Top 10 Oldest Airlines Still In Operation

Some of the well-known airlines that fly today around the globe have a very long history behind. Also some of these are the oldest airlines to still be in operation in 2023. Without further ado, here is the top 10 list of the oldest airlines that continue to operate:

Airbus A319 Iberia aircraft at Madrid Airport
Iberia was the most punctual airline in January 2023 © Bene Riobo

10. Iberia

Spain’s flag carrier was founded on June 28 in 1927, 95 years ago. It started off as a company that was meant to transport post between Madrid and Barcelona. In the 1930s it started operating regular domestic flights while also linking the land the we now know as Spain to other parts such as Spanish North Africa or Morocco. The first international flight took place in 1939, flying from Madrid to Lisbon. It now has a fleet size of 82 aircraft and over 80 destinations.

9. Air Serbia

The Serbian flag carrier was founded as Aeroput in 1927 and acted as Yugoslavia’s flag carrier until 1948. After WWII, it was renamed to Jugoslovenski Aerotransport, or JAT as a shorter form. The airline was renamed again in 2003 to Jat Airways and it served as the flag carrier of Serbia and Montenegro. Most recently, in 2013, it became Air Serbia.

American Air Lines Boeing 777
American Airlines has a fleet of 935 aircraft. © Colin Cooke Photo

8. American Airlines

The largest airline in the world by fleet size was founded in 1926, however it only started operating in 1930. Passenger service was inaugurated in 1936 with flights from Newark and Chicago. It now grew to a massive airline with over 200 domestic destinations and over 80 international ones. Its fleet size measures over 900 aircraft.

7. Delta Air Lines

Delta is another American airline that commenced operations a very long time ago. It was founded in 1925 as Huff Daland Dusters, an aerial crop dusting service. The first passenger flights happened from Dallas, Texas to Jackson, Mississippi. 98 years later, it is now one of the largest airlines in the world with over 900 aircraft in its fleet.

Tajik Air aircraft
Tajik Air used to fly to Sharjah in the UAE © Ercan Karakas

6. Tajik Air

A not so common name in the aviation industry, Tajik Air was founded before most of the better known airlines. Founded in 1924, it served its first passenger flight in the same year from Bukhara, a city in Uzbekistan to Dushanbe, Tajikistan’s capital. Tajik Air started growing alongside the country itself, pretty much becoming a pioneer of aviation in the country. Currently, it only has four planes in its fleet and flies to just three destinations.

5. Finnair

One of the safest airlines in the world is also one of the oldest. Finnair is Finland’s flag carrier and was founded way back in 1923. A year later, the first Finnair flight took place between Helsinki and Tallinn, Estonia. It is now one of the most respected airlines in the aviation industry, claiming many prizes and acclaims in its recent era.

Czech Airlines aircraft in the sky
Czech Airlines used to service flights to Seoul, South Korea © Aldo Bidini

4. Czech Airlines

The flag carrier of the Czech Republic was founded in October 1923. A month later it started operating passenger flights between Prague and Bratislava and it soon went international, serving flights to Zagreb in Yugoslavia. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Czech Airlines went through insolvency and is now expected to start rebuilding from scratch.

3. Aeroflot

Aeroflot was founded in 1923, 100 years ago, and started providing mail and passenger flights from Moscow to Kharkov. It functioned initially under the name Dobrolet and only changed to Aeroflot in 1932. The Soviet Union’s airline grew exponentially over the years and it became Russia’s flag carrier after the fall of communism. It used to have a wide variety of destinations up until Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when it was forced to terminate most of its international flights and focus on internal destinations and Belarus ones.

2. Qantas

Australia’s flag carrier is the world’s second oldest airline still in operation. Founded in 1920, it only served its first passenger flights in 1934 between Brisbane and Darwin. It went international a year later when it extended the service to Singapore. It currently has a fleet of over 100 aircraft and flies to over 80 destinations.

KLM planes on stand
KLM services flights to 145 destinations © Miguel Angel Sanz

1. KLM

The oldest operating airline in the world is KLM, the Dutch flag carrier. The first KLM flight took place in 1920, more than 100 years ago, flying from London to Amsterdam. The airline soon extended intercontinetally, flying to the Dutch East Indies and to Curacao in the Caribbean. Over the years it continued to grow into one of the most important airlines in the world, with over 140 destinations in 2023 and over 100 planes servicing flights all across the globe.

Were you surprised by any of the entries on the list? Let us know in the comments down below!

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