Founded in 1947 as Karhumäki Airways, the Finnish airline was established as a subsidiary of aircraft maintenance and manufacturing company, Veljekset Karhumäki Oy. Scheduled passenger service began in 1951 between numerous domestic cities and the Finnish capital of Helsinki. In that same year, the airline launched their very first international flight to Stockholm.
In January 1957, the carrier was reorganized as Kar-Air, and then again to Karair in 1980. Shortly after their major rebranding in 1962, Aero O/Y acquired an initial 27% stake in the company, which would soon be increased to 51% as a result of the airline’s recent financial struggles, including the hard landings of two aircraft. As the majority owner, Aero O/Y called for an end to domestic service and sought to focus on charter flights. The company allotted Kar-Air two DC-6 aircraft, which were immediately put to use on round-the-world, stopover flights.
Over the course of their history, the DC-6s played a key role in Karair’s fleet. In their earlier years, Convair CV-440s and DC-3s were also extremely prominent. Later on, DC-8s, Airbus A300s, and ATR 72s became integral members of the airline’s fleet. The A300s and ATR 72s came from Finnair, and only remained in the fleet for a few years each.
In 1990, Finnair acquired a 90% stake in Karair, which was advanced to 97.3% just three years later. By December 1995, the majority stakeholder announced a full takeover of the airline. All parts of Karair and their operations were merged into Finnair in September 1996, effectively eliminating a successful airline which had expanded across four nations utilizing a variety of aircraft over several decades.