MIAMI – Today in Aviation, East Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa made its first flight in 1955. Operated by an Ilyushin Il-14 the flight carried the countries then Prime Mininster Otto Grotewohl from Berlin Schönefeld (SXF) to Moscow.

Following the end of World War II, Germany was split into East and West. Initially, the two countries were unable to establish their own airlines. Britain, France, and America controlled air services in the West, while Russia’s Aeroflot controlled the East.

The first Ilyushin Il-18 joined the Deutsche Lufthansa fleet in 1960 and this particular example would go on to serve with Interflug until 1988. (Photo: Urfin7, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

A Tale of Two Airlines


Finally, permission was granted for the two to establish their own airlines. Both demanded the pre-war flag carrier Lufthansa’s name. The West established Lufthansa (LH) while the East set up Deutsche Lufthansa.

Scheduled services commenced on February 4, 1956, between SFX and Warsaw. Expansion to the east continued with Moscow, Sofia, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, and Bulgaria quickly added to the route network.

To facilitate this expansion the larger Ilyushin Il-18 joined the fleet on March 28, 1960.

Interflug took over the operations of Deutsche Lufthansa in 1963. (Photo: Airways Collection)

Interflug


In 1958 East Germany established charter carrier Interflug (IF). The “back-up” airline was created as tensions over the Lufthansa name began to mount. Subsequently, Deutsche Lufthansa was sued by LH, preventing the former from becoming a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). 

Financially the East German carrier could not compete with its Western rival. Therefore on September 1, 1963, the airline was liquidated. IF was then promoted to the national airline until German reunification in October 1990. Its final commercial flight arrived at SXF from Vienna on April 30, 1991.


Featured image: Deutsche Lufthansa started life in 1955 with a fleet of Russian-built Ilyushin Il-14s. (Photo: FOTO:FORTEPAN / Gyöngyi, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)