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( It began operations with a Madrid-Barcelona service
Madrid, June 27, 2007
Eighty years ago, on June 28, 1927, Spain’s first airline was legally constituted under the name Iberia, Compañía Aérea de Transportes. The man behind it, and who supplied most of the capital, was the Basque businessman Horacio Echevarrieta, although Germany’s Lufthansa put up 24%.

Six months later, on December 14, H.M. King Alfonso XIII attended the ceremony marking the launch of regular service between Madrid and Barcelona. Used on the route were three Rohrbach Rolands, which could carry up to 10 passengers and attain a maximum speed of 205 kph.

In its early years, Iberia opened up new routes to other Spanish cities on the mainland and in North Africa. In 1930 it began flying to the Canary Islands, and launched service to the Balearic Islands in 1934.

Iberia Crosses the Atlantic

In the early 1940s the Spanish airline began regular flights to London, Lisbon, Paris, and Rome.

In 1946, after World War II, Iberia became the first airline to fly between Europe and South America, with a route linking Madrid with Buenos Aires, Argentina. The maiden flight took off made on September 22, in a 44-seat DC-4, in which only half the seats were occupied. It refuelled in Villa Cisneros (now Ad Dakhla) in the Sahara, and at Natal and Rio de Río de Janeiro, Brazil, before arriving at Morón airport in Buenos Aires).

In another first on that 36-hour flight to Argentina, Iberia introduced female cabin attendants, called azafatas. In 1949 the airline began flights from Madrid to Havana, and from Madrid to San Juan, Puerto Rico, followed in 1949 with a Madrid-Mexico City service. Over the years, it added all major Latin American cities to its list of destinations, along with a number of cities in the United States.

The Jet Age Begins

Iberia entered the jet age in 1959 when it purchased three DC-8s, with pressurised cabins. Next came the Caravelles, and by 1965 jet aircraft were used on all the airline’s international routes.

Iberia’s first Boeing 747 “Jumbo” was delivered at Madrid-Barajas airport on October 22, 1970. Named “Cervantes” in honour of the author of “Don Quixote”, the emblematic aircraft was the first wide-bodied long-haul airliner.

It 1974 Iberia launched the Puente Aéreo (“Air Bridge”), a walk-on shuttle service for passengers travelling between Madrid and Barcelona. In that same yearit set up its 24-hour reservations booking service, now called Serviberia, and launched the “Red Jackets” to tend to the needs of passengers at airports. It also began flights to Istanbul, Athens, Amsterdam, Dublin, and Vienna.

Changes in the 1990s

Airline de-regulation in Europe brought sweeping changes to Iberia. In 1991 the Spanish airline launched Iberia Plus, Europe’s first frequent flyers programme, which now has more than three million members.

The following year, 1992, was the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. A world’s fair was celebrated in Seville, the Olympic Games were held in Barcelona, and Madrid was designated that year's Cultural Capital of Europe. Iberia was a sponsor of these events as well as official airline.

In 1996 Iberia became on of the first airlines to launch an interactive web site,, through which customers could reserve seats and purchase air tickets. Today the site outsells all other commercial web sites in Spain, with on-line sales in 2006 of more than 450 million euros, and more than 350,000 daily visits.

In the past decade Iberia has replaced most of its fleet, achieved steady growth, and concentrated on its strategic markets –chiefly Spain, Europe, and Latin America– while extending its worldwide reach through code sharing agreements and membership in the oneworld alliance. It also launched Business Plus, a new and enhanced service for long-haul business travellers.

Looking Ahead

Iberia’s privatisation and stock market listing in 2001 returned Spain’s flag-carrier to the private sector from which it had come.

In 2005 Iberia launched its lavish new long-haul Business Plus service, featuring ergonomic seats that unfold into flat beds, greater privacy, and the most advanced communications and entertainment options. Business Plus travellers can also sample the exquisite vintages on the Iberia wine list, and enjoy the gourmet meal service designed by the renowned chef Sergi Arola. In keeping with Iberia’s new cabin interiors and colour schemes, Adolfo Dominquez was commissioned to design the new cabin staff uniforms.

Since the late 1990s, Iberia has gradually replaced its aircraft fleet with new equipment, including the Airbus A-340 , which is the most modern and also the quietest and cleanest aircraft in its class. So far Iberia has acquired 32 A-340s, used for long-haul flights such as those between Europe and Latin America, where Iberia is undisputed market leader.

In February, 2006, Iberia’s Madrid operations were concentrated in the new Terminal 4 at Barajas Airport. The spectacular and award-winning building offers unrivalled services and a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere for Iberia passengers.

Having recently added Gibraltar, Algiers, Budapest, Boston, Washington, and St. Petersburg to its network of destinations, Iberia today flies to 104 cities in 41 countries, plus another 84 cites under code shares with other carriers.

Iberia is also one of the world’s leading providers of commercial aircraft maintenance and repair services, tending its own fleet and those of many other domestic and foreign operators.

In Iberia’s first 80 years, the Spanish airline has carried nearly 700 million passengers. What was a luxury for a few and a only a dream for most people in the 1920s is now dream come true.

See more detailed information abut the history of Iberia on Iberia Group / About Iberia.

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