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TBT (Throwback Thursday) In Aviation History: Air Inter
Air Inter was formed in 1958 as a way to provide domestic travel to French citizens without paying the high costs that were seen after World War II by Air France. The low-cost carrier was created by the French government with Air France and the French railway SNCF being the two largest shareholders, combining for 50% ownership of the new airline. Domestic routes that were held in monopoly by Air France were transferred to Air Inter. Air Inter started with the Vickers Viscount 700 as the lone aircraft in their fleet with their hub being Paris-Orly Airport. They accelerated their presence and started hubs in Lyon, Marseille, and Nice, all of which received intra-France service. The airline, for the most part, stabilized and entered the jet age with the arrival of the Aerospatiale Caravelle to the fleet.
Air Inter’s livery was mostly based on Air France’s livery with the French tricolor of red, white, and blue being the primary colors. The airline’s first multiple liveries were very similar with a white fuselage highlighting a blue cheatline. The words “Air Inter” were written above the cheatline with “Air” in blue and “Inter” in red. Two triangles (one red and one blue) were the only details on the tail of the aircraft. The only livery that drastically differed from the early ones as the airline’s last livery, which has a sky blue tail under the two triangles and no cheatline.
The 1970s saw massive change for a carrier that only operated domestic flights. The hub at Paris-Orly was transferred to the new Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport when Air France switched operations in 1974. This movement with Air France to Paris-CDG allowed passengers on Air Inter flights to easily transfer to international Air France flights. The fleet of Caravelle’s was replaced with Airbus A300s, Fokker F100s, and Dassault Mercures. The Fokkers were operated by TAT European Airlines as a way to create an Air France Express on short hops. Air Inter was the lone airline to operate the Dassault Mercure. The Mercure was similar to the size of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320, and entered service in 1971. Twelve aircraft were built between 1971 and 1975 and were all delivered to Air Inter. The aircraft would be retired after twenty-four years of service in 1995 when Air Inter replaced them with the Airbus A320 and A321. By the end of the 1970s the carrier topped 20 million passengers and the Groupe Air France still had the monopoly on the French domestic market.
The decline in service started in the 1980s, the creation of the TGV high-speed rail service between Paris and Nice by SNCF led to a reduction in Air Inter’s Paris-Nice flights, which were the carrier’s most popular and profitable in the 1970s. The airline marketed itself on being quick and easy, which was true compared to other carriers in Europe. Air Inter offered no frills and no assigned seats for low fares, something not seen by many European government owned airlines. The airline also made quick turnaround times, with some Airbus A300s able to be reloaded in 35 minutes.
The decline of Air Inter occurred quite rapidly and began in 1995. The monopoly that Air Inter had at Paris was lifted, and airlines started invading Air Inter’s routes. With high fuel prices and no monopoly on the French domestic market, Air France decided it would be easier to integrate Groupe Air France owned corporations Air Inter and UTA into Air France to simplify the airline. Air Inter’s last day of operation was April 1, 1997. No flights have operated in the Air Inter name for Air France since the integration was completed. Two aircraft live on in Air Inter colors with two Dassault Mercures being maintained for display purposes, one in Speyer, Germany and one at Paris Le Bourget Airport, France.
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