March 04, 2015: Cargolux celebrates its 45th birthday today. On March 04, 1970, Loftleiðir, Salén, Luxair and some private interests founded the airline. With a very limited staff and lots of high hopes, they launched themselves into the business of flying all-cargo charters anywhere in the world.
The Salén Shipping Company had been involved in a study of the air cargo business with a group of Scandinavian ship owners. This did not lead to any action that suited Salén, so they started to explore the opportunities by acting rather than studying.
Their original idea was to fly fresh fruit and vegetables during the week from the Canary Islands to Sweden and Swedish tourists on weekends. Loftleiðir Icelandic had five surplus CL-44 aircraft that were used on North Atlantic passenger services in the 1960s.
When the Icelandic carrier decided to phase out the CL-44s and introduce DC-8s on its routes, they tried to sell or find use for the surplus aircraft, which were originally designed as cargo aircraft with a swing tail.
Salén and Loftleiðir agreed that Luxembourg would be ideally suited for the company's headquarters, firstly because Luxembourg is located in the heart of Europe, and secondly because Luxembourg's authorities had already expressed their interest in establishing an all-cargo carrier in Luxembourg in 1969.
Meetings were organized with Luxair to negotiate the creation of an all-cargo airline.
While discussions about the creation of the airline took place, Loftleiðir decided to convert the first CL-44 aircraft back to cargo configuration and started to operate ad-hoc and charter flights from Luxembourg in November 1969.
In the beginning of January 1970, Salén and Loftleiðir formed a 50-50 joint venture, named Saloft. Gradually, Salén bought half of every CL-44 from Loftleiðir and leased them to Cargolux on a 'pay-as-you fly' arrangement, which later became a lease-purchase.
Cargolux's first flight went to Hong Kong in September 1970.