Kim Lundgren was born in Portland, Oregon in 1942 and raised on a ranch in Central Oregon. Entrepreneurship ran in the family; his grandfather was the founder of one of America’s best-known swimsuit brands, Jantzen.
While studying architecture at UC Berkeley, Kim pursued what would become his lifelong passion, flying. By the time he graduated in1967, he had logged enough flight hours to be hired by Pan American Airlines as a navigator on the Boeing 707. He flew the round the world flights out of their San Francisco base for a number of years before moving to Berlin in 1970.
Kim was based in Berlin with Pan Am for six years and concurrently developed business contacts in the aviation and tourism industries. Furloughed by Pan Am in 1976, he was determined to remain in aviation, and started an air taxi company, BerlinAir flying from Tempelhof airport.
His timing was opportune as Berlin’s main tour operator was looking for a partner after the demise of Modern Air. They approached Kim and this led to the founding of Air Berlin USA on June 11, 1978. It was a Part 121 carrier as Berlin was still occupied by the allies.
With a pair of B-707s purchased from TWA, the first Air Berlin USA flight took off from Tegel airport bound for Mallorca on April 28th, 1979.
Through the 1980s, Air Berlin USA enjoyed a comfortable niche in its home market of Berlin. The cornerstone of its success was in flying vacationing Berliners south for holidays. Air Berlin was known for high quality service and excellent on time performance, in part due to always having the latest technology aircraft. It was first in Europe to introduce the 737-300, leased from fledgling Irish leasing company GPA, and Tony Ryan became a friend.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall Kim partnered with German investors and in 1992 Air Berlin was restructured into a German airline, becoming the only known airline in history to change nationality.
Kim remained on the board through the IPO in 2006 at which point he stepped down. From two aircraft and a handful of employees, Air Berlin had become Germany’s second largest airline with 142 aircraft and over 8000 staff.