The historic fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago in Berlin did not only mark the beginning of the end of the East/West divide in Germany. It also marked the end of Interflug, the East German national carrier.
Based in Berlin Schönefeld Airport, Interflug operated to Warsaw Pact, communist, and other allied nations around the world. It utilized a fleet of Russian-made aircraft, including Ilyushin Il-18, Ilyushin Il-62, Tupolev Tu-134, and Tupolev Tu-154 in its final years of operation.
Like most state-run industries in East Germany, Interflug was highly unprofitable. After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many airlines saw an opporutnity to capitalize on Berlin and Interflug’s still robust route map. By March 1990, Lufthansa agreed to acquire 26% of Interflug, but the deal was blocked by antitrust authorities as discouraging competition.
British Airways also made an offer for Interflug, bu that deal fizzed and BA formed Deutsche BA instead, a Munich-baed budget carrier that was eventually sold to Air Berlin in 2006 and fully folded into Air Berlin in 2008.
When German reunification formally occurred on October 3, 1990, Interflug, like all state-owned property in East Germany, came under the control of Treuhandanstalt (literally, “Trust Agency”). The goal: privatize it. But by early 1991 no investors could be found and the airline was liquidated in April 1991. At the time, Interflug had 2,900 employees and 20 aircraft. Once other airlines realized that Interflug would dissolve if no one invested..they held back investments, preferring instead to reduce competition and develop the former East German market with their own planes and employees.
Its final flight was from Vienna to Berlin on a Tu-134 on April 30, 1991.
The fall of the Berlin Wall directly unleashed a ripple effect that eventually toppled Interflug, the flag carrier of the DDR. 30 years later, Berlin still doesn’t have a new airport…
Did you ever fly Interflug? Do you miss it?
image: RuthAS / Wikimedia Commons