Iberia Airlines Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Spain’s largest international carrier and one of the world’s major carriers.


Iberia, in full Compania Mercantil Anonima Iberia, or Iberia Commercial Limited-liability Company, is a major airline headquartered in Madrid, Spain. In its current incarnation, Iberia was originally state-owned and created by law on June 7, 1940. As such, it was given rights to the air transport of persons and cargo within Spain. It took control of a privately owned airline established in 1937, which in turn had revived the name of a company called Iberia Compania Aerea de Tranportes, founded June 28, 1927. As of December 14, 1927, that airline began a regular service between Madrid and Barcelona. King Alfonso XIII was a passenger on the inaugural flight, made in one of the new company’s three Rohrbach-Roland aircraft. The current name of the airline was adopted September 5, 1941. Based on its original date of operations (1927), Iberia is one of the world’s oldest scheduled airlines. Between 1927 and 1939, Iberia’s service was entirely within Spain (including Majorca). Its longest route, established in 1937, was from Vitoria in northern Spain to Tetuán in Spanish Morocco, with stops in Burgos, Salamanca, Cáceres, and Seville. It also provided services linking Santiago de Compostela with Salamanca and Valladolid. Madrid-Seville flights were added in 1939.

Iberia became an international airline in 1939 when it began regular services between Madrid and Lisbon. In 1946, Iberia began a service connecting Madrid with London and Rome. That same year, it became the first airline to fly between Europe and South America, using a DC-4 to cover the Madrid-Buenos Aires route. Shortly afterward it added regular flights to Havana, Caracas, Puerto Rico, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, and New York. In the 1960’s, Iberia joined the jet age, replacing its Super Constellations with DC-8’s on the Madrid-New York route. This both shortened the duration of the flights and added seat capacity and passenger comfort. The arrival in 1970 of the first wide-bodied aircraft, the Boeing 747, consolidated Iberia’s competitive position. Iberia also acquired Boeing 727’s for its domestic routes, including the busy Madrid-Barcelona shuttle launched in 1974, as well as new DC-10’s to replace its turboprop fleet.

New maintenance facilities were built at the La Muñoza site near Madrid’s Barajas Airport and the company joined the international aircraft maintenance consortium, Atlas. Iberia’s technicians were trained to maintain the latest aircraft in its own fleet and those of other airlines. Iberia’s fleet includes the Boeing 747, Boeing 767, Boeing 757, Boeing 727, Boeing 737, McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) DC-9, McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) MD-87 and MD-88, McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) DC-8 Cargo, Airbus A340, A300, A321, A320, and A319, Canadair CRJ 200, Aerospatiale ATR72, and Fokker F-50. On the company’s fiftieth anniversary in 1977, the Iberia corporate logotype was changed and its fleet was given the new look. Iberia became a founding partner of the computerized European ticket reservations system Amadeus, embarked on a major fleet replacement program, and set up a new air freight company and the regional airlines that now make up the Iberia Group.

Organization and Network

Iberia is the head of a group that encompasses three other carriers. Two of these airlines are subsidiaries (Binter Canarias and Binter Mediterráneo) and one a franchise (Iberia Regional/Air Nostrum). The trend toward market globalization in the airline industry led Iberia to join the oneworld Alliance on September 1, 1999. Along with the Star Alliance, oneworld Alliance is one of the two major international alliances with a global scope. Iberia’s partnership with American Airlines and British Airways, along with its membership in the oneworld Alliance, enhanced its competitive position in the global market. In addition to American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia, oneworld members include Aer Lingus, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Lan Chile, and Qantas. Alliance members cooperate in schedules and routes to create a seamless global network. As its membership attests, oneworld covers the entire globe.

In 2001, the Iberia Group flew to ninety-nine destinations in forty-two countries. With a fleet of more than two hundred aircraft, it offers an average of nine hundred daily flights. In 1999, Iberia carried 26 million passengers and 220,000 tons of freight. The number of its destinations, the frequency of its flights, and its market share make Iberia the leader of the Spanish market and the airline with the most comprehensive network for travel between Europe and Latin America.

Iberia has an experienced air-maintenance operation, servicing not only its own fleet but also those of other airlines. Iberia is also Spain’s leading handling company, supplying ground services to aircraft and passengers in all of Spain’s domestic airports on behalf of some 220 airlines and charter companies. In 1999, it provided such services to a total of 428,000 aircraft and 79 million passengers. Iberia is a founder and 18.28 percent partner in Amadeus, one of the world’s major computerized air ticket reservation systems. With Gate Gourmet, a leading in-flight catering company, it is the co-owner of Iberswiss, which prepares almost 11 million meal trays per year. As a partner in the tour operator companies Viva Tours and Tiempo Libre, Iberia is actively involved in the holiday travel package business, and through its Cacesa subsidiary it provides urgent freight and courier services.

  • Groenewege, Adrianus D. The Compendium of International Civil Aviation. 2d ed. Geneva, Switzerland: International Air Transport Association, 1999. A comprehensive directory of the major players in international civil aviation, with insightful and detailed articles.
  • Weimer, Kent J. ed. Aviation Week and Space Technology: World Aviation Directory. New York: McGraw Hill, 2000. An excellent introductory guide on all global companies involved in the aviation business. The information is very basic but very essential as a first introduction to each company.

Air carriers

American Airlines

British Airways

Categories: History