LONDON – German carrier Germania, alongside its maintenance wing, have both filed for insolvency.

The airline’s flight operations were terminated in the night from February 4 to February 5, with employees receiving a notification from top management about the upcoming steps to shut down its operations.

The airline did say that the Swiss branch, Germania Flug AG, and Bulgarian Eagle are not affected by these proceedings.

Photo: Ole Simon

Karsten Balke, the CEO of Germania expressed deep regret over the decision but said it was “an unavoidable” thing to do.

“Unfortunately, we were ultimately unable to bring our financing efforts to cover a short-term liquidity need to a positive conclusion,” he said.

“We very much regret that consequently, our only option was to file for insolvency. It is of course the impact that this step will have on our employees that we regret the most.”

“All of them as a team always did their best to secure reliable and stable flight operations – even in the stressful weeks behind us. I would like to thank all of them from the bottom of my heart. I apologise to our passengers who now cannot take their Germania flight as planned.”

Photo: Kambui

The carrier has said that passengers affected by the suspension who booked a holiday package can get substitute flights to reduce disruption.

However, those who booked with Germania directly have “unfortunately no entitlement to substitute change”, meaning that money will be refunded probably through EU261 Compensation schemes.

The airline placed the blame on “unforeseeable events” such as massive increases in fuel prices over the course of last summer as well as the weakening of the Euro against the US Dollar.

Considerable delays in phasing aircraft into the fleet and high maintenance events were also to blame for the carrier’s downfall.

Photo: Clemens Vasters

Germania operated a fleet of 18 Airbus A319s, six A321s, and four Boeing 737-700s—a relatively strong fleet of 28 planes.

The airline deployed flights from its numerous bases in Berlin Schönefeld, Bremen, Dresden, Dusseldorf Rhein-Ruhr International, Erfurt, Friedrichshafen Bodensee-Airport, Hamburg Fuhlsbuettel, Munich Franz Josef Strauss, Munster / Osnabruck International, Nuremberg, and Rostock Laage.

As noted by Jason Rabinowitz, the airline’s network had over 120 flights scheduled on its last day of operations, leaving stranded thousands of passengers across Europe, Africa, and Western Asia.

A Look Back at Germania’s History

Germania was in the business for just shy of 41 years, having been founded in April 1978 as Special Air Transport (SAT) in Cologne.

SAT began operations in September 1978 with a Fokker F-27 before purchasing a Sud Aviation Caravelle from LTU in November that year.

Those aircraft were subsequently replaced by two used Boeing 727-100s from Hapag-Lloyd Flug, now known as TUIFly today.

By the Spring of 1986, this is where the Germania brand that we saw today emerge.

Its main areas of business at the start of this rebrand were charter services for TUI, Condor, and Neckermann Reisen, enabling Germania to remain competitive through offering lower prices.

1992 saw greater success, such as the relocation of its offices to Berlin-Tegel, winning bids for flight services between Bonn and Berlin on behalf of the German government, dubbed Beamten-Shuttle for German Civil Servants.

By 1998, the carrier began to lease more and more planes to other airlines such as Hapag-Lloyd Express, Maersk, and Delta.

By 2003, the carrier started selling direct tickets rather than under the usual charter contracts it had won from the various German carriers at the time.

In 2005, dba, which became later part of Air Berlin, purchased a 64% stake in Germania and wet-leased 12 Fokker 100 aircraft.

dba took over Germania Express’ 15 low-cost routes and absorbed the gexx brand under Germania.

This partial takeover was then cancelled in 2005, with its cooperation expanding instead to 14 F100s instead.

November 2005 saw Hinrich Bischoff, the former owner of Germania, tasking the Air Berlin CEO, Joachim Hunold, to take control of the airline before his subsequent death.

This was not implemented in the end due to family feuds in the Bischoff’s not wanting to accept this change.

By 2008, Germania relaunched its flights under its own brand setting in and out of Berlin and Dusseldorf.

March 2011 saw the foundations laid for the first maintenance hangar at Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, with the airline planning to use the facilities together once the airport became operational.

In March 2014, having scheduled flights to Iraq, the airline got into a dispute with Iraqi Airways over operations, which resulted in the rights for Germania being revoked.

Around two weeks later, the carrier was then able to resume flights.

In 2015, all seemed to be going well for the airline, as it announced it would phase out all of its Boeing 737-700 aircraft by 2020 and become an all-Airbus operator, hinting at further orders and investment.

September 2016 seemed to have changed that direction as all operations out of Kassel Airport were suspended, giving a big blow to the German airport as it was the only scheduled carrier at the time.

2017 saw Bulgarian Eagle gain its approved Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), with its only aircraft, an Airbus A319, to be wet-leased to partner companies.

By December 2018, the airline had reported heavy losses, especially during last year, which forced the airline to look for potential buyers.

The situation began to deteriorate last month when payment of salaries for employees would be delayed.

Then as of this week, services were suspended without any notice to employees, with flight ST3711 being the last operated from Fuerteventura to Nuremberg, which landed at 01:11 local time, on February 5.

Final Thoughts

It remains a significant shame for the German aviation industry about Germania’s insolvency.

As a carrier that had a lifespan of four decades, it provided a significant amount to the low-cost element of flying in Germany.

Germania will now join Air Berlin in the history books as yet another German carrier that collapsed due to financial woes.

This will solidify the strength of the likes of Lufthansa and other competitors in the German market.