Trans European Airways

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Trans European Airways
Trans European Airlines logo
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded October 1970
Commenced operations 1971
Ceased operations September 27, 1991 (1991-09-27)
Hubs Brussels Airport
Fleet size 34
Headquarters Steenokkerzeel, Belgium
Key people George P. Gutelman (Founder and CEO)

Trans European Airways, usually referred to by its initials TEA, is a defunct Belgian airline that operated from 1971 to 1991. It had its head office in Building 117 on the grounds of Melsbroek Airport in Steenokkerzeel, Belgium.[1]


TEA (ICAO Code: TEA; IATA Code: HE; Call Sign: Belgair) was founded in October 1970 by the Belgian tour operator TIFA and George P. Gutelman. In 1971 inclusive tour flights commenced, using a Boeing 720 previously operated by Eastern Air Lines.[2] The airline initially acquired a fleet of Boeing 707 and Boeing 720 aircraft from sources such as TWA and Eastern Air Lines.

In the early 1970s TEA became the first airline to order an Airbus and subsequently operated the only Airbus A300B1 variant to be used in public service - distinguished by its shorter fuselage and lack of slats - until its retirement in November 1990. The aircraft, registered OO-TEF, was named Aline after Gutelman's wife.

The airline expanded, operating a second Airbus A300 for a while and started to acquire Boeing 737-200 aircraft. It later acquired Belgian tour operator SunSnacks, which it had helped to form in 1976, and created a subsidiary, TEAMCO (Trans European Airways Maintenance Company) to handle maintenance of its own aircraft and those of other operators, both civil and military.

The company was involved in Operation Moses in 1984-1985, and then started to expand rapidly during the late 1980s, forming subsidiaries in the United Kingdom (TEA-UK), France (TEA-FRANCE), Italy (TEA-ITALY) and Switzerland (TEA-BASEL), but the global economic downturn in the early nineties, partly as a result of the Gulf War, caused it to go out of business on 27 September 1991.[3]

Following its failure, parts of the group gave rise to successor airlines: European Airlines and EuroBelgian Airlines (the later Virgin Express) were formed, and the management of the UK subsidiary, who had previously managed Orion Airways went on to form Excalibur Airways. TEA Switzerland continued to trade successfully, and was eventually purchased by easyJet in 1997 and became easyJet Switzerland. Georges Gutelman later went on to found CityBird, which also failed in the aviation slump that followed the September 11 attacks in 2001.


Early production Boeing 707-131 of TEA loading passengers via both access doors at Brussels Airport in 1977
TEA Airbus A300 in 1990


  1. ^ "World Airline Directory." Flight International. 1 April 1989. 126.
  2. ^ Endres, Gunter G (1982). World Airline Fleets 1983. Feltham: Aviation Data Centre. p. 391. ISBN 0946141029. 
  3. ^ Airlines Remembered by BI Hengi, Publisher Midland Publishing

External links[edit]

Media related to Trans European Airways at Wikimedia Commons