The five oldest airlines in the world

After the frenchman Clément Ader was the first to take off a flying machine in 1897, in the following years many inventors tried to be the pioneers in inventing an airplane. Their prototypes were very useful for combat in the First World War, but it was not until the end of the war that the first companies dedicated to the transport of passengers appeared. The first airlines were born between the 1920s and 1930s. Below, we will review the five oldest and still operating today, which has its merit considering the continuous changes to which companies have had to adapt in recent years.

  • KLM

KLM was founded on October 5, 1919 and is the oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name. Its name translated means Royal Aviation Company. This company was born out of the need to connect Amsterdam to what was then the East Indies.

The first flight of this company was on May 17, 1920, London to Schiphol where two journalists, a letter from the Mayor of London and a bundle of newspapers were on board.

Today KLM is based at Schiphol Airport (Amsterdam), offers a network of flights to over 160 destinations on all continents, and operates a fleet of 168 aircraft.

  • Avianca

On December 5, 1919, the Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transporte Aéreo (Scadta) was started in Barranquilla, Latin America. It was one of the first airlines in the country, born thanks to an alliance between Germans and Colombians.

The first flight of this company was without passengers, but with 57 letters that were transported between Barranquilla and Puerto Colombia, piloted by a German pilot.

It was not until 1940, through a merger between Scadta and Servicio Aéreo Colombiano (Saco) that Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia (Avianca) was born.

Today, the airline has about 680 daily flights, has 151 planes and flies to 100 destinations in 25 countries in America and Europe.

  • Qantas

On November 16, 1920 Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Ltd, later known as Qantas, was founded. Its first air routes offered connections to people in western Queensland, Australia.

The initial aim of this company was to transport the Australian population, until international passenger flights began in May 1935.

Qantas was the first airline in history to include Business Class, a service it launched on board a Boeing 747 in 1979.

Today, the Australian company still operates, being the country’s largest airline and one of its best known brands. In fact, it’s considered the safest airline in the world, according to a ranking by the website

  • Aeroflot

Aeroflot was founded shortly after the end of the Russian civil war in 1923 as a fully state-owned company. At first, it was called something else: Dobroliot, which means “good flight”. It was in the early 1930s that the company received its current name.

Aeroflot’s great growth was after World War II, when its airport in Moscow became the largest centre of aviation operations in the USSR. Later, in 1956, the Company was the first in the world to put a passenger jet into service: the Tu-104.

In the 1980s, it won the record of the world’s largest airline, flying over all continents and carrying 120 million passengers a year.

Today Aeroflot continues to operate, is considered to be among the top twenty airlines by passenger volume, and plans to occupy 45.5% of the Russian transport market by 2025. At Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow there is a museum where Aeroflot’s history is told.

  • Czech Airlines

Czech Airlines is an airline founded in October 1923 in the Czech Republic by the government of what was then Czechoslovakia. It is based at Prague International Airport Ruzyně.

The first flight of this company left a month after its foundation from Prague to Bratislava, the capital, and until 1930 it only operated on domestic routes. Its first trip across the Atlantic was in February 1962 to Havana, Cuba.

The company specialized in regular air passenger transport, focusing mainly on scheduled direct connections between Prague and major destinations in Europe.

Today, the airline connects with the most important European destinations and transit points in North America, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and carries more than 2 million passengers per year.