|Hubs||Berlin Schönefeld Airport|
|Headquarters||Schönefeld, East Germany|
Interflug GmbH (German: Interflug Gesellschaft für internationalen Flugverkehr m.b.H.)[note 1] was the national airline of East Germany from 1963 to 1990. Based in East Berlin, it operated scheduled and chartered flights to European and intercontinental destinations out of its hub at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, focusing on Comecon countries. Following the German reunification, the company was liquidated.
Founding years 
Until 1945, Deutsche Luft Hansa had served as German flag carrier. Following the end of World War II and the subsequent allied occupation of Germany, all aircraft in the country were seized and the airline was liquidated. In 1954, a West German company acquired the Lufthansa trademark. In 1955, Deutsche Lufthansa was founded as rival East German flag carrier. It soon became obvious that the East German airline would likely lose a lawsuit over the use of the Lufthansa branding. As a consequence, Interflug was set up on 18 September 1958 as a "back-up" company, initially intended to complement the East German aviation industry by operating chartered flights. In 1963, the East German Lufthansa was liquidated, officially due to poor profitability (though this step foreclosed the imminent stripping of the Lufthansa name). Its staff, aircraft fleet and route network was transferred to Interflug, which henceforth served as the East German flag carrier.
East German national airline 
As state-owned airline, Interflug with its approximate 8,000 employees was under control of the National Defense Council, which held the supreme command of the East German armed forces. The majority of the pilots of Interflug were reserve officers of the National People's Army (and as such required to be members of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany), and all of its aircraft could have been requisitioned for military purposes at any time. Klaus Henkes, who became General Director of the airline on 1978, had previously served as General of the East German Air Force. Applicants for the job of a flight attendent needed to be approved of by the Stasi, in order to assess their so called political reliability, minimizing espionage and escape attempts in Western countries. On warning of suspension, Interflug crews were not allowed to associate with employees of airlines from non-socialist countries.
Over the 1960s, the airline saw a significant growth, concerning both its route network and fleet of Soviet-built aircraft. The Ilyushin Il-18 turboprop airliner became the backbone of Interflug's short haul flights during that period. The company had been intended the primary operator of the Baade 152, an early jet airliner constructed in East Germany. The development never went beyond the prototype phase, though, and was abandoned in 1961. In 1969, the Tupolev Tu-134 was introduced, the first jet airliner operated by Interflug. The long range Il-62 became part of the fleet in 1971. In the same year, the number of annual Interflug passengers reached 1 million.
Following the 1970s energy crisis with its growing fuel prices, Interflug gradually dismantled its domestic route network. The last scheduled flight (from East Berlin to Erfurt) took place in April 1980.
Late 1980s and German reunification 
Over the 1980s, Interflug had to cope with increasing problems due to its ageing fleet: The fuel efficiency proved to be inferior compared to at that time modern Western airliners, and noise protection regulations meant that the company had to pay increased landing fees, in some cases even facing bans from operating at certain airports. Western-built airlines (most notably those produced by Boeing, McDonnell Douglas or Airbus) could not be delivered to countries of the Soviet bloc because of the CoCom embargo. Following a deal between Boeing and LOT Polish Airlines for the purchase of six Boeing 767 aircraft and in order to acknowledge of the Perestroika movement, commercial airliners were exempted from the trade embargo in 1988. In the same year, Interflug placed an order for three Airbus A310 long haul aircraft, worth DM 4.2 million. The deal was secured with the sponsorship of Franz Josef Strauss, then Minister-President of Bavaria, chairman of the Airbus supervisory board and responsible for West German loans granted to East Germany.
The first Airbus A310 was delivered to Interflug on 26 June 1989. The East German crews for the new aircraft type were trained in West Germany, where any maintenance work was carried out, too. The A310 allowed for non-stop flights to Cuba (previously, flights had needed a fuel stop at Gander International Airport).
Following the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 and the subsequent political changes in East Germany, several foreign airlines expressed intentions to take over parts of the highly loss-making company, in order to get a grip on the German air traffic market, especially concerning Berlin. In early March 1990, Lufthansa signed a letter of intent to acquire 26 percent in Interflug, but the offer was blocked by the Federal Cartel Office. Plans for a take-over by British Airways did not materialize, either (instead, Deutsche BA was formed in 1992). On 1 July 1990, Interflug became a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
As a consequence of the German reunification on 3 October 1990, Interflug came under the administration of the Treuhandanstalt, along with all other state-owned property of East Germany. As no investors could be found, it was announced on 7 February 1991 that Interflug with its then 2,900 employees and 20 aircraft would be liquidated. Subsequently, the airline was dismantled. The last commercial flight (on the Berlin-Vienna-Berlin route using a Tu-134) took place on 30 April 1991.
Following the liquidation, a group of former Interflug employees acquired five of the company's Ilyushin Il-18 airliners and set up Il-18 Air Cargo, which soon became known as Berline, operating chartered cargo and leisure flights out of Schönefeld Airport.
The three Airbus A310 purchased by Interflug in 1988 were handed over from Treuhandanstalt to the property of the Federal Republic of Germany. Henceforth, they were operated by the German Air Force, also being used for the representative VIP transport of high ranking politicians like the German president or chancellor.
Several former Interflug aircraft have been preserved in different places in Germany.
Route network 
As national airline of East Germany (since 1963), Interflug operated scheduled passenger flights to the following destinations.[note 2]
Flights to Western countries 
As a state-owned company of East Germany, Interflug had the important role to secure foreign exchanges, as the national East German mark was considered a weak currency. For most of its existence, Interflug was not a member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and therefore could significantly undercut ticket prices of other European carriers. Since the 1970s, an increased effort was put on operating chartered flights to Mediterranean and Black Sea holiday resorts, many of which specifically catered for West Germans (as travel restrictions applied for East Germans). From the 1970s, Interflug gained traffic rights to several destinations in Western Europe. All of these flights could be booked at travel agencies in West Berlin and West Germany, which had signed sale contracts with Interflug. To simplify the transfer from passengers from West Berlin to and from Schönefeld Airport, a dedicated border crossing checkpoint was inaugurated at Waltersdorfer Chaussee, and scheduled shuttle busses were operated from the Central Bus Terminal in the Westend locality.
By the early 1980s, the low Interflug ticket prices had resulted in a considerable impact on Berlin Tegel Airport in West Berlin, which experienced a severe decline of holiday flights. Reportedly, pilots of Pan American World Airways, which had a hub at Tegel, considered to operate flights to Greece without payments, in order to allow the airline to compete with Interflug. Analysts identified the price war on holiday flights out of West Berlin as one of the factors responsible for the demise of Laker Airways in 1982.
With Turkish Airlines, Interflug had signed an agreement, by which the two airlines were established as the only ones to offer dedicated flights for Turkish Gastarbeiter to and from West Germany and West Berlin. With KLM, Interflug set up a partnership for a joint operation on the East Berlin-Amsterdam route during the 1980s. Of the six weekly flights, two were operated by KLM's Fokker F28 Fellowships, and four by Interflug's Il-18s. As neither airline was entitled to cross the intra-German border,[note 3] the KLM flights were routed via Denmark, and Interflug chose a southern routing over the Czechoslovakia.
During the annual Leipzig Trade Fair, which at that time was considered the most important meeting place for businessmen and politicians on both sides of the Iron Curtain, Lufthansa and Interflug were granted special permits to operate flights between Leipzig and West Germany. In 1986, Lufthansa and Interflug applied for joint traffic rights for year-round scheduled intra-German flights over the Iron Curtain, which was initially rejected by the Western Allies (probably due to concerns that their unique market position for flights to and from Berlin might be weakened), and only granted in August 1989. As a consequence, Interflug launched flights on the Leipzig-Düsseldorf route, with Lufthansa serving Frankfurt-Leipzig. In 1990, Interflug flights from Dresden to Hamburg and Cologne were added.
|Dash 8-100[note 5]||
Accidents and incidents 
- On 26 July 1964, an Interflug Antonov An-2 (registered DM-SKS) crashed near Magdeburg, killing the two occupants.
- To date, the Königs Wusterhausen air disaster with its 156 fatalities marks the worst aviation accident in either East or West Germany (and at that time even the second-deadliest air crash in the world, only surpassed by All Nippon Airways Flight 58). It occurred on 14 August 1972, when an Interflug Ilyushin Il-62 (registered DM-SEA) crashed during an emergency landing attempt near Schönefeld Airport. Shortly into the Berlin-Burgas flight, the pilots had encoutered problems with the elevators and subsequently tried to return to the airport, ultimately sending the airplane in an uncontrolled descent.
- On 1 September 1975, an Interflug Tupolev Tu-134 (registered DM-SCD) crashed during approach into Leipzig/Halle Airport, killing 27 of the 34 people on board (three crew and four passengers survived). The aircraft had been travelling from Stuttgart, West Germany to Leipzig (such flights were only operated during the Leipzig Trade Fair). It was determined that the pilots had not properly checked the height the aircraft was flying at, which led to a descend below the glide slope, ultimately colliding with an antenna mast.
- On 26 March 1979, a cargo-configured Interflug Ilyushin Il-18 (registered DM-STL) overshot the runway at Luanda Airport, Angola following an engine failure during the take-off run. The aircraft broke up and erupted into flames, killing the ten people on board.
- On 17 June 1989, an Interflug Ilyushin Il-62 (registered DDR-SEW) overshot the runway during a take-off attempt at Schönefeld Airport and caught fire, killing 21 of the 103 passengers that had been on the flight to Moscow (all ten crew members survived). There was one additional ground casualty. The accident was caused by a jammed rudder, which later turned out to be a construction flaw. Due to the anniversary of the 1953 East German uprising and the at that time tensed atmosphere within the GDR, initially an act of sabotage was suspected, which led to a delayed medical assistance for the injured.
- On 22 November 1977, an Interflug Tu-134 (registered DM-SCM) was damaged beyond repair in a landing accident at Schönefeld Airport. The aircraft with 74 people on board had been on approach of the airport completing a flight from Moscow, when it crashed into the runway because of an excessive sink rate (which had occurred due to a wrong handling of the autopilot).
Criminal occurrences 
- On 10 March 1970, a hijacking attempt occurred on board a flight from East Berlin to Leipzig. Two men demanded the pilot to fly the plane to Hanover in West Germany in an attempt for their escape over the Iron Curtain. The pilot claimed to have not enough fuel and it was agreed to fly to Tegel Airport in West Berlin instead. The plane landed at Schönefeld Airport, though, which prompted the hijackers to commit suicide.
- A similar attempt failed during an Interflug flight from Erfurt to East Berlin on 30 January 1980.
- On 20 December 1980, Flight 320 from East Berlin to Budapest became the subject of a bomb threat. Enroute, a hand-written notice was discovered claiming that there was a bomb hidden on board the Tupolev Tu-134, which would be triggered once the aircraft descended below 600 metres. The crew decided to divert to Poprad Airport (located at an elevation of 718 metres). There, a rucksack was found which did not belong to any of the passengers. No information was released about its contents.
In popular culture 
- The East German TV series Treffpunkt Flughafen was produced between 1985 and 1986. In eight episodes, it deals with the fictional crew of an Interflug Ilyushin Il-62, and their (often negative) experiences and adventures in foreign countries, which the average East German citizen could either not afford or was not allowed to travel to.
- The intentional landing of a discharged Interflug Ilyushin Il-62 on a 900 metres long strip on a field in Gollenberg on 23 October 1989 received widespread media attention. The aircraft was commandeered by Heinz-Dieter Kallbach and has been preserved on the scene ever since, in order to commemorate aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal.
- Even though being state-owned, Interflug was not organized as a VEB.
- This list does not include chartered flights to holiday destinations or to airports in West Germany catering for the Leipzig Trade Fair, as well as cargo operations.
- The three air corridors crossing the border between East and West Germany could only be used by airlines of the Western Allies (United States, United Kingdom and France) as well as by LOT.
- This list does not include aircraft and helicopter types operated for agricultural and military purposes by the East German state, some of which had been painted in Interflug colors.
- One single aircraft of that type had been leased from Tyrolean Airways.
- Klaus Breiler: Das große Buch der Interflug. Das Neue, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-360-01904-2.
- Helmut Erfurth: Das große Buch der DDR-Luftfahrt. GeraMond, München 2004, ISBN 3-7654-7216-6.
- Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: Was von der DDR-Staatsfluggesellschaft blieb. Published on 23 June 2008 (in German).
- Der Tagesspiegel: Linientreu. Published on 21 September 2008 (in German).
- Flightglobal: East Germany and the BB.152. Published on 27 March 1959.
- Der Spiegel: Stotterndes Geheul. Published on 21 August 1972 (in German)
- Der Spiegel: Idyllische Ruhe. Published on 28 April 1980 (in German).
- Der Spiegel: Zwei Airbus-Jets für die DDR. Published on 2 May 1988 (in German).
- Der Spiegel: Sehr, sehr hoher Preis. Published on 27 June 1988 (in German)
- The New York Times: Airbus Sale to East. Published on 25 June 1988.
- Airbus and Dash airliners operated by Interflug; at airfleets.net
- "Lufthansa Buying Stake in Interflug." Associated Press at The New York Times. 9 March 1990.
- The New York Times: East German Airline Closed. Published on 9 February 1991.
- Airline Is Pursuing 2 Hubs on Continent. Published on 18 December 1990.
- The New York Times: East German Air Move. Published on 22 May 1990.
- Die Welt: Mit einer Tupolew ging die Interflug-Ära zu Bruch. Published on 30 April 2011 (in German).
- Der Spiegel: Küken nach Teheran. Published on 23 December 1991 (in German).
- Commercial airliners operated by the German Air Force, at airfleets.net
- List of preserved Interflug aircraft
- 1963 Deutsche Lufthansa (East Germany) timetable for international routes, online at timetableimages.com
- 1967 Interflug timetable, online at timetableimages.com
- 1991 Interflug route map, online at timetableimages.com
- Airlines at destinations at Berlin-Schönefeld Airport (1 July 1983), at departedflights.com
- 1964 Interflug domestic timetable, online at timetableimages.com
- The New York Times: Two Germanys Expand Ties. Published on 2 September 1990
- Der Spiegel: Volkseigener Köder. Published on 21 September 1981 (in German).
- Der Spiegel: Dumm da. Published on 13 January 1986 (in Germany).
- Der Spiegel: Wirklich absurd. Published on 17 March 1986 (in German).
- Information about Interflug at the Aero Transport Data Bank
- Interflug 1964 crash at the Aviation Safety Network
- 1972 Interflug crash at the Aviation Safety Network
- 1979 crash at the Aviation Safety Network
- 1989 Interflug crash at the Aviation Safety Network
- 1977 Interflug incident at the Aviation Safety Network
- 1970 hijacking at the Aviation Safety Network
- 1980 hijacking attempt at the Aviation Safety Network
- Der Spiegel: Bombe bei Interflug. Published on 12 January 1981 (in German).
- Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk: Treffpunkt Flughafen. Published on 10 September 2009 (in German).
- ARD feature on the landing of an Il-62 in a field, hosted at Youtube (in German).