Georges Gutelman, founder of several Belgian airlines including a forefather of Brussels Airlines, dies at 81

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TEA Boeing 737-300 © Pedro Aragão on wikimedia

Georges Gutelman, the founder of several Belgian airlines, died at 81. Since 2015, when his health had deteriorated, he lived in Israel.

He was born in 1938 to Polish jewish immigrant parents. He became a metallurgical engineer at Liege University.

In 1971, he founded the charter airline Trans European Airways (TEA). In late 1984 and early 1985, he took part with his airline in “Operation Moses” and evacuated some 8,000 Jewish Falashas from Ethiopia into Israel via Sudan.

In 1989, he was elected manager of the year by the Belgian economic weekly magazine Trends-Tendances.

TEA went bankrupt in 1994. The company was relaunched later as European Airlines and then Eurobelgian Airlines (EBA). EBA was later bought by Virgin under the helm of British businessman Richard Branson to become Virgin Express, which was later incorporated into Brussels Airlines.

George Gutelman then went with Victor Hasson to create the airline CityBird in 1996, which went bankrupt in 2001. In 2002, he founded Birdy Airlines, operating the first long-haul flights of newly-born Brussels Airlines.

May he rest in peace!

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