Airlines Even though it looks like modern transportation, commercial aircraft have been serving passengers in various parts of the world for more than 100 years. Many airlines that are more than a century old still operate today, among the oldest being KLM and Qantas.
The names of these two airlines are world famous, but not many people know the history behind them. Like KLM and Qantas, these are the five oldest airlines in the world.
The oldest operating airline in the world is KLM from the Netherlands. Founded in October 1919, KLM’s first flight was in 1920, more than 100 years ago, flying from London to Amsterdam. The airline expanded its intercontinental flights, flying to the Dutch East Indies and to Curacao in the Caribbean. Over the years, the airline has continued to grow into one of the most important airlines in the world. As of 2023, KLM serves more than 140 destinations and more than 100 aircraft serve flights worldwide.
Just a few months younger than KLM, Avianca is the second oldest airline in the world. Based in Bogota, Colombia, the airline is America’s oldest airline. Before World War II, Avianca was called SCADTA (Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transportes Aéreos, in English: Colombian-German Air Transport Company). Entrepreneurial German expatriates helped found the company in 1919.
During the war, thousands of other Germans fled to Colombia and SCADTA’s relationship with Germany became a concern. In 1940, the company fired all its German employees and abandoned its original name. They became Aerovías Nacionales de Colombia, better known as Avianca.
This Australian flag airline was founded in 1920, but only served its first passenger flight in 1934 between Brisbane and Darwin. A year later, Qantas made its first international flight to Singapore. Currently the airline has a fleet of more than 100 aircraft and flies to more than 80 destinations.
Aeroflot was founded in 1923, 100 years ago, serving mail and passenger flights from Moscow to Kharkov. The airline initially operated under the name Dobrolet and only changed to Aeroflot in 1932. This airline grew to become Russia’s main airline after the fall of communism. The airline used to have a wide range of destinations until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when it was forced to stop most of its international flights and focus on domestic and Belarusian destinations.
The Czech Republic’s flagship airline was founded in October 1923. A month later Czech Airlines began operating passenger flights between Prague and Bratislava. Soon after, they served international flights to Zagreb in Yugoslavia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Czech Airlines experienced financial problems and had to reorganize.