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The Oldest Airlines In The World

Airplane waiting

When we hear about aviation, it takes the attention of most of us easily. Meanwhile, it is one of the hardest sectors with many operational and financial challenges. Aside from being one of the complex operational businesses in the world, it is also very fragile. Considering that the profit rates are really low in the sector, aviation is being one of the first industries affected by economic crises. From 9/11 to the COVID-19 pandemic crises, we many times observed that airlines had to struggle with various difficulties. However, these oldest airlines in the world in our list managed to survive successfully from all these turbulent times. Here, let’s take a look at the 10 oldest airlines in the world that still continue their operations.

KLM and Avianca celebrated their 100th-anniversaries last year in 2019 as the oldest airlines in the world. This year is being the year of Qantas for 100 years in the business under the COVID-19 pandemic crises effect over aviation.

1. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Nation: Netherlands
Year Founded: 7 October 1919
Hub Airport: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Passengers carried in 2019: 35.1 million

Being the oldest airline in the world doesn’t mean being the most traditional airline for KLM. Contrary, the national flag carrier of Holland is being one of the most innovative airlines. Today, KLM is serving more than 150 destinations with 214 aircraft in its fleet.

2. Avianca


Nation: Colombia
Year Founded: 5 December 1919
Hub Airport: El Dorado Int. Airport – Bogota
Passengers carried in 2019: 30.5 million

Being the second-largest airline of Latin America after LATAM of Chile, Avianca operated with 189 airplanes to 75 destinations in 26 countries. As 10 May 2020, Avianca declared its bankruptcy due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

3. Qantas


Nation: Australia
Year Founded: 16 November 1920
Hub Airport: Amsterdam Brisbane Airport, Sydney Airport, Melbourne Airport
Passengers carried in 2019: 55.8 million

Regarded as one of the best long-distance airline in the world, The Flying Kangaroo having over 200 aircraft in its fleet.

4. Aeroflot


Nation: Russia
Year Founded: 15 July 1923
Hub Airport: Sheremetyevo Int. Airport / Moscow
Passengers carried in 2019: 35.1 million

Offering more reasonable prices compared to other European carriers especially in long routes, Aeroflot is serving around 150 destinations.

5. Czech Airlines

Czech Airlines

Nation: Czech Republic
Year Founded: 6 October 1923
Hub Airport: Vaclav Havel Airport Prague
Passengers carried in 2019: 3 million

Relatively, a small carrier of Europe, Czech Airlines continues its journey with a modest number of 13 aircraft in its fleet serving around 25 destinations.

6. Finnair


Nation: Finland
Year Founded: 1 November 1923
Hub Airport: Helsinki Airport
Passengers carried in 2019: 14.7 million

Finnair is being one of the largest airlines among Nordic countries along with SAS. The airline has over 80 aircraft in its fleet serving over 125 destinations worldwide.

7. Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines

Nation: United States
Year Founded: 17 June 1925
Hub Airport: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int. Airport
Passengers carried in 2019: 204 million

Delta is not only the oldest carrier of the US but one of the largest airlines in the world. Competing with American Airlines, Delta has close to 900 aircraft in its fleet, serving more than 300 destinations. With American and United, Delta is being the top 3 largest airline in the world.

8. Air Serbia

Air Serbia

Nation: Serbia
Year Founded: 17 June 1927
Hub Airport: Belgrade Nikola Tesla Airport
Passengers carried in 2019: 2.8 Million

Just like Czech Airlines in the list, Air Serbia is continuing its operations with modest numbers compared to other European carriers. The airline has 21 aircraft in its fleet serving around 60 countries.

9. Iberia

Iberia Airlines

Nation: Spain
Year Founded: 28 June 1927
Hub Airport: Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Barajas Airport
Passengers carried in 2019: 25 million

Today Iberia is being a part of IAG formed in January 2011 along with British Airways. Having around 140 aircraft in Iberia Group, the airline serves around 130 destinations.

10. LOT Polish Airlines

LOT Polish Airlines

Nation: Poland
Year Founded: 29 December 1929
Hub Airport: Warsaw Chopin Airport/Budapest Ferenc Liszt Int. Airport
Passengers carried in 2019: 10 million

Being one of the most promising airlines in Europe in terms of expanding its business, LOT flies over 120 destinations not only from Poland but also serving from Hungary.

BONUS: Grand Canyon Airlines

Nation: United States
Year Founded: 1927
Hub Airport: Grand Canyon, Boulder City / Nevada

Actually, Grand Canyon Airlines founded in 1927 hits the list at the 10th rank. However, the airline serves its customers by the type of utility aircraft (small and light airplanes) rather than commercial airplanes. That’s why we wanted to keep them in the other category than national flag carriers.


Nation: Germany
Year Founded: 16 November 1909
Hub Airport: Frankfurt, Germany

The first airline founded commercially to use an aircraft was DELAG in Germany. The company used zeppelins to transport its passengers. However, by 1935, the airline ceased its operations. In other specific posts, we would like to focus on the story of the world’s first airline in more detail and zeppelins that we are not much familiar with them anymore.

Written by Alper Aydın

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