1987, Air France forecasted that demand for flights from Berlin held massive potential for any airline prepared to provide services.
However, it would be the momentous decision that East and West Germany would undergo a process of reunification in 1989, which would prove to be the catalyst that would finally make Air France put its Berlin plan into action.
A unique solution to a unique problem.
Air France was keen to establish a base there quickly, with the possibility that other carriers would soon swarm into Berlin once air transport was liberalized in Germany and the rest of Europe. Lufthansa was also keen but still had to wait in the wings until it was once again permitted to commence operations from the city under its own name.
Air France, aware of the losses it had suffered from Berlin in the past, was more risk-averse this time. Also aware of Lufthansa’s desire to enter the West Berlin domestic market, executives from the French carrier proposed to their counterparts at Lufthansa headquarters in Frankfurt.
That proposal was to form a new airline jointly to operate domestic services from Berlin, with lower operating costs than the competition. However, given that Lufthansa was yet to be permitted to operate on domestic routes from Berlin, Air France would become the majority shareholder, taking 51% versus Lufthansa’s 49% minority stake.
This arrangement effectively made the new operation, to be named Euroberlin France, a French legal entity, and allowed it to conduct commercial airline operations from West Berlin. The airline would have its headquarters in Paris and remain majority owned by the French national carrier.
To ensure that the newly formed airline was competitive with the incumbent carriers (Pan Am and British Airways), Air France contracted with Monarch Airlines in the UK to provide the aircraft, flight deck crews, and engineering support under a wet lease agreement.
Euroberlin’s livery and branding would incorporate elements of both Air France’s and Lufthansa’s contemporary liveries. This featured a predominantly white fuselage but used the Air France corporate colors of red and blue on the white background to highlight the French majority ownership. Eurobertlin titles were included in blue, with smaller ‘France’ titles in red alongside.
Additionally, all functions other than employing and managing flight attendants and the airline’s operational management were outsourced so that the new carrier did not prove too much of a distraction from the parent airlines’ core businesses.
Commencement of operations
Euroberlin France commenced operations commenced from Tegel Airport on November 7th, 1988, using four Boeing 737-300s leased from Monarch. Initially, these were used on high-frequency shuttle services from Berlin Tegel to Cologne/Bonn (CGN), Frankfurt (FRA), Munich (MUC), and Stuttgart (STR).
Although the airline e enjoyed a steady start to operations during the 1988/89 winter season, from the beginning of the 1989 summer timetable, a fifth 737-300 was leased from Monarch to increase weekday frequencies on its existing routes as well as to launch two additional routes serving Düsseldorf (DUS) and Hamburg (HAM).
Additionally, to maintain high aircraft utilization rates at weekends when frequencies on its scheduled route network were reduced, Euroberlin entered the short-haul charter market from West Berlin, catering to holidaymakers traveling predominantly to Mediterranean hotspots.
By early 1990, Euroberlin’s fleet had expanded to seven Boeing 737-300s. This firmly established it as the third-largest contemporary airline operator at Berlin Tegel. By the end of that year, the airline had acquired a further three 737-300s, two of which were previously operated by French charter airline, Aéromaritime, which Air France had acquired along with its parent, UTA.
Euroberlin quickly made a name for itself in the Berlin air transport market. With its high-quality in-flight service (modeled on Air France’s contemporary, short-haul European in-flight service) and lower fares than its rivals, the carrier quickly established a loyal customer base of business and leisure travelers alike.
The airline returned a profit within a relatively short period and enjoyed an average load factor on its scheduled services of 60% in its early years.
Euroberlin Fleet Details
According to data from Planespotters.net, the Boeing 737-300 fleet (all leased from Monarch Airlines) reached a maximum of ten aircraft at the height of Euroberlin’s success.
G-DHSW – Operated from April 1990 to March 1994
G-MONF – Operated from May 1991 to October 1994
G-MONG – Operated from November 1991 to October 1994
G-MONH – Operated from November 1988 to October 1994
G-MONL – Operated from October 1988 to November 1991
G-MONM – Operated from November 1988 to April 1991
G-MONN – Operated from November 1988 to April 1993
G-MONP – Operated from March 1993 to September 1994
G-MONT – Operated from October 1990 to May 1991
G-MONU – Operated from October 1990 to April 1992
Reunification changes everything
Following the reunification of Germany on October 3rd, 1990, Air France reduced its stake in Euroberlin by 1%. Consequently, Lufthansa increased its stake by the same amount, with both airlines becoming equal owners of the carrier.
The switch in ownership also resulted in the company dropping the ‘France’ suffix from its name, with the aircraft exterior titles being amended accordingly.
However, German reunification completely changed Lufthansa’s position in the German market. It could operate its own planes and crews on domestic routes from Berlin. The German national carrier initially subcontracted Euroberlin to operate some of its internal German services from Berlin Tegel for a limited period.
However, soon realizing the synergies that could be achieved by flying these routes with its own brand, it gradually replaced Euroberlin’s aircraft and employed its planes and crew.
This move was all part of Lufthansa HQ’s corporate strategy to rsignificantablish a major presence in Berlin as quickly as possible after what had been a politically enforced exile of 45 years. Without Lufthansa’s s full support behind it, plus more competition in the market and Air France having had its fingers burned once more, the writing was on the wall for Euroberlin.
The end for Euroberlin
Without any significant ongoing support from Lufthansa, Euroberlin limped on but eventually ceased operations on October 29th, 1994. It was finally shut down as a legal entity in December of that year.
By the end of operations, the fleet was down to just three Boeing 737-300s, all of which returned to Monarch Airlines in the UK to fly on for that carrier on Inclusive Tour charter flights around Europe and North Africa.
Do you remember Euroberlin, or did you ever fly on one of its services? Tell us more in the comments.