When asked what the oldest airline in the world was by my son, I responded that it was Qantas, Australia’s flag carrier. But that is actually wrong. The title of the oldest airline in the world (at least operating under the same name) goes to: Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij. Not ringing any bells? It is far more commonly known in its abbreviated form: KLM.
KLM Clocks in a Full Century
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, is the other, fuller common name for the Netherlands’ flag carrier. A more literal translation is “Royal Aviation Company”, but Royal Dutch Airlines has a nice ring to it. In any case, the airline was founded on this day, October 7, exactly 100 years ago in 1919.
They didn’t actually fly until 1920, and things started small. KLM only carried 345 passengers that year. Mail was a far more lucrative operation. It would take a number of years for the carrier to grow into the major airline it is now. In 2018, KLM carried over 34 million passengers.
These days, KLM flys to over 130 destinations in 66 countries around the world, making them quite the global airline. The vast bulk of their destinations are served from their Amsterdam hub. They have also since become sister airlines with Air France, both part of the Air France – KLM holding company. They’ve also truly put the royal in Royal Dutch, as the king of the Netherlands was flying for KLM at one point.
More Birthdays are Coming
KLM actually only beats out Qantas by a year, so I guess my original answer wasn’t too far off (yet still strong). I knew that Qantas is one of the oldest. We’ll have to look forward to its 100th birthday next year!
H/T: Business Traveler