Olympic Airways began flying in 1957 under the ownership of shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. He offered free DC-3 flights to travelers to ease their fear of flying. Olympic began flying its first jet aircraft service in 1960 with de Havilland Comets, and soon after began codesharing with British European Airways.
During the 1960s, Olympic Airways added Boeing 707s and 727s to its fleet. It replaced its aging Douglas DC-3 and DC-6s in 1971 with twin-turboprop Nihon Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. YS-11As (photo). It ended up flying 10, naming them after Greek islands. In that same year, it created Olympic Aviation, a subsidiary airline to serve the Greek Islands.
At one point Olympic flew to nearly 70 cities, about half of them domestically, and employed 8,500 people.
In January of 1973, Alexander Onassis, the son of Aristotle, died in a plane crash and soon after Onassis sold his interest in the airline, which ended up under state control.
Management problems, labor unrest and increasing debt and financial losses mounted. In 2003, the government restructured the company and renamed it Olympic Airlines, only to have that carrier finally cease operations in September 2009. After almost 35 years of state ownership, Marfin Investment Group purchased portions of Olympic Airlines, and the airline was reborn as Olympic Air, a carrier about 35% smaller than the original.
In 2010, Olympic and Aegean Air proposed a merger, but the merger was blocked for anti-competition reasons. MIG is now in the process of selling 100% of its shares to Aegean, and is currently waiting for approval by the European Competition Commission.