Humans have been fascinated with the idea of flying in the air for hundreds of years. Soon after Wright Brothers flew the first airplane in 1903, the world witnessed the emergence of many commercial airlines. DELAG, the first commercial airline in the world, was founded in November 1909, though it ceased operations in 1935. It was followed by many other airlines around the world that operated for a few years or decades before shutting down. Here we take a look at the top 10 oldest airlines that are still operational.
Top 10 oldest airlines that are still flying
The flagship Spanish airline was ranked among the worst airlines in the world by AirHelp, mainly because of its pathetic claim processing. Iberia was founded on June 28, 1927 and took its first flight from Madrid to Barcelona on December 14 of the same year. It became the world’s first airline to fly between Europe and South America in 1946. In 2011, Iberia merged with British Airways and Aer Lingus to become part of the International Airlines Group (IAG).
9- Air Serbia
Air Serbia was formed as Aeroput on June 17, 1927, making it one of the top 10 oldest airlines. It has seen many reinventions over more than nine decades of its life. The airline was re-formed as Jugoslovenski Aerotransport (JAT) in 1947 and was renamed Jat Airways in 2003. It became Air Serbia in 2013 following an investment from Etihad Airways.
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8- Grand Canyon Airlines
It was founded in 1927 as Scenic Airways and was renamed Grand Canyon Airlines in 1930. The airline is based in Boulder City, Nevada, USA, and has about 200 employees. It runs sightseeing tours and passenger services around the Grand Canyon. It may not be as large as others in this list, but it’s among the top 10 oldest airlines that are still flying.
7- Delta Airlines
Delta has come a long way since its inception on May 30, 1924. It was founded as Huff Daland Dusters for crop dusting. Today it has become one of the world’s largest passenger airlines with more than 5,000 daily flights to 304 destinations around the world. Delta Airlines currently has 86,000 employees. It merged with Northwest Airlines in 2010.
Finnair was founded as Aero O/Y on November 1, 1923 and its first aircraft was a German Junkers F13 seaplane. Its name was changed to Finnair in 1968. The airline is largely owned by the government of Finland. It has a fleet size of more than 80 aircraft that fly to more than 130 destinations. Finnair is one of the world’s safest airlines. It has never witnessed a fatal or hull-loss accident since 1963.
5- Czech Airlines
It was founded as Czechoslovak State Airlines (CSA) on October 6, 1923. Its first flight was from Prague to Bratislava on October 29th of the same year. The airline ceased operations from 1939 and 1945 due to the Second World War. Its name was changed to Czech Airlines in 1995. In 1950, three of its airplanes were diverted to West Germany in a mass hijacking. Currently, it has a fleet size of 14 aircraft.
Aeroflot was founded as Dobrolyot on February 9, 1923 in the erstwhile Soviet Union. It took its first flight from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod carrying six people. Its name was changed to Aeroflot in 1932. During the Soviet era, it was the world’s largest airline. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was divided into multiple regional airlines. Though it is not as large as it once was, Aeroflot is still the national airline of Russia.
3- Qantas Airways
Not many people know this, but Qantas stands for “Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services.” The flagship Australian carrier was founded on November 16, 1920. It started international flights in 1935. The Australian government nationalized it after the Second World War. Qantas is the owner of the low-cost airline Jetstar Airways. It currently has a fleet size of more than 130 aircraft.
Avianca was founded in Colombia on December 5, 1919 by German immigrants. It will turn a century old by the end of this year. It was originally named SCADTA. The airline made its first flight in 1920 between Barranquilla and Puerto Berrio, carrying two pilots and one passenger. It acquired its current name in 1949 following its merger with another Colombian airline SACO. It also owns many other airlines in neighboring countries, making it one of the biggest airlines in South America.
1- KLM Royal Dutch Airlines
The Royal Dutch Airlines or Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KLM) holds the crown of the world’s oldest airline. It was founded on October 7, 1919 and made its first flight in May 1920 from Amsterdam to London. A few years later in 1924, it launched a service between Amsterdam and Jakarta, the longest air route at the time. The airline ceased operations in Europe during Second World War, but kept flying in the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. KLM merged with Air France in 2004.