Three airlines are celebrating their 100th birthdays this year. The new additions, by percentage, significantly increase the number of airlines over the age of one hundred, a group that has remained constant since its last new member rose to the esteemed rank three years ago.
5 Czech Airlines
The newest member of the centenary club is Czech Airlines, which celebrates its milestone birthday on October 6th. The national airline of the Czech Republic was founded in 1923 as Czechoslovak State Airlines (CSA) and took its first flight a month later with a link from Prague to Bratislava in what is now Slovakia. In 1937, it moved its base to Prague Airport (then Ruzyně Airport), where it has remained ever since.
When reached by Simple Flying for this piece, a spokesperson for Prauge’s Václav Havel Airport highlighted their joint history and divulged some details on the anniversary:
“It has been 100 years since the story of Czech Airlines began to be written, which is in many ways intertwined with the history of Prague Airport itself. Václav Havel Airport Prague is therefore happy to join the celebrations.
“Visitors to Prague Airport can see the significant historical milestones of Czech Airlines at the 100 Years of Czech Aviation Exhibition, prepared by Václav Havel Airport Prague together with CSA. It will be located in the connecting hall between Terminal 1 and 2 and will be there until the end of the year. “
Two gifts, a commemorative medal and a book, were created to mark the anniversary and can be acquired at the airport. The carrier has celebrated several achievements in the industry, including its role as a founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Czech Airlines also became the first airline in the world to fly a route exclusively with jets when it began serving Moscow using the Tu-104A variant w in 1957.
The oldest airline turning 100 this year is Aeroflot. The Russian flag carrier began in March 1923 when Soviet officials founded the Volunteer Association of the Aerial Fleet, also known as Dobrolet. Interstingly, two other Russian airlines were formed in the same year, but Aeroflot is the only one that remains.
Photo: Sumit Singh | Simple Flying
The carrier is unique for operating a fascinating mix of aircraft, many of which are designed in the country and have few external operators. At its peak, when it was acting as the flag carrier for the Soviet Union, it operated a fleet of 5,400 aircraft. Aeroflot was one of the rare supersonic passenger flight operators. The only airline to fly the Tupolev Tu-144, it used the aircraft initially for mail service before it was featured briefly on passenger routes in 1977.
The flag carrier of Australia began with a mission to connect remote communities and grew to become one of the most recognizable brands in the world, with a fleet of all-Boeing 747s by the 1980s. The Qantas name is short for its original title of Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services, which began operations with two small Avro biplanes in 1920. Services to Europe followed, aptly becoming known as the “Kangaroo Route” due to the frequent amount of stops, or hops, along the way.
The airline has since retired its fleet of Boeing 747s but still flies the iconic Airbus A380 on its busy routes, including a service to London via Singapore. Qantas is set to make even more history in 2025 when the first Project Sunrise flights take place, connecting Sydney to New York and London with nonstop regular flights for the first time.
The Colombian Flag carrier was founded as SCADTA (The Colombia-German Air Transport Company) in December 1919. Based on Colombia’s Caribbean coast in Barranquilla, the company revolutionized transport using its fleet of Junkers F-13 floatplanes to connect destinations that otherwise took weeks to reach on boat down the Amazon’s tributaries.
However, World War Two saw significant changes in the airline. It was partially nationalized and merged with a regional carrier to form Aerovias del Continente Americano (Airways of the American Continent), from which the Avianca acronym is derived. The airline now operates over 130 aircraft to more than 65 destinations worldwide, and its collective group of airlines is the second largest in South America.
The oldest airline in the world still operating under its original name is KLM. The acronym is short for Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij, which translates to Royal Dutch Airline. KLM is notable for many things, one being that King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands moonlights as a pilot for the company. The carrier was established in October 1919 and took to the skies the following year for its first service from Amsterdam, destined for London’s Croydon Airport. The airline pioneered aviation and continues to be a significant force today.
It was responsible for significant advances in the industry. It was an early leverager of the hub and spoke model that propelled Amsterdam to become one of the biggest and busiest airports in the world.
Today, KLM is a part of one of the largest airline groups in the world and a member of the SkyTeam Alliance.
Turning 100 next month is Finnair. The flag carrier of Finland was founded on November 1st, 1923, and carried 269 passengers in its first year of operations. It was initially called Aero, leading to the carrier’s airline code of AY, the Y representing a Finnish word for company. Other notable highlights for the airline include becoming the first airline in the world to operate a jet passenger aircraft with a Flight Crew of two instead of the usual three and a legacy of forty years flying across the North Pole to reach destinations in Asia.
Next year brings the centenary celebrations for Tajik Air, the flag carrier of Tajikistan. Other major carriers, including British Airways, have predecessors with earlier starts but were formed quite later.