Sociedade Açoreana de Estudos Aeréas Lda. was established in late August, 1941, with the purpose of looking into the feasibility of an inter-island airline that would connect the Azorean archipelago to continental Portugal.
Sociedade Açoreana de Transportes Aéreos commenced operations in June, 1947, from Santa Maria, using a twin-engine Beechcraft named «Açor» with seven passengers.
The Portuguese government granted temporary concession to the carrier, and by May 23, 1948 two DeHavilland Dove 104 aircraft were added to the fleet.
In 1969, Nordela Airport (later to become João Paulo II International) in Ponta Delgada (Relva) was inaugurated, becoming the first SATA base of operations.
In 1972, the old fleet was replaced with new Avro HS 748 turboprops.
Four years later, the airline received two DC-6 aircraft from the Portuguese Air Force and started using them to reach Lisbon.
In 1980, Sociedade Açoreana de Estudos Aeréas Lda. became a public company and its name was changed to SATA Air Açores.
Between 1989 and 1990, the old Avro HS 748s were replaced with BAe ATPs, followed by a few others, including a small Dornier 228-212 used for a while to link to the small island of Corvo.
In 1994, SATA Air Açores purchased Oceanair, creating a subsidiary called SATA Internacional in 1998, licensed to operate outside the Azores.
In 2009, SATA Internacional had its own Airbus fleet, using 4 A310-300s and 4 A320-200s to fly regularly to a wide range of international destinations, such as Lisbon, Porto, Funchal, Frankfurt, London, Manchester, Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, Zurich, Copenhagen, Boston and Toronto. Apart from its regular services, SATA Air Açores provides charter flights, its only charter destination being Tenerife.
In July 2009, Grupo SATA reported that Bombardier Dash Q200 began the new SATA Air Açores fleet cycle with the first commercial flight. Due to the start of the Q200 operations, the Dornier 228 CS-TGO was no long part of the SATA Air Açores fleet. As initially planned, the visible process of the renewal of the fleet began on 15 May 2009 with the arrival of the first Bombardier Q200.
Also in July 2009, SATA Internacional receives «Cargo Hold Pet Carrier» status in flights to the United States. Cats and dogs could be transported as checked baggage on flights to and from the United States.
In January 2010, the European Investment Bank (EIB) granted a EUR 37 million (USD 53 million) loan to SATA Air Açores (SATA) to purchase four turboprop aircraft for inter-island transport in the Azores, replacing the older aircraft. The aircraft will be operated from its base in Ponta Delgada, primarily for inter-island flights in the Azores and Madeira and flights to the Canary Islands. In the Azores island chain, the only alternative to inter-island aviation is maritime transport, an unappealing option (particularly for passenger transport) due to relatively long distances and rough seas.
In November 2010, the process of renewing SATA Air Açores’ fleet came to an end with the phasing out of the last BAe ATP aircraft. The aircraft “Flores” was first used by SATA Air Açores in December 1990 and made its last flight on 28 May 2010. The aircraft logged 26,297.28 flight hours and made 51,287 landings.
In March 2011, Grupo SATA presented one more innovation in the check?in process for SATA Internacional and SATA Air Açores flights, simplifying the passenger’s experience while reducing the environmental footprint and reducing operating costs. The launch of Mobile Check?In allows Grupo SATA to offer its customers an even more comfortable, quick and versatile way of checking in via mobile phone, allowing passengers to check in from anywhere, as long as they have a mobile phone with Internet access.
In 2011, as part of its strategy of strengthening its flight network, increasing SATA distribution channels and boosting awareness of the Azores destination, SATA has signed an Interline agreement with Aigle Azur. The signing of this Interline Electronic Ticketing Agreement (IETA) allows SATA Internacional to issue tickets for Aigle Azur flights and vice?versa, allowing passengers to travel with the same electronic ticket on flights operated by both airlines, thereby facilitating the entire process of issuing tickets and improving service to the customers of both airlines.
In April 2012, SATA was honored, for the 3rd consecutive year, by the Portuguese multinational OutSystems with the «Agility Award» for its development of the Management Application for On-Board Sales. The Management Application for On-Board Sales allows the control of all on-board sales in SATA International flights, using a simple interface with full support for mobile devices.
In July 2012, SATA opened a fly route to Brazil – Salvador da Bahia, with a weekly regular flight departing from Lisbon on Thursday and returning on Friday. Thus, SATA opened doors for a further step in the development of its ambition to establish itself in international markets, at the same time responding positively to the various expressions of interest for establishing partnerships from the Brazilian and Portuguese tourism sector and also from official entities of the State of Bahia.
In April 2013, the Chairman of the SATA Group, António Menezes, has been elected member of the Board of ERA – European Regions Airline Association. ERA is a non-governmental organization that represents the intra-European air transport trade interests of 50 European regional airlines and more than 100 entities related to the aviation industry, including airplane manufacturers, airports and suppliers of products and services.
In November 2013, the airline received an honorable mention in the “Risk Management Innovation 2013” award, promoted by Diário Económico and Açoreana. SATA was selected from more than a hundred applications as part of the group of 14 finalists. This recognizes the quality of the company risk management model, which was launched in 2012 and is based on a set of best practices that are now part of the daily routines of SATA team members.
In June 2014, SATA Airlines expanded the regular air service from the Azores to Madrid with new flights. The link between Ponta Delgada and Madrid will now be weekly with a non-stop every Tuesday. And, starting July 3, a second flight will be added on Thursdays. For this route, which runs until September 23, SATA will connect to Spain with Airbus A320s and a seasonal 4,455 seats in each direction. Service between Ponta Delgada and the Spanish capital began as a «charter», and it is now a regular flight to the Azores.
In October 2015, SATA announced a major rebranding of SATA International, which included changing the name into Azores Airlines and also the color scheme from blue tones to green tones. At the same time, it was announced a fleet renewal with Airbus A330 aircraft. The first A330 flight, from Ponta Delgada to Boston, took place in March 2016.
In December 2017, Azores Airlines took delivery of its first Airbus A321neo, leased from Air Lease Corporation. The aircraft is one of the 6 Airbus A321neos acquired to renew its trans-Atlantic fleet and substitute the Airbus A310 fleet.
There has been only one deadly accident in SATA Air Açores history, in December 1999, when a British Aerospace ATP crashed on the island of São Jorge in the Azores due to a combination of weather conditions and imprecise navigation, and all 35 people on board were killed.