An airline that was founded in 1986, Spanair SA ceased to trade on 27th January 2012. A victim of the budget airlines, amongst other things, Spanair’s head office was situated near Barcelona in Spain. Starting life as a subsidiary of the SAS Group, who also presided over Scandinavian Airlines, Spanair ran scheduled passenger flights both within Spain itself, throughout Europe and into and out of Western Africa. It also ran a handful of long-haul flights, as well as a small selection of charter flights for tour companies.


With its base mainly at Barcelona El Prat Airport, the company also enjoyed a presence in Madrid-Barajas Airport and Palma de Mallorca Airport. Employing over 3000 people, the company found itself in dire straights in early 2011 and was bailed out by the aid of a 10.5M-euro loan plan that was put in place by the Catalan government. While this cash injection, together with an internal cost-cutting rescue plan saw some improvement in the performance of the company, it nonetheless was forced to cease trading in January 2012.

The 2001 collapse of the undercarriage on a Spanair flight landing at John Lennon Airport, Liverpool from Mallorca saw no casualties among the 51 passengers and 6 crew aboard but worse was to follow for the airline.

An airline that had a rocky ride pretty much from start to finish, the final touch down became evident when the 94% owner of the company, the SAS Group attempted to sell their shares in 2007. Unfortunately their plans feel through when their perceived value of the company was severely disputed by other potential investors. The upshot of the sale was that a consortium from the Barcelona and Catalan tourist industry bought a majority share in the airline for a euro, turning the SAS Group into a minority shareholder.

And this was only the start of the bad news. Closely followed by the Madrid air crash that killed more than 150 people when Spanair flight JK 5022 literally ‘broke in two’, the writing was firmly on the wall for the airline. A scheduled domestic flight from Madrid to Gran Canaria, the aircraft crashed just after take off on 20th August 2008. Although this was the only fatal accident for Spanair during its quarter century of being sky-bound, the accident could not have come at a worse time strategically for the company.

Killing 146 passengers and crew outright and a further six on the way to hospital and two further deaths at the hospital, the total number of fatalities is reported as being 154, the majority of which were Spanish nationals. The most significant cause of the accident was reported as being that the pilot had attempted to take off with the flaps and slats retracted, a situation that should have rung alarm bells in the flight controls, but apparently no safeguards kicked in either from copilot checks or the automatic warning systems.

Public confidence in the airline was running low prior to the crash and there are reports suggesting that staff were on the brink of striking when it happened because they were unhappy with internal operations. Notwithstanding the impact of the budget airlines on operators such as Spanair, each of these elements, together with the crash were undoubtedly significant in the final death knell of Spanair in 2012.