LONDON – Cargolux has unveiled a brand new retro livery onto one of its Boeing 747-400 freighters today to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The aircraft lands into Luxembourg today at 1645L with its unique design celebrating such a birthday with the iconic lines of the jumbo jet.

It was also based on the airline’s initial fleet of Canadair CL-44 it had before its transition to the Douglas DC-8 as the company moved into the jet age.

Photo: Cargolux

Start of Operations

The airline started operations in 1969 with said CL-44 in the fleet, with the aim of selling and leasing them on to companies within Iceland.

However, after an aborted attempt at selling one of the CL-44 to a group of pilots in Malmo, Sweden, such stories made headlines and a Swedish-based shipper gave the airline an opportunity to begin transporting goods around Europe.

The idea was to fly Scandinavian tourists to and from Spain on weekends and then in the week convert the aircraft to freighters to transport fresh fruit and vegetables back to Sweden.

Photo: Cargolux

From Stockholm to JFK

After such agreements were made, the airline headed down to Luxembourg and discussed how it would proceed with an all-cargo airline.

By the 1970s, the airline had inaugurated services, with the first flight departing to Stockholm Arlanda and then onwards to New York’s JFK to pick up iceberg lettuce and strawberries. Again these services commenced with CL-44s.

Within that decade, a second CL-44 was acquired, but was the CL-44J version, which was stretched to cater for the business.

Photo: Cargolux

It only remained with the airline for a year before it crashed in East Pakistan during an International Red Cross airlift.

By 1977, the airline had entered the jumbo-jet era by purchasing just one Boeing 747-200 Freighter and by 1979, the airline had it delivered.

At the time, the airline was the only all-cargo airline in Europe.

Photo: Cargolux

Cargolux in the 80s and 90s

By the 1980s, it had received its second 747 freighter, but had to undergo financial restructuring due to the increase of interest rates and the demand for air cargo declining at the time.

However, by 1986, the economy had recovered, and a third freighter was received.

Photo: Cargolux

By 1990, the airline became the launch customer for the 747-400 Freighter, having signed a deal for three units of the type.

Within that same decade also, the airline had opened up a brand new cargo center in Luxembourg, highlighting significant demand.

Photo: Cargolux

1997 saw Cargolux also order five more units of the type and by the start of the new millennia, the cargo firm had over 1,000 employees in its business.

The carrier then entered the millennia as an all Boeing 747-400 operator with a fleet of 10 aircraft.

Cargolux in The New Millennia

Even through turmoil such as 9/11 etc., the carrier still increased its fleet to 14 freighters by 2005.

In that same year, it placed an order with Boeing for 10 of the -8 Freighter variant, being the launch customer alongside Nippon Cargo Airlines.

Capacity would have increased to 140 tonnes in total when the airline received the aircraft in 2011, with LX-VCB being the first unit.

Those may not know either but in that same year, Qatar Airways (QR) purchased a 35% stake in the airline, but the airline had pulled out a year later, forcing the Luxembourg state to help the carrier until a buyer was found.

Photo: Cargolux

New Shareholder

HNCA became the new shareholder for Cargolux in 2014, resulting in a second hub in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou being opened up.

By November of that year, the carrier had celebrated its first 10,000 tons of cargo transiting through that hub.

Nowadays, we see Cargolux as a carrier that continues to thrive, even in the wake of adversity.

Whether it would be 9/11, SARS, the Financial Crash of 2008 or COVID-19, the airline still remains strong today and will no doubt continue to do so for many years and decades to go.