The World’s 10 Oldest Airlines

With its 95-year history, KLM is the oldest international airline still flying under its original name. How many other pioneer carriers can say the same?  Here’s the 10 oldest airlines in a row for you.

Nr 1. KLM

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was founded in 1919. In 1920, pilot Jerry Shaw captained the first KLM flight, flying from London to Schiphol in a De Havilland DH-16. The KLM Group, which includes the wholly owned subsidiaries KLM Cityhopper, and Martinair, currently employs more than 32.000 people.

Nr 2. Qantas

Qantas was established in Australia in 1920. The first flight took place in 1922 with an Armstrong Whitworth FK8 flying from Longreach to Cloncurry in Australia. Today, Qantas has a workforce of 35.000.


Nr 3. Czech Airlines

Czechoslovak State Airlines was established in 1923 and has been operating under the name Czech Airlines since 1995. Its first flight was a 321-kilometre trip with an Aero A-14 (Brandenburg) biplane in 1923. Today, Czech Airlines has 1,017 employes.

Nr 4. Lufthansa

Lufthansa was established in 1926, following a merger between Deutsche Aero Lloyd (DAL) and Junkers Luftverkehr. It operated its first flight in that same year with a Fokker F-11, taking off from Berlin-Tempelhof for Zurich. In 1953, Aktiengesellschaft für Luftverkehrsbedarf (LUFTAG) acquired the Deutsche Lufthansa brand name and thereafter operated under that name. Lufthansa is a superpower in the airline industry, with 117,000 employees and numerous subsidiaries including Air Dolomiti, Swiss International Airlines, Eurowings, Augsburg Airways and Contact Air.

KLM oldest airline

Nr 5. Iberia

Iberia was established in 1927. Iberia Lineas Aereas de Espana, operated its first flight that same year from Madrid to Barcelona with a Rohrbach Ro VIII Roland. Iberia merged with British Airways in 2011 and today employs a workforce of 18,000.


Nr 6. Delta

Delta Air Lines was formed in 1928 and today has 80,000 employees. Its head office is located in Atlanta. Delta’s first passenger flight took place in 1929 with a Travel Air S-6000B, flying from Dallas to Monroe. Delta merged with Northwest Airlines in 2010 and participated in a joint venture with Air France, KLM and Alitalia.

Nr. 7 Aeroflot

Aeroflot was founded in 1932 in Russia (then the Soviet Union) as Grazhdansky Vozdushny Flot (‘civil aviation’). Aeroflot was formed through a partnership between three airlines: Dobrolet, Zakavia and Ukrvozdukhput. Dobrolet operated its first flight from Morcow to Nizhiny Novgorod in 1923. The Aeroflot head office is located in Moscow. The Aeroflot Group has a workforce of over 30,000. Its current subsidiaries include Aurora, Donavia, Dobrolet, Rossiya Airlines and Orenair.

Nr. 8 Air France

Air France was extablished in 1933, following a merger between the five French airlines Air Union, Air Orient, Société Générale de Transport Aérien (SGTA), CIDNA and Aéropostale. SGTA’s first flight took place in 1919, with a Farman F.60 ‘Goliath’ Flying from Toussus-le-Noble to Kenley (near Croydon in the UK). Air France has its head office in Paris. In 2004, Air France became part of the AIR France KLM group. It currently has a workforce of over 69,000 people.

Nr. 9 American Airlines

American Airlines was founded in 1934, when its predecessors Aviation Corporation and American Airways formed a partnership. It operated its first cargo flight (mail) from Chicago to Saint Louis in 1926, with a DH-4 biplane. American Airlines is based in Fort Worth, Texas, and has 80,987 employees. In 2013, American Airlines merged with US Airways Group and continued under the name American Airlines Group.

Nr. 10 Aer Lingus

Aer Lingus was founded in 1936. The airline had only one aircraft at the time, named ‘iolar’ (Eagle). The first flight operated with the iolar was from Baldonnel in Dublin to Bristol UK in 1936. The present Aer Lingus head office is located at Dublin Airport. Aer Lingus has a workforce of 4,000.

Illustrations: Allan Grotjohann
Source: Wolkenridder Magazine
Posted by:   Bonnie Parren  | 
Join the conversation Show comments


No. 2 it’s Avianca: founded on december 2 of 1919 as SCADTA

Bonnie Parren

Very old airline indeed and heading for a big birthday party in five years as well.


Starting to get into problems with actually identifying airlines. After WWII SCADTA merged with SACO and both airlines disappeared into AVIANCA. Hardly anyone would identify SCADTA as an airline that has been in continuous operation since 1919, because it ceased to exist after WWII.


Due to WWII, the German stockholders lost their share in SCADTA and a n name had to be chosen for the resulting new airline, but operations continued. Those who know Avianca know its history and know it started back in 1919. It has never ceased to celebrate its anniversary ever since.


So Czech airlines changed its name in 1995 and is 3rd on the list , and Avianca changed its name in the beginning of 1940 and is not on that list as #2 since it was founded in 1919, who can explain that?


How about LAN airlines? Founded in 1929…

Bonnie Parren

It would probably be in this top ten if it didn’t change its name ;) Started out as Línea Aeropostal Santiago-Arica, right?


Well is not like someone at is 20′ s decided to change his or her name and do to that you it become a 1 year old person …. Avianca is second , no doubt


I am afraid that you kind of forget Finnair.. Founded 1st of November 1923 they rank themselves as 5th oldest… :) Well, yes, founded with the name AERO which was replaced to Finnair some 60 years you’re right: “under same name”
But anyway happy b-day KLM! :)

Bonnie Parren

Sharp Jukka! Finnair is definitely a pioneer as well. But indeed not under the same name… Thanks for your comment.


Avianca was founded on 1919 as SCADTA and has been operating continuously since then.

Bonnie Parren

Yes, but is not operating under its original name.

Havayolu 101

I am sorry to say this but your list is not so correct. Turkish Airlines was founded in 1933.


Egypt Air was found in 1932

William Baker

No I am afraid this is way off. The Oldest airline out there today is United Airlines. It was originally owned and still part owned by the Boeing Company. It was called Boeing Air Transport and in the late 1920s it was Changed and reorganized to become United Group which in turned into United Airlines while the acquisitions of Stout Airlines Lines, Varney airlines, and NAT- National Air Transport During 1929.

Bonnie Parren

You are right William. But here we focus on a list of airlines still operating under the original name.


Read the introduction first.


AVIANCA has to be one of the oldest of all airlines.

GD- Luanda- Angola.


Hey! what about Avianca? it was founded in 1919. It should be the second oldest of all airlines!


Totally agree


Lot Polish Airlines was founded in 1929.


Nice article, not sure it’s accurate though! ;-) Anyway, under Delta –> Dallas is written with 2 L’s not 1! :) just FYI!

Bonnie Parren

Oops you’re right! Thx. We’ll fix that.


Lufthansa started with a F-11? Picture is showing a F.2 (F.II). I guess you mistyped the I (cap “i”) with 1.


By the same token KLM has not operated continuously, if you are going to put a “BUT” in LAN or AVIANCA for the name changed then KLM was not flying uninterrupted


Dear KLM research team,

Your investigation needs an update. Colombia’s AVIANCA is the second oldest (1919 and still flying uninterrupted under the same name)
Please revise


AVIANCA after KLM its the second oldest, no questions. Lets do the home work,

Andre Rodrigues

You forgot to mention AVIANCA from Colombia

Bonnie Parren

Hi Andre,

It’s a bit confusing I agree. We’ve looked at airlines still operating under the same name. This is what Avianca’s website says:

Colombia’s flag carrier was founded on December 5, 1919, under the name Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transporte Aéreo, SCADTA.

Avianca started out as SCADTA and thus not flying under the same name. That said, it is a very old and experienced airline… I agree on that.


Czech airline changed its name in 1995 and is # 3, and Avianca changed maybe in 1940/42 and is not on that list?, who can understand this article?


South African Airways(SAA) has been operating with the same name since 1934.


January 1, 1929 Still in operation Linie Lotnicze LOT created by the Polish government to replace PLL Aerolot and SA Aero.

penelope burreci

Glad to see there is no controversy about the age of Qantas!
A great airline, very reliable and safe. So basically are all the others,
does it really matter about age and names? I don’t think so, they
all do a fantastic job of transporting passengers, livestock and
freight around the world, they should all be commended for
their services.


Why Misr Airline (AKA: Egypt airline) 1931 is not in the list ?

Flemming Olsson

What about DDL. It was grounded on october 29, 1918 and is still existing under the name SAS Danmark.


Aeropostal from Venezuela is older than Aeroflot, it was founded in July 1929 and still running that will make it the 7th of this list. Nice article but missing a bit more research.


Sorry to add to the controversy, Bonnie. About number three, you yourself state that Czech Airlines has been operating under that name since 1995. That’s a name change, I believe?

But then, my argument is baised of course in the exclusion of that which one everyone is saying should be second, excluded on the basis of a name change. I’m an Avianca pilot. Lol!


Illogical. Czech changes name, still on the list. Finnair does same, drops out.


You might look into the history of Hawaiian Airlines established January 30, 1929, as Interisland Airways.


Avianca is the current name of one of the 3 first airlines founded in the world. Sorry but this blog have missed many information.


Northwest airlines was founded in 1926 as northwest airways on steptember 1 1926

Johan Van Roosmaelen

Hello everyone

Thanks a lot for all the information you all added to this blog and particulary to Bonnie for raising the question.
Beiing a former pilot and aviation enthousiast, I also wanted to add some information. Since there are a few issues about names and dates, I just wanted to add this ; our former SABENA, and yes it had to be “transformed” into “Brussels Airlines”, we in Belgium have the following history in Aviation:

Founded march 31st 1919, by Georges Nélis with the support of king Albert I under the temporary name of SNETA, flying 4 de Havilland DH-9, 3 Rumpler C.IV, 1 de Havilland DH-4, 4 Blériot-SPAD S.33, 1 Ansaldo A.300C and a Farman F.60 Goliath.The name was changed into SABENA in may 1923, but was still flying the same fleet or aircraft. So we, I suppose could be added to the family of oldest airlines in the world?
Johan ” mouse”

Juan Pablo Vargas Hidalgo

Dear sirs, KLM is one of my favourites airlines but you need to make a correction. The oldest airline in the World is KLM from The Netherlands (7 October 1919), and the second for less than two months is Avianca from Colombia (5 December 1919). But at least in two occasions (winter 1922 and 1940) KLM interrupted its operation, so Avianca it´s the oldest airline of the world without any interruption.

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