9/20/2001: French Carrier Air Lib Is Created

Today in Aviation, French airlines Air Liberté and AOM are renamed Air Lib in 2001.



September 20, 2023

DALLAS — Today in Aviation, Air Liberté (IJ) and AOM (IW) were renamed Air Lib in 2001. IJ and IW had been formally merged by owners SAirGroup on March 25, initially taking the name Société d'exploitation AOM Air Liberté SA.

The airline was then restructured as a low-cost carrier to compete with easyJet (U2) and Ryanair (FR), which were rapidly expanding in the French market. Despite being granted a loan of €30.5 million by the French government, the airline was forced to declare bankruptcy in August 2002. It was subsequently liquidated on February 17, 2003.

Air Liberté McDonnell Douglas MD-83 F-GFZB at Faro Airport. Photo: Pedro Aragão CC BY-SA 3.0

Air Liberté

Air Liberté began operations in April 1988. With a fleet of McDonnell Douglas MD-83s, IJ flew to holiday destinations across Europe from Paris Orly (ORY). In 1997, British Airways (BA) acquired a majority shareholding. It then merged the airline with its French regional subsidiary, TAT European Airlines (VD).

IJ's precarious financial position led BA to sell the airline to Swissair's (SR) parent group, SAirGroup, in May 2000.

Air Liberté F-GPVE 09/09/1996 DC-10. Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland - Air Liberté DC-10-30; F-GPVE@ORY; 06.08.1996, CC BY-SA 2.0

AOM French Airlines

Air Outre-Mer, or AOM, began operations on May 21, 1990, flying from ORY to Reunion Island. On January 1, 1992, AOM was merged with another French operator, Minerve. By 1995, the airline was carrying over two million passengers with a fleet of eight MD-83s and 14 DC-10s.

SR took a 49% shareholding in February 1999. This was part of its "Hunter Strategy," as it looked to grow market share through the acquisition of smaller airlines.

Featured image: Following the rebranding of Air Lib, the carrier also began to introduce a new livery of blue and orange, said to symbolize the sun shining above the ocean. Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons