Today in Aviation – Spanair Ceased Operations

Today in Aviation, Spain’s fourth-largest airline Spanair (JK), ceased operations in 2012.

Initially based at Palma de Mallorca (PMI), JK was formed in December 1986 as a joint venture between Scandinavian Airlines (SK) and Spanish travel agent Viajes Marsans. European charter flights commenced in March 1988, with a fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-80 jets sourced from SK.

The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 would form the backbone of the fleet for many years. (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich via Wikimedia Commons)

Spanair commenced long-haul charter flights in 1991 to the United States, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. It moved into the scheduled market in March 1994 when it started Spanish domestic flights in competition with Iberia (IB) and Air Europa (UX). On November 20, 1997 the airline began its first scheduled transatlantic services between Madrid Barajas (MAD) and Washington Dulles (IAD).

Long-haul services were operated by a fleet of three Boeing 767-300ERs. (Photo: Sunil Gupta via Wikimedia Commons)

Fleet Upgrade

In March 1999, the airline placed an order for seven A319s, 17 A320s and nine A321s. JK would use them to replace its 20 ageing McDonnell Douglas MD-83s and pair of MD-87s. The A319s would never be operated, focusing instead on the larger A320 and A321 models.

Expansion saw the airline grow to become Spain’s second-largest carrier. On May 1, 2003 it joined the Star Alliance, which it hoped would expand its network and services.

In May 2009, JK moved its main base to the Spanish mainland. Basing itself at Barcelona’s El Prat (BCN), the airline was seen as a flagship of the regional government of Catalonia.

Spanair introduced the A321 in September 2000 and would operate four of the type. (Photo: Javier Bravo Muñoz via Wikimedia Commons)

Financial Woes

However, the airline struggled financially for several years. The Catalan government would pump in more than €150 million in a vain attempt to keep it afloat. Its money woes grew following the tragic crash of flight 5022 on August 20, 2008.

The MD-82 (EC-HFP) ‘Sunbreeze’ crashed moments after take-off from MAD. It was the jet’s second take-off attempt after returning to stand following an earlier technical issue with the aircraft’s ram air temperature (RAT) probe overheating. Engineers later permitted the aircraft fit to fly, and it was during the second departure the crash occurred. Of the 172 souls on board, just 18 survived. The subsequent investigation revealed that the jet had attempted to get airborne with incorrect flap settings.

Airbus A320-232 EC-IPI was the first aircraft painted in the carriers new livery. The aircraft was painted at Shannon and positioned to Palma de Mallorca on June 5 where it is pictured. Its first revenue flight took place one day later from Palma to Hanover. (Photo: Javier Rodriquez.)

The ailing carrier entered talks Qatar Airways (QR) who intended to inject a large sum of money. Sadly discussions fell through. Two hundred flights were abruptly cancelled, and 20,000 passengers were left stranded.

© Jet Back In Time by Lee Cross

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