Most of the world’s other oldest airlines were formed in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

But the world’s oldest airline is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which was founded in 1919, and continues to operate today.

It’s common for new airlines to frequently form, with over 90 new airlines having launched in 2021 alone.

Older airlines also frequently merge with other airlines or cease operating. 

10 Oldest Airlines (Still in Operation)

These are the ten oldest airlines currently still in operation. 

1. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines was founded in 1919, which makes it the world’s oldest continuously operating airline.

The airline was founded by eight Dutch businessmen, and its first flight took off in 1920.

Since 1920, the airline has grown immensely and now operates with a fleet of 116 planes, traveling to over 145 international destinations. 

Some of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines’ popular routes include the following: 

  • Austin, Texas to Amsterdam 
  • Los Angeles to Amsterdam 
  • New York to Amsterdam 
  • Amsterdam to Miami

2. Avianca

Avianca was founded in 1919 originally as Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transportes Aéreos or SCADTA in Colombia.

SCADTA operated independently for the first decades of its existence, but it later merged with another Colombian airline SACO (Servicio Aéreo Colombiano), to become Avianca. 

Avianca shortly became Columbia’s national airline after the merger.

Currently, this airline has a fleet of 102 planes that fly to over 114 international destinations.

Some of their most popular routes include destinations in Latin America, like Medellín, Caracas, and Buenos Aires. 

3. Qantas

Qantas was founded in 1920 in Australia by two World War One veterans who wanted to connect Australia to the rest of the world.

Initially, Qantas flew routes in different parts of Australia, and flew their first international flight to Singapore in 1935.

Since then, they’ve become an iconic Australian airline. 

Today, Qantas flies a 130-plane-strong fleet to over 85 international destinations.

Their most popular routes include flights from Australian cities to Dubai, Hawaii, Singapore, Tokyo, and New York City. 

4. Aeroflot

Aeroflot was founded in 1923 in Russia, where it remains the largest airline today.

Aeroflot’s original name was DOBOROLET or the Russian Society for Voluntary Air Fleet.

Aeroflot became the world’s largest airline during the Soviet period. 

Aeroflot had over five thousand domestically-made aircraft that flew to over 3,000 domestic and international destinations.

But, the airline suffered from repeated accidents, and it rapidly shrunk following the 1991 Soviet collapse. 

Post-USSR, Aeroflot shrank to a fleet of 247 that flies to over 146 destinations, which still makes it one of the world’s largest.

Aeroflot’s most popular routes includes flying from Russian cities to these destinations: 

  1. Budapest, Hungary 
  2. Sydney, Australia 
  3. Los Angeles, United States 
  4. London, United Kingdom 
  5. New Delhi, India 
  6. Miami, United States 

Currently, most of their routes have been terminated due to the airspace bans caused by the 2022 Russo-Ukrainian war. 

5. Czech Airlines 

Czech Airlines was formed in 1923 as Czechoslovak State Airlines (CSA).

Czech Airlines originally flew domestic flights in Czechoslovakia until 1930, when it flew its first international route to Bratislava, Croatia. 

After Czechoslovakia’s dissolution, Czechoslovak State Airlines rebranded as ‘Czech Airlines’ in 1995.

Unlike most of the world’s other oldest airlines, Czech Airlines has a small fleet of only 14 planes traveling to 25 destinations. 

Their most popular routes today are from various European countries to Prague, Hurghada, and Paris. 

6. Finnair

Finnair was founded in 1923 in Finland by consul Bruno Lucander as ‘Aero,’ and it remains the country’s largest airline.

The Finnish government became a majority stakeholder in the airline after World War Two, and they remain so today. 

Finnair has a fleet of 84 planes that fly to 132 destinations, of which the most popular are from Finland to Spain, Italy, California, the United States, and Germany. 

7. Delta Airlines

Delta Air Lines was founded as ‘Huff Daland Dusters’ in 1925 in the United States, and it remains America’s oldest airline.

Delta Air Lines was originally founded for aerial crop dusting. But, the airline later acquired more planes and owned the world’s largest private fleet. 

In 1928, Huff Daland Dusters rebranded as ‘Delta Air Lines’ and launched their first passenger flight in 1929.

Presently, their fleet includes 840 planes that fly to 325 destinations. 

Delta’s most popular destinations include cities in the United States, like Orlando, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, and Los Angeles. 

8. American Airlines

American Airlines was formed in 1926 from the merger of 80 smaller airlines.

American Airlines first flight was from St. Louis, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois, the same year. 

Presently, they have a fleet of over 871 planes that fly to 350 destinations. Their most popular routes include the following: 

  1. Seattle, Washington to London, United Kingdom
  2. Dallas, Texas to Auckland, New Zealand 
  3. Los Angeles to Christchurch, New Zealand 
  4. Seattle, Washington to Bangalore, India. 

9. Grand Canyon Airlines

Grand Canyon Airlines was founded in 1927 as “Scenic Airlines” and rebranded to Grand Canyon Airlines in 1930.

As their name implies, Grand Canyon Airlines mostly operate sightseeing tours around the Grand Canyon. 

They have a small fleet of 21 planes that fly to these four destinations: 

  1. Grand Canyon National Park 
  2. Grand Canyon West Rim 
  3. Antelope Canyon 
  4. Bar 10 Ranch Grand Canyon North

10. Air Serbia

Air Serbia was founded as ‘Aeroput’ in 1927 and served as Yugoslavia’s flag carrier.

In 1947, they rebranded as Jat Airways and remained so even after Yugoslavia’s breakup.

Jat Airways rebranded as Air Serbia in 2013.

Currently, they have a small fleet of over only 21 planes, but fly to over 60 destinations across 32 countries.

Their most popular routes are from Serbia to New York City, Istanbul, London, and Paris. 

10 Oldest Airlines in the World (Not in Operation)

  1. DELAGE: Formed in Germany in 1909 and stopped operating in 1935. 
  2. Aero R.T.: Formed in Hungary in 1910 and stopped operating in 1920. 
  3. St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat: Formed in the United States in 1913 and stopped operating in 1913
  4. Aircraft Transport and Travel: Formed in the United Kingdom in 1916 and stopped operating in 1921. 
  5. Chalk’s Ocean Airways: Formed in the United States in 1917 and stopped operating in 2007. 
  6. Deutsche Luft-Reederei: Formed in Germany in 1917 and stopped operating in 1923. 
  7. Det Norske Luftartsrederi: Formed in Norway in 1918 and ceased operating in 1921. 
  8. Det Norske Luftartselskab: Formed in Denmark in 1918 and ceased operating in 1951. 
  9. Société des lignes Latécoère: Formed in France in 1918 and stopped operations in 1933. 
  10. Svensk Lifttrafik: Formed in Sweden in 1919 and stopped operating in 1921. 

What is the Oldest Airline in the U.S.?

Formed in 1928, the oldest airline in the United States still in operation is Delta Air Lines.

The oldest airline in the U.S. that is no longer in operation was St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.

It was formed in 1913 and dissolved a year later.

St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line provided flights between St. Petersburg, Florida, and Tampa, Florida. 

How Often Are New Airlines Formed?

New airlines are formed often.

In 2021 alone, 90 new airlines were launched.

Airline formation will likely increase in 2023 because of travel restrictions being eased following the COVID-19 pandemic. 

What Airlines Operates the Oldest Planes?

Austrian Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines operate the world’s oldest planes.

The Austrian Airlines fleet has an average age of 14.9 years, American Airlines fleet has an average age of 15.1 years, and Delta Air Lines has the world’s oldest fleet with an average age of 15.8 years. 

5 Oldest Airports in the World

These are the world’s five oldest airports in the world

  1. College Park Airport, USA, was founded in 1909 
  2. Aurel Vlaicu Airport, Romania, was founded in 1909 
  3. Hamburg Airport, Germany, was founded in 1911
  4. Rome Ciampino Airport, Italy, was founded in 1916
  5. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Netherlands, was founded in 1916. 

In conclusion:

  • The world’s oldest airline is KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, which was formed in the Netherlands in 1919 and continues to operate as a major Dutch airline today.
  • Many of the world’s other oldest airlines were formed in the United States, Europe, and Australia.
  • Most of the world’s oldest airlines ceased operations only a few years after formation, or merged into other airlines.
  • It’s also common for new airlines to form, with over 90 new airlines formed in 2021 alone.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).