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Sterling Airlines

Sterling Airlines A/S

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Founded 1962 (as Sterling Airways)
Merged with Maersk Air in 2005
Ceased operations 29 October 2008
Hubs Copenhagen Airport
Focus cities
Fleet size 27
Destinations 39
Company slogan We would fly with us
Parent company Northern Travel Holding
Headquarters Copenhagen Airport
Dragør, Dragør Municipality, Denmark
Key people Reza Taleghani (CEO)
File:Sterling 737-7L9 in Rome.jpg
Boeing 737-700 in 2006

Sterling Airlines A/S was a low-cost airline with its head office at Copenhagen Airport South in Dragør, Dragør Municipality, Denmark.[1] It was created in September 2005 through the merger of two Danish airlines — Sterling European Airlines and Maersk Air — which had been acquired by the Icelandic investment group Fons Eignarhaldsfélag a few months before for MDKK 500. Fons was owned by Icelandic business tycoon Palmi Haraldsson. One month after the merger, Sterling Airlines was sold to the FL Group for an amount of MDKK 1500. In December 2006, Sterling was sold again, this time to Nordic Travel Holding. On 6 January 2006, Hannes Smárason, CEO of the FL Group, stated that a merger of EasyJet and Sterling was a possibility.

On 29 October 2008, Sterling filed for bankruptcy and ceased operations.[2] On 4 December 2008, Cimber Air announced that it had purchased Sterling and intended to restore the airline as a separate company, with a gradual expansion throughout Europe. The purchase included Sterling's name, website and landing slots, but not aircraft. Former Sterling employees were not guaranteed jobs in the resurrected company, although Cimber believed many of them would be offered jobs.[3]

At the end of 2005, Sterling Airlines had 1,600 staff and 29 aircraft, making it almost twice as large as Icelandair. The company flew to some 40 European destinations, with Copenhagen Airport, Oslo Airport, Gardermoen and Stockholm-Arlanda Airport as primary hubs.


For the history of Maersk Air, see Maersk Air.

Sterling Airlines traces its history back to 1962, when Eilif Krogager, founder of Danish travel agency Tjæreborg (today part of MyTravel Group), started the charter airline Sterling Airways with two Douglas DC-6B bought from Swissair, in order to better service his own package tours from Scandinavia to the Mediterranean. Further DC-6Bs were acquired in 1963. In 1965 Sterling received its first Caravelle, and in 1968 the company was bought out of the Tjæreborg Group and started servicing other travel agents as well.

Sterling Airways Flight 296 crashed near the Dubai airport on March 14, 1972, killing all 112 persons on board. The 106 passengers were returning to Denmark following a holiday in Sri Lanka. Air Disaster Database [4]

In 1987, the company celebrated its 25th anniversary with 19 aircraft and almost 1,300 staff, but a few years later, in 1993, Sterling Airways went bankrupt. In 1994, the estate after Sterling Airways re-created the company as Sterling European Airlines, with three aircraft and 182 staff.

In 1996, Sterling was bought by the Norwegian shipping company Fred. Olsen.

In 2000, Sterling started with regular air services to Málaga and Alicante, to compensate for the diminishing charter travel business. More routes were added in 2001, when it was also decided that Sterling should leave the charter industry and become a fully fledged low-fare airline. During 2002, Sterling opened 21 new routes, primarily between Scandinavia and Southern Europe, but also routes from Copenhagen to Oslo and Stockholm.

In 2003, Sterling expanded its fleet from six to eight aircraft and opened 11 more routes between Scandinavia and Southern Europe. Passenger numbers reached a record high of 1.3 million, a 40% increase on 2002. In 2004, the fleet grew to 12 aircraft.

In March 2005, Fred. Olsen sold Sterling to the Icelandic investment company Fons Eignarhaldsfélag, owners of the small Iceland Express airline, and the managing director of Iceland Express, Almar Örn Hilmarsson, was promoted to new managing director for Sterling. In June 2005, the Fons Eignarhaldsfélag bought Maersk Air from the A.P. Moller-Maersk Group and announced that they wanted to merge the two airlines under Sterling Airlines A/S. In September 2005, the merger was approved by the authorities and Sterling Airlines A/S was the only operational company - the fourth largest low-cost carrier in Europe—and only a month later Fons Eignarhaldsfélag sold the company to the FL Group. In December 2006, FL Group sold Sterling to Northern Travel Holding, a holding company owned by the three Icelandic private equity companies FL Group, Fons Eignarhaldsfélag and Sons.

In August 2006, Sterling adopted a buy-on-board program that allows pre-ordering and onboard purchases of duty-free merchandise and meals.

In April 2007, Essential Aircraft Maintenance Services (EAMS) has been established by LD Equity 2 based on the acquisition of Sterling’s aircraft maintenance department. LD Equity 2 has, together with a new management team, acquired Sterling's aircraft maintenance activities and has established Essential Aircraft Maintenance Services A/S.

On 29 October 2008 Sterling declared bankruptcy due to the rising fuel prices in the first half of 2008 and the Icelandic financial crisis in October that hit its major investor. The entire fleet was grounded with immediate effect.[2][5]


Boeing 737-800

At the time of Sterling's collapse the airline served the following destinations:

  • Austria (Salzburg),
  • Belgium (Brussels),
  • Bulgaria (Burgas and Varna),
  • Croatia (Split),
  • Czech Republic (Prague),
  • Denmark (Aalborg, Billund, and Copenhagen),
  • France (Biarritz, Paris, Montpellier, and Nice);
  • Germany (Berlin),
  • Greece (Athens and Chania),
  • Hungary (Budapest),
  • Italy (Bologna, Florence, Milan, Naples, Rome, Venice),
  • Norway (Oslo Gardermoen and Bergen),
  • Poland (Kraków),
  • Portugal (Faro and Funchal),
  • Spain (Alicante, Barcelona, Las Palmas, Málaga, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife),
  • Sri Lanka (Colombo),
  • Sweden (Gothenburg, Malmö and Stockholm),
  • Switzerland (Geneva),
  • United Kingdom (Edinburgh, London Gatwick, and East Midlands),
  • United Arab Emirates (Dubai).


Several of Sterling Airlines' Boeing 737s at Belgrade Airport

Historically Sterling Airways used Caravelle IIIs and 7 Super-Caravelles. During the time between late 1970s and the 1993 bankruptcy, also three Boeing 727s, two Douglas DC8/63s and one DC8/62CF was included in the fleet.

As of 29 October 2008 the fleet has been grounded, due to Sterling Airlines declaring bankruptcy. Several airplanes are stored at Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport (5 737-700 and 2 737-800) and the nearby Batajnica Airport (4 737-700) in Belgrade, Serbia.

The Sterling Airlines fleet included the following aircraft (as of October 2008):[6]

Sterling Airlines Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers
Routes Notes
Boeing 737-500 4 126 Europe
Boeing 737-700 15 148 Europe
Boeing 737-800 7 189 Europe
McDonnell Douglas MD-83 1 165 Europe operated by FlyExcellent
Total 27

Incidents and accidents


  1. ^ "Contact." Sterling Airlines. Retrieved on 13 February 2011. "Head office Sterling Airlines A/S Copenhagen Airport South 2791 Dragoer Denmark."
  2. ^ a b "". Danmarks Radio. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  3. ^ Sterling gjenoppstår December 4, 2008 (Norwegian)
  4. ^ "112 Die as Danish Jetliner Crashes on Arab Island", Pacific Stars and Stripes, March 17, 1972, p1
  5. ^ Invalid language code. "Which Airline". Which Airline. Retrieved 2008-10-29. 
  6. ^ "Søg på tekniske data". Danish Civil Aviation Administration. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  7. ^ Accident description at the Aviation Safety Network

External links

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