Dr. Oetker Stories

Did you know? Dr. Oetker founds Condor Airlines

Yes, indeed, the well-known German leisure airline with the catchy name was originally founded by the Oetker Group. In 1957, the company commences operations as Condor Luftreederei GmbH.

Did you know? Dr. Oetker founds Condor Airlines

22.2.2023 History

The airline Condor specializes in tourist and charter flights in Europe. Scheduled flights are not offered. In addition to passenger traffic, air freight on its own account and for the account of a third party is part of the business. The base is Hamburg Airport. In 1961 it is taken over by Deutsche Lufthansa AG.

The first logo of the airline Condor

The first logo and claim: Condor, the airline with a personal touch.

More than food

"Do not put all your eggs in one basket" - Rudolf August Oetker always follows this motto when it comes to expanding his business. The food division of the Oetker Group generates large sales and very pleasing profits during the German economic miracle. These must be reinvested sensibly; diversification is the keyword here. To reduce the risk of dependence on only one industry, business areas outside the actual core ventures are considered. Among other things, investments are made in the luxury hotel industry, banking, and shipping. As a result, the Oetker Group held all shares in the Hamburg Süd shipping company from 1955 onwards. At the same time, a new group of companies will be set up to offer financial services and insurance products. Its name: Condor Transport- und Rückversicherungs AG. It forms the nucleus of the later Condor group. And an airline will soon be part of it.

Dr. Oetker takes to the air

In the 1950s, the market for air travel and air freight in Germany is still small. Only a few providers operate in the market, above all big names, such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG with its tourism subsidiary Deutsche Flugdienst GmbH or LTU. As of 1957, a total of about 28 passenger aircraft with German registration are registered.

Condor plane in 1957 San Diego Coronado

From 1957, the fleet of Condor Airlines consists of two brand new Convair CV440 Metropolitan aircraft . Here you can see D-ABAB over Point Loma, California. The planes are built by Convair in San Diego and have to be ferried to Germany at great expense.

From autumn 1957, two of these aircraft belonged to the newly founded airline Condor Luftreederei. But why is the big Andean bird namesake of the airline? In the 1920s, German companies (including the old Lufthansa) set up the airline Condor Syndikat in Brazil to operate passenger, mail and cargo flights. Rudolf August Oetker was inspired by these pioneers.

From its base in Hamburg, the airline operates as a charte company. Condor Airlines is fully up to date with its Convairs. Only Lufthansa uses this type in Germany. A maintenance contract is concluded with the Scandinavian airline SAS, which also uses the CV440 Metropolitan.

Convair CV440 airline Condor 1958

The base of Condor Airlines is Hamburg Airport. The comfortable Convair CV440s are state-of-the-art and are also used by Lufthansa and SAS. The latter is responsible for the maintenance of the planes.

Safety is the top priority in aviation. At Condor, those responsible are particularly proud of the conscientious implementation of the regulations. For example, a photo report shows potential passengers why they can rely on the safety precautions. The maintenance operation in Hamburg is presented to them in detail.

Condor maintenance operation at Hamburg airport 1960

The maintenance operation at Hamburg Airport. Safety is top priority in aviation.

Off to the holidays with Condor!

Typical destinations of Condor are located on the Mediterranean Sea or on the Canary Islands. However, many of the holiday destinations are not yet accessible nonstop. Stopovers, often several, are the rule. However, they do not diminish passengers' desire to travel. Flying is still something special and an adventure. Comfort on board and on the ground is also provided. The stress of modern aviation with mega airports, long queues at check-in and bad on-board catering is not yet noticeable.

Condor plane in Barcelona 1960

In 1960, a Condor aircraft reaches its final parking position on the apron at Barcelona-El Prat Airport.

D-ADIL in 1960 at Tangier Airport in Morocco

D-ADIL in 1960 at Tangier Airport in Morocco. Passengers board the plane on foot. Presumably, the further journey leads to Tenerife, a frequently flown destination of the Condor.

Condor ad in the Dr. Oetker employee magazine 1961

With this ad, Condor advertises in the Dr. Oetker employee newspaper in 1961. Oetker employees naturally get an attractive offer for a holiday in the sun. The claim: “Off to the holidays with Condor!”

Charter and Special Operations

In addition to leisure flights, special operations are also carried out. One of these flights made the headlines in 1958. The new Pope is elected in Rome. Thomas Tien Ken-Sin, Archbishop of Beijing, also participates in the conclave. Before that, he was traveling in Germany, where he was involved in a car accident near Bonn and suffered serious injuries. Together with his doctors and the German Foreign Minister Heinrich von Brentano, Condor flies the Archbishop from Cologne to Rome and back again. He is full of praise for the service and execution of the flight. The Foreign Minister is also impressed and expresses his pleasure in a newspaper interview.

Condor is also active in air freight and postal services. A commission for Axel Springer Verlag receives special attention during the German football championship in 1960. For 7 weekends, the publisher charters the Condor planes to transport freshly printed editions of the "Bild am Sonntag" from Hamburg to the rest of the republic. During the night, the machines are loaded with around 100,000 newspapers each. The flights go to Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, so that in the morning readers in the Rhineland and south of Germany are provided with the latest information about the championship.

Merger with Deutsche Flugdienst

Despite its good situation, Condor, as part of the Oetker Group, came to an end in 1961. Lufthansa is becoming more and more involved in the tourism and charter business. Its subsidiary Deutsche Flugdienst is putting the smaller competition under pressure. Ultimately, the Oetker Group therefore decides to sell its own airline to Lufthansa. The two charter companies merged in November 1961 to form Condor-Flugdienst. This marks the end of Dr. Oetker's brief adventure in the aviation industry.

The Convair CV440s now fly for Lufthansa, as they already use this type on a larger scale. The Condor flight service relies on newly acquired British made Vickers Viscount.

Vickers Viscount Plane Condor 1961

In 1961, Condor merges with Deutsche Flugdienst, a subsidiary of Lufthansa. The new name of the company is Condor-Flugdienst. The picture shows the renaming ceremony at Frankfurt Airport. The plane on display is British made Vickers Viscount. It is painted in a whole new livery.; Image: © Deutsche Lufthansa AG

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Claus-Carsten Andresen

Media Spokesperson History & Archive