1. It was once part of a merger
In February 1958, Syria and Egypt decided to unite under the leadership of President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the two countries became provinces of the United Arab Republic (UAR).
The merger between Syrian Airways and Misrair (now Egyptair), the state-owned airlines of Syria and Egypt came as a consequence of this political union. The airlines merged on December 25, 1958, to form United Arab Airlines (UAA).
At the time of the merger, Syrian Airways was still only a small regional airline while its Egyptian counterpart, Misrair, was the largest and oldest airline in the Arab world, operating an extensive network out of Cairo, one of the region’s biggest cities.
During the time UAA was operating, only regional and domestic routes were operated in Syria. International flights all connected to the Cairo hub.
The union between Egypt and Syria ended on September 26, 1961, amidst tensions between the leaderships of the two provinces of the UAR. The Syrian Arab Republic was declared in Syria, while Egypt chose to continue to carry the title of UAR for a few more years. In parallel to that divorce, Syrian Air withdrew from UAA.
2. They once served Europe and India!
In 1963’s, Syrian Air ordered a DC-6B to serve routes Europe. The initial routes included Rome and Munich, but by 1964 flights to London and Paris (le Bourget), across to the Indian cities of Karachi and Delhi had commenced.
In the years to come, and thanks to the purchase of two Sud Aviation 210 Super-Caravelle 10B3s, Syrian Air continued to modernise and expand its network to include Luxembourg, Prague, Athens, Istanbul, Tehran, and Bahrain.
With long-haul Boeing 747‘s joining the fleet in the late 70’s the goal was to service New York.
3. Regional hostilities and wars have led to small wins but greater loses
Not surprisingly, the regional instability and frequent closures of airports in cities, including in neighbouring Lebanon, proved profitable for the airline; however, Syria itself has long suffered through a series of wars which have led the once profitable and modern airline to face service challenges.
While flights being suspended has been an issue, it was the sanctions imposed during the 80s that prevented the airline from growing their fleet with western aircraft, instead relying on Soviet-built aircraft in order to expand their fleet. The collapse of the Soviet Union saw doubts being cast over the future of its Tupolev fleet, however, they continue to fly today.
US and European Sanctions that were imposed in the 80s were lifted in the early 90’s following Syria’s assistance with the US-led coalition against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This also saw flights resume to London in 1991.
Sanctions were again placed on the airline in 2012 as the Syrian Civil War began. The sanctions include that the airline cannot conduct flights to the EU or buy any new aircraft which contain European parts.
The US sanctions include a clause that the airline cannot buy any aircraft which contains US-manufactured parts.
4. The mid-1970’s was a big time for the airline
The 1970’s saw a raft of changes to the airline, including new name, new aircraft, and new logo.
A new logo and livery for the then S.A.A.L. was introduced in 1973 which still exists today. The logo features a mythical ‘Syrian’ bird rising over a Mediterranean-blue circle representing the sun.
In 1975, the airline began a fleet renewal. On top of their list: three brand-new Boeing 727-294s and two Boeing 747SPs. The 747SP’s retired from service in 2008, but resumed service in 2011 until 2014 on the Abu Dhabi, Algiers, and Dammam routes.
Finally, in 1975 the ‘SyrianAir’ name was officially adopted. This was decided upon taking delivery of their new Boeing fleet in order to refresh and modernise the brand, hoping to capture more of the international audience. The new name confused many as all legal documents stated that the airline was “Syrian Arab Airlines”.
The airlines name wasn’t officially chanced to Syrian Air, from Syrian Arab Airlines, until January 2020.
5. New aircraft are coming?
In November 2018, it was reported the airline is evaluating placing an order for 15-20 Irkut MC-21-300s, which it would be able to add despite US and European sanctions. If an order is placed deliveries could commence in 2022.
Irkut have not confirmed the orders and Syrian Air has not updated the public.
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