Germanwings Had No Previous Major Safety Incidents, But Wasn't Without Problems

But the budget airline owned by Lufthansa wasn't without problems.

ByABC News
March 24, 2015, 2:11 PM

— -- Unlike its well-established parent company Lufthansa, it hasn't been all smooth sailing for Germanwings since it first took off in 2002. Competing with low-cost European carriers, such as Ireland's Ryanair and the British Easyjet, Germanwings has faced its share of glitches before today's tragic crash.

An Airbus operated by Germanwings crashed today in the Alps in southern France with 150 people on board.

Now, Lufthansa's CEO Carsten Spohr will face his biggest test yet with less than one year on the job. On May 1, 2014, Spohr became the first pilot to take over management of the Lufthansa Group, according to the company website.

Last year, as many as 10 pilot strikes plagued Lufthansa Group flights. In December, Lufthansa and Germanwings were hit by some of "the most severe strikes in the company's history," according to the Lufthansa Group website. That strike by the pilots' union, Vereinigung Cockpit, focused on retirement benefits, and grounded planes for 15 days.

Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann, in his job since September 2006, noted during a news conference that the Airbus A320 plane went into an 8-minute descent before crashing.

A plane operated by Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings is pictured on August 28, 2014 at Cologne's airport.

The Flight Safety Foundation, based in Alexandria, Virginia, said Germanwings has not had a major accident before today, using information from, which tracks major incidents, including plane crashes and hijackings.

"And the Airbus 320 has a fleet of nearly 6200 aircraft operating worldwide," Flight Safety Foundation CEO Jon Beatty said. "We expect that the investigators from the French and German authorities will find the black boxes and the cause of this tragedy will be determined quickly."

"The airline passed a special international aviation safety audit, just like its parent company Lufthansa," Harro Ranter, Aviation Safety Network CEO, told ABC News.

"The industry group IATA demands that all its members pass this safety audit," Ranter added. "In addition, the German authorities which need to perform safety oversight of Germanwings are highly regarded. Germany is known to have a high level of compliance with international aviation safety standards.”

But aviation regulators in Germany previously noted that the airline had cabin air safety problems in September and December of 2010. Germany's Federal Aviation Office reported that year that contaminated cabin air caused the pilots to nearly lose consciousness. However, the planes landed safely. A spokesman for Germanwings at the time denied that there were problems to the German newspaper Die Welt.

Passengers try to re-book their flights at a Lufthansa counter at Frankfurt International Airport during a strike by Lufthansa pilots on December 1, 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany.

The German Federal Aviation Office outlined the incidents in a memo after an interim investigation, Spiegel Online reported. Germanwings submitted a report to the Germany's Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Investigation but no action was taken from that organization.

Germanwings' first flight took off on Oct. 27, 2002. The company was established to compete with the likes of Ryanair and Easyjet for shorter legs in the European market. The company advertises flights as low as about $40 through its website. A flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, the scheduled route of the flight that crashed today, is priced through Germanwings as low as $238 round-trip for October.

The German airliner Eurowings sold Germanwings to Lufthansa in January 2009 before Eurowings also was acquired by the giant conglomerate. Lufthansa, based in Cologne, Germany, is Europe's largest airline group.

Shares of Deutsche Lufthansa AG plummeted with the news of today's crash. Lufthansa shares were down nearly 2 percent during mid-day trading in New York.