10/06/1959: Charter Carrier Spantax Is Founded

10/06/1959: Charter Carrier Spantax Is Founded

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, Spanish leisure carrier Spantax (BX) was founded in 1959. The airline was set up by ex-Iberia (IB) Pilot and Flight Attendant Rodolfo Bay Wright and his partner Marta Estades Sáez.

Spantax was one of the first Spanish airlines to offer tourist charter flights between European and North American cities and renowned Spanish vacation locations, and it was largely viewed as a driving force in the development of 20th-century mass tourism in Spain.

Based in Gran Canaria, the airline started life-flying geologists and technicians exploring oil opportunities in the Sahara Desert and former Spanish colonies of West Africa.

Following measured expansion, BX entered the jet age in 1967, when two Convair 990s were purchased from American Airlines (AA). BX would go on to operate 14 of the type, making it the world’s largest operator for a time.

Spantax Convair CV-990 in 1976. Photo: Eduard Marmet. Image:Spantax CV-990 at Basle – June 1976.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0

Widebody Era

By 1978, the airline had become one of the largest charter airlines in Europe. In October, the airline received its first McDonnell Douglas DC-10, putting it to work on its extensive transatlantic charter operation, reaching as far as Los Angeles. It also allowed the airline to become the first in Spain to fly to Japan via the Polar Route with a stop in Anchorage.

However, towards the end of the 1980s, Spantax’s reputation was severely damaged due to a string of deadly accidents and a strike by the airline’s maintenance staff and pilots. Alongside the increasing costs of fuel and the fierce competition in the profitable European charter market, these factors ultimately resulted in the Spanish government taking over the airline, which was burdened with a debt of 13 billion pesetas.

The carrier was then sold to the Aviation Finance Group of Luxembourg. They promised to revitalize the airline with a pair of new McDonnell Douglas MD-83s. Sadly, the airline continued to hemorrhage money and collapsed on March 29, 1988.

Featured image: Spantax added the Boeing 737-200 to the fleet in 1983 to replace its Douglas DC-9s. Photo: Eduard Marmet, CC BY-SA 3.0

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

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