Airline anniversaries: Who is right who is wrong ?

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  • christopheL

    Air France in its current form was created in 1933 after several successive mergers. Of the companies that disappeared in these mergers, the oldest were created in 1919.

    BA in its present form was created in 1974 after several successive mergers. Among the companies that disappeared in the context of these mergers, the oldest ones were also created in 1919.

    On the one hand AF is currently celebrating its 85th anniversary by reference to the year in which the merger took place that created the company that still exists today.

    On the other and BA has announced that it will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year by reference to the date of creation of the oldest of the many airlines that were successively absorbed to eventually lead to the creation of BA in 1974.

    Who is right, who is wrong ?

    Tom Otley

    It’s a very interesting question, cast in relief by other airlines also making the most of their age.

    American Airlines

    On April 15, 1926, Charles Lindbergh flew the first American Airlines flight – carrying U.S. mail from St. Louis, Missouri, to Chicago, Illinois. After 8 years of mail routes, the airline began to form into what it is today. American founder C.R. Smith worked with Donald Douglas to create the DC-3; a plane that changed the entire airline industry, switching revenue sources from mail to passengers.


    Aeroflot started as Dobrolet in spring 1923, transporting passengers and mail 400km eastward from Moscow to Nizhny Novgorod.


    1924: The Huff Daland Dusters, the predecessor of Delta, is founded in Macon, Ga., before moving to Monroe, La., the following year. This was the first commercial agricultural flying company . Huff Daland’s 18 planes become the largest privately owned fleet in the world. Crop-dusting operations range from Florida to Arkansas, and west to California and Mexico. Later Huff Daland operates the first international mail and passenger route on the west coast of South America for Pan Am subsidiary Peruvian Airways.


    Sep 12, 1919 – Queen Wilhelmina awarded KLM – yet to be founded – its “Royal” designation.

    Oct 7, 1919 – Dutch Royal Airlines for the Netherlands and its Colonies (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij voor Nederland en Koloniën – KLM) was founded.


    Dates from 1926


    Walter T. Varney starts Varney Air Lines in 1926 and Varney Speed Lines in 1934, airlines that would eventually become United Airlines and Continental Airlines.


    KLM is the rightful owner of this claim, after all they say the reason KLM flies with the same colour scheme as the Sky, is because they had first dabs on the livery !!

    2 users thanked author for this post.


    BA has a cheek to claim its 100th anniversary in 2019 as quite rightly pointed out by the previous posters.

    However, as claimed in Wikipedia British Airways existed in the 1930s.
    “British Airways Ltd was a British airline company operating in Europe in the period 1935–1939. It was formed in 1935 by the merger of Spartan Air Lines Ltd, United Airways Ltd (no relation to the US carrier United Airlines), and Hillman’s Airways.”
    It later disappeared into BOAC.
    “Imperial Airways and British Airways Limited were merged and nationalised as BOAC in 1939.”
    Then BOAC merged with BEA to form the present British Airways in 1974.

    What is interesting in the celebration is the idea to paint aircraft in the livery of many of the original companies which have merged into BA over the years. Let us see if this comes off.

    Of greater importance, however, is the celebration of the first Atlantic crossing by aeroplane in 1919.This was done by Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown in their Vickers Vimy bomber. I have not heard of any celebrations of the event but I sincerely hope they will not be ignored. Their tremendously difficult and oustanding achievement should be given the attention it is due.

    PS: There is another thread on this subject.

    British Airways: 100 years in the sky


    Good question Christophe, I think AF are being the more honest here. Most likely it’s a marketing thing for BA and I’d bet that in 15 years they will again celebrate their 100th birthday!


    Don’t forget Czech Airlines. For their 95th birthday, they produced a video showing the changes in cabin crew uniforms over the decades. Link here is to an article and the video in my own blog. @Tom – feel free to delete this, although it is relevant, if the rule about urls still applies.
    95 Years of CSA Czech Airlines Cabin Crew Uniforms


    Who is right or wrong? I suppose it depends on whether you consider ‘company mergers, takeovers etc etc’ as a companys ‘continuous operations’… but it’s always interesting to look at the history of airlines…

    Considered by many aviation historians to be the ‘oldest’, ‘western hemisphere’ and ‘english speaking’ airline…

    KLM (7 October 1919)
    AVIANCA (5 December 1919)
    QANTAS (16 November 1920)


    KLM will celebrate its origin, of 100 years in 2019. It remains the “Worlds Longest Airline” as advertised in their legendary publicity posters many years ago.

    The “British Airways claim” is utterly misleadingly used on a TV documentary recently. No such Company they represent has any claim to that history, or title.

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