2/10/1996: Edelweiss Air Commences Operations

2/10/1996: Edelweiss Air Commences Operations

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Swiss leisure airline Edelweiss Air (WK) operated its maiden flight in 1996. The inaugural service departed Zurich (ZRH) bound for Paphos (PFO) via Larnaca (LCA).

The airline was founded on October 19, 1995, by travel group Kuoni Reisen AG and businessman Niklaus Grob. It started life with a single 162-seat McDonnell Douglas MD-83 (HB-IKM). WK soon added two further examples (HB-IKN and HB-IKP). 

Inclusive-tour flights from Switzerland expanded to include the Balearics, Canary Islands, Cyprus, Portugal, and Tunisia. 

Edelweiss started life with a fleet of MD-83s. Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, SwitzerlandCC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Fleet Development

In January 1999, WK received the first of three 172-seat Airbus A320s. It has since added further examples and currently operates ten of the type. 

Long-haul flights commenced on November 21, 2000, following the arrival of a Rolls-Royce Trent-powered, 313-seat Airbus A330-200. WK used the jet to link ZRH with Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Maldives. The -200 was retired from the fleet in December 2016. A larger -300 variant arrived in February 2011. These have since been transferred to Lufthansa’s German leisure subsidiary, Eurowings Discover (4Y).

Edelweiss Airbus A330-300 (HB-JHR). Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways.

New Owners

In November 2008, the airline was sold by Kuoni to Swiss International Air Lines (LX), part of the Lufthansa Group. As part of Europe’s largest airline conglomerate, WK focuses on tourists rather than business travelers, seeking out routes to “special cities” that LX or LH may not be able to operate viably. 

Featured Image: WK also operates the four-engined A340-300. Four of the type joined the fleet from LX and were used to expand its route network. Photo: Photo: Christian Winter/Airways.

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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