Owned by the Turkish businessman Mehmet Birgen, Birgenair operated charter flights from Western Europe to several Turkish holiday destinations, initially with DC-8 aircraft. Later it served the Turkish-German discount travel and tourism company Öger Tours for flights from Germany to Caribbean with Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft.
On 6 February 1996 Birgenair Flight 301 was bound for Frankfurt, Germany but crashed shortly after take-off from Puerto Plata Airport in the Dominican Republic into Atlantic Ocean 26 kilometres off-shore. All 176 passengers and 13 crew members, among them 154 Germans and 9 Polish people, were killed. It was found that one of the air speed indicators of the Boeing 757-225 was not working properly, confusing the pilots about whether the plane's speed was too fast or too slow. The aircraft was leased due to a malfunction with the scheduled aircraft for that flight.
Massive negative publicity about Birgenair and other discount flight organizers in Germany following the disaster caused a sharp decline in reservations, and finally the company went into bankruptcy and closed later that same year, 1996.