Belair (airline)

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Belair
Belair Airlines Logo.png
IATA ICAO Callsign
4T[1] BHP BELAIR
Founded 1925; 93 years ago (1925) (as Balair)
Ceased operations 28 October 2017
Hubs
Frequent-flyer program topbonus
Alliance oneworld (affiliate)
Fleet size 4
Destinations 18
Parent company Air Berlin
Headquarters Glattbrugg, Switzerland
Website flybelair.com

Belair, legally Belair Airlines AG, was[2] a Swiss airline headquartered in Glattbrugg operating out of Zürich Airport and EuroAirport Basel–Mulhouse–Freiburg. Belair was a subsidiary of Air Berlin and operated under the Air Berlin brand name until the 31 March 2017. During the 2017 summer season, it flew on behalf of its sister company Niki and was shuttered by then-bankrupt Air Berlin on 28 October 2017.[2]

History[edit]

The first Balair[edit]

Basler Aviation AG -Balair- was founded by Balz Zimmermann in 1925 in Basel. The name Balair is a reference to the French name of the Basel: Bâle. The first route was from Basel to Freiburg and Mannheim. Balair grew rapidly. In 1929 Basel Airport was the largest airport in Switzerland, with direct flights to Zurich, Geneva, Lyon, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt. In response to the Great Depression, Balair (based in Basel) and Ad Astra Aero (based in Zurich) merged on 1 January 1931 to form Swissair, headquartered in Zurich. Up to that point, Balair had carried over 18,000 passengers, 320 tons of cargo and 143 tons of mail. The company only flew in the summer and was mainly financed by federal subsidies and transportation of mail for the Swiss post office.

The second Balair[edit]

Balair Douglas DC-8 in Zurich (1985)

The second Balair was founded in January 1953. On 5 October 1952, the Basel electorate voted for the creation of a limited company. Hans Peter Tschudin was elected the first president. In its early years, Balair was active in flight training, aircraft maintenance and handling Swissair aircraft at Basel-Mulhouse Airport. In 1957, Balair entered the charter business with two Vickers 610 Viking aircraft. In 1959 Swissair acquired a 40% stake in Balair. Two Swissair DC-4 aircraft were added to the fleet.

During the Biafran airlift (1967–71), chartered Balair aircraft, including C-97 Stratocruisers, delivered humanitarian aid to a remote Biafran airstrip in eastern Nigeria.

In 1979 Balair added a DC-10 (call sign HB-IHK) to its fleet. Until then, the fleet was made up of a DC-6, a DC-9 and two DC-8s. Later, Swissair operated charter flights using the Balair name.

In 1993 the two subsidiaries -Balair charter and CTA – Compagnie de Transport Aérien (Geneva) were merged and named Balair-CTA. For political reasons, the registered office of the company was in Geneva and the accounting department, in Basel. The operational base was moved to Zurich. Despite restructuring and mass layoffs, the Swissair charter business was unprofitable. Operations ended in 1995. Short-haul operations were transferred to Crossair and long-haul operations, to Swissair.

The new Balair[edit]

In 1997, Swissair's charter business was outsourced again and on 1 November 1997 Balair-CTA resumed operations as a subsidiary of Swissair, reverting to the Balair name. On short and medium-haul routes, two Boeing 757–200 were operated exclusively for tour operator Hotelplan and its subsidiaries ESCO-Reise and M-Travel. The lessee was also Hotelplan. Balair also had two Boeing 767–300 for long-haul operations. The new Balair was affected by the failure of Swissair. On 5 October 2001, the last Balair flight landed in Zurich. The Boeing 767 were returned to the lessor.

Belair[edit]

Belair Boeing 757-200 in 2007

After consulting Migros (its parent company), Hotelplan founded a new charter airline, Belair Airlines, and transferred their Boeing 757s to it. It was entered into the commercial register on 16 October. The minor name change meant it was possible to repaint the two Migros-owned Boeing 757s with very little effort. 120 Balair employees were employed by the new company.

The first Belair commercial flight took place on 3 November 2001, departing from Zurich. Flights were mainly to Mediterranean resorts. Besides the two Boeing 757-200s (HB-IHR and HB-IHS) it operated, Belair also leased a Boeing 767–300 (HB-ISE) for long-haul operations.

As part of the partnership with REGA (Swiss Air Rescue), 757 HB-IHR was redesigned by Belair to be used as a rescue aircraft for repatriations in case of disasters.

Belair as part of Air Berlin[edit]

A now retired Belair Boeing 767-300ER in adapted Air Berlin livery

Air Berlin acquired 49% of Belair in 2007 and fully owned Belair after October 2009. This increased Air Berlin's presence in Switzerland and provided Migros customers access to more flights. While Air Berlin owned Belair, Belair was managed from Berlin and Air Berlin only published consolidated financial statements. Air Berlin Switzerland (Air Berlin pilots), the CHS Switzerland (Air Berlin flight attendants) and Belair were combined to form the new company Belair on 1 January 2010.

Belair flew from Zurich, Basel and Geneva to Mediterranean destinations and the Canary Islands. The aircraft used to have Belair signage combined with Air Berlin's corporate design, but then wore Air Berlin's livery. Due to bilateral traffic rights, certain routes to non-EU countries continued to use Belair's IATA code, 4T.

Shutdown[edit]

On 15 January 2017, it was announced that Belair will be shut down and that all routes from EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg.[3]

On 1 April 2017, the four Airbus A321 began to operate on behalf of Niki and switched from Air Berlin to Niki flight numbers on routes to EU destinations.[4]

Belair ceased operations on 28 October 2017.[2] In December 2017, it was reported that Belair lacked the funds to pay outstanding salaries and other expenses and might face bankruptcy.[5]

Destinations[edit]

These are the final destinations of Belair prior to its shutdown on 28 October 2017:

Destination Nation IATA flight code Notes
Alicante Spain HG
Basel Switzerland HG base
Brindisi Italy HG
Catania Italy HG
Faro Portugal HG
Fuerteventura Spain HG
Funchal Portugal HG
Gran Canaria Spain HG
Lanzarote Spain HG
Palma de Mallorca Spain HG
Pristina Kosovo[a] 4T
Skopje Macedonia 4T
Tenerife Spain HG
Zürich Switzerland HG and 4T base

Fleet[edit]

Belair Airbus A320-200 in Air Berlin livery, only to be distinguished by the Swiss registry

As of August 2017, the Belair fleet consisted of the following aircraft:[6]

Belair fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Passengers Notes
Airbus A320-200 1 180 operated for Niki
Airbus A321-200 4 210 operated for Niki, transferred from Air Berlin from April 2017[4]
Total 5 0  

References[edit]

Annotations[edit]

  1. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has received formal recognition as an independent state from 113 out of 193 United Nations member states.

External links[edit]

Media related to Belair at Wikimedia Commons