Arriving at OR Tambo International Airport for the first time, Condor flight DE2288 took off from Frankfurt on Friday evening bound for Johannesburg, officially launching the weekly connections. From now on, Germany's most popular leisure airline will bring travellers directly from Frankfurt to the South African metropolis on Mondays and Fridays.
The flight takes approximately eleven hours. With the new destination in the flight schedule, Condor is expanding its South Africa portfolio. The popular destination Cape Town will also be served again, with direct flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The flight takes approximately twelve hours.
Condor was founded on 21 December 1955 as Deutsche Flugdienst GmbH. Its initial ownership was divided between the German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd, Tarns-Atlantic shipping firm Hamburg America Line, the German flag carrier airline Deutsche Lufthansa, and railway company Deutsche Bundesbahn. Deutsche Flugdienst's initial fleet consisted of three 36-passenger Vickers VC.1 Viking aircraft; they were based at Frankfurt Airport, which was also a prominent Lufthansa hub at that time. On 29 March 1956, the airline's first tourist-oriented flight commenced, a pilgrimage flight to the Holy Land. Within its first year of operation, destinations such as Majorca and the Canary Islands were added to the airline's flight schedule.
Between 1959 and 1960, Lufthansa bought out the other shareholdings, acquiring sole ownership of Deutsche Flugdienst. In 1961, Deutsche Flugdienst took over its rival Condor-Luftreederei (which had been founded in 1957 by Oetker), subsequently changing its name to Condor Flugdienst GmbH, thus introducing the "Condor" name with Lufthansa. During the following year, Condor Flugdienst GmbH had a 63.3% market share of Germany's tourism air travel market, transporting a total of 66,000 passengers in that year; Majorca was by far the most popular destination, attracting 36,000 tourists.
The following decade was an era of considerable growth for Condor. In 1966, the company launched its first long-haul flights, reaching destinations such as Thailand, Sri Lanka, Kenya and the Dominican Republic. In 1971, Condor became the first leisure-orientated airline in the world to adopt the Boeing 747, which was the world's biggest aircraft during the era. By 1973, Condor's fleet consisted of a total of 14 Boeing airliners: Two Boeing 747s, two Boeing 707s and ten Boeing 727s.
In 1989, the firm launched "Condor Flüge Individuell" (later known as Condor Individuell); this venture leveraged its individual seat business to sell airline seats to members of the public directly. According to a Condor spokesman, the airline was selling around 15% of its tickets itself. During the early 1990s, production company Südflug, a wholly owned subsidiary of Condor, was integrated into the airline. This change brought both the Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 jetliners into Condor's service; being configured with two-class cabins, Condor became the first tourism airline to introduce a separate, more comfortable class upon its aircraft.
In 1996 was Condor Flugdienst GmbH's 40th anniversary; to mark the occasion, American artist James Rizzi redecorated a Boeing 757 as a flying work of art, which was sometimes referred to as the Rizzi-Bird. In the latter half of that year, the company became the launch customer for the Boeing 757-300, having placed twelve firm orders for the variant. To increase operational flexibility, Condor frequently trained its pilots so that they could operate both the Boeing 757 and 767 without any restrictions.
In 1998, the airline established Condor Berlin GmbH, a wholly owned subsidiary head-quartered at Berlin Schönefeld Airport. This new entity was a low-cost carrier intended to compete with rivals such as Aero Lloyd and Air Berlin; Condor estimated that its subsidiary's costs ought to be about 20% lower than the parent company's own. That same year, Condor placed orders for six Airbus A320-200 airliners, the most technologically modern short-haul aircraft in the world at that time: that airline would subsequently operate twelve aircraft of the type in its fleet.
From 2000 onwards, the Condor shares held by Lufthansa were gradually acquired by both Thomas Cook AG and Thomas Cook Group. The process of transforming Condor from a Lufthansa subsidiary to a part of Thomas Cook (along with Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium and Thomas Cook Airlines Scandinavia began with the re-branding as Thomas Cook powered by Condor on 1 March 2003. A new livery was introduced, featuring the Thomas Cook logo on the aircraft tail and the word "Condor" written in the font used by Thomas Cook Airlines. On 23 January 2004, Condor became part of Thomas Cook AG and returned to the Condor brand name. By December 2006, the remaining Lufthansa shares only amounted to 24.9 %.
On 20 September 2007, shortly after having taken over LTU International, Air Berlin announced its intention to acquire Condor in a share swap deal. It was intended to buy the 75.1% of Condor shares held by Thomas Cook, with the remaining Lufthansa assets being acquired in 2010. In return, Thomas Cook would take up 29.99% of the Air Berlin stock. However, on 11 September 2008, this plan was abandoned.
In December 2010, Thomas Cook Group chose the Airbus A320 family as the preferred short-medium haul aircraft type for its airlines, with a review concerning the long-haul aircraft scheduled for 2011. On 17 September 2012, the airline signed a codeshare agreement with the Mexican low-cost carrier, Volaris. On 12 March 2013, Condor and the Canadian airline WestJet agreed on an interline partnership which will offer customers connecting flights to/from 17 destinations in Canada. This agreement expands the network of both airlines, allowing passengers to connect beyond each airline's own network.
On 4 February 2013, the Thomas Cook Group announced that Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, and Condor would merge into a single operating segment of the Thomas Cook Group, Thomas Cook Group Airlines. On 1 October 2013, the Thomas Cook Group began presenting itself under the new unified brand symbol. The aircraft of the Thomas Cook Group Airlines also had a new logo: the Sunny Heart added to their tails and were re-painted in the new corporate colour scheme of grey, white, and yellow. On the aircraft, the Sunny Heart on the tail is meant to symbolize the unification of airline brands and tour operators within the entire Thomas Cook Group.
Condor refurbished the cabins on all of its Boeing 767-300 long-haul aircraft. All economy class and premium economy class seats were replaced with new seats from ZIM Flugsitz GmbH. Condor kept its successful Premium Economy Class with more legroom and added services. The new Business Class seats (Zodiac Aerospace) offer fully automated, angled-lie-flat seats capable of inclining to an angle of 170 degrees with a bed length of 1.80 metres (5 ft 11 in). The airline added seats in its new Business Class section from 18 to 30 seats on three of its Boeing 767 aircraft. New in-flight entertainment includes personal screens for all passengers throughout all three classes of service. Condor will implement the RAVE IFE technology of Zodiac In-flight Entertainment. On 27 June 2014, Condor completed the cabin refurbishment for all of its long-haul Boeing 767 aircraft.
In early 2017, Condor's CEO Ralf Teckentrup introduced a plan to cut operating costs by €40 million, because of the €14 million operating cost loss and the €1.4 billion revenue drop. The passenger numbers also dropped by 6%. Condor had also planned new routes to the United States for San Diego, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh; all flights are operated by the 767-300ER.
On 25 September 2019, Condor secured additional credit facilities of €380 million to keep flying, despite the collapse of the Thomas Cook Group. On the same day, a Frankfurt court authorised investor protection measures to allow Condor to be restructured. On 1 December 2019, the Frankfurt district formally opened these proceedings under the "Schutzschirmverfahren" (protective shield proceedings) clause with the liquidator, Lucas Flöther, requesting creditors to register their claims with him by 8 January 2020.
On 24 January 2020, Condor announced that PGL Polish Aviation Group would be buying Condor and the deal was expected to close in April 2020 once antitrust approvals are obtained. With this deal, PGL was expected to repay the bridge loan from Germany in full. Condor would have continued to operate under their current brand and management. However, on 2 April 2020, it was announced that the sale to LOT Polish Airlines had fallen through.
On 20 May 2021, Attestor Capital acquired 51% of the airline. It announced that it would provide 200 million euros of equity capital and will provide a further 250 million euros to modernise Condor's long-haul fleet. In July 2021, the European Commission found an aid package offered by the German State to Condor to be in line with EU State aid rules. The approval of the aid package worth in total of US$240 million, and restructuring support of US$378.7 million, was intended to enable Condor to return to viability.
On 28 July 2021, the airline announced an order of 16 Airbus A330-900 to replace its current fleet of Boeing 767-300ER.
In April 2022, Condor announced a major change to its corporate design including a revised logo and an entirely new aircraft livery composed of distinctive stripes in bold colours over the entire fuselage, replacing the former Thomas Cook design.
On 25 July 2022, the airline announced an order of 13 Airbus A320neo and 28 Airbus A321neo to replace its existing fleet of Airbus A320 family and Boeing 757-300.