1919 saw the establishment of three prominent airlines which were privately established and now currently serve as the national carriers for their individual countries. The centenarians have evolved from flying their passengers during their inception with rented planes and limited aircraft to owning over 100 fleets, and numerous subsidiaries within and outside their respective regions.
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, legally known as Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (National carrier for the Netherlands), British Airways (National carrier for the United Kingdom) and Avianca Airlines (National carrier for Colombia) were all established 100 years ago. Though the foundation of British Airways can be traced back to March 31th 1974, its predecessor companies were established in the year 1919 making the National airline a centenarian this year (2019).
KLM Royal Dutch Airline is the oldest active airline in human history. The airline was founded by Albert Plesman on October 7 1919, while the second oldest airline, Avianca was founded on the 5th of December 1919 by five Colombians (Ernesto Cortissoz Alvarez-Correa, Rafael Palacio, Cristóbal Restrepo, Jacobo Correa and Aristides Noguera) and four Germans (Wilhem Schnurbusch, Werner Kämerer, Stuart Hosie and Albert Tietjen). This could be one of the oldest-modern transnational business partnerships of post-WWI.
All three airlines though established in different countries and through different founders share a volume of striking similarities that have helped shape their success throughout the years. The visionary founders of these airlines all wanted the same thing: safe and faster travels for their countrymen and notwithstanding certain setbacks, their dreams a century ago have come into actualization. British Airways carries approximately 45 million passengers every year, the Avianca airline carries approximately 30.5 million people per year while KLM Royal Dutch Airline carried an approximate of 34 million passengers in the year 2018. When the stats from all three airlines are put together, it’ll sum up to 109.5 million passengers every year! The founding fathers of these airlines might have never envisaged numbers as great as these. For them, it was just another venture, a venture that no one had ever taken. Prior to the establishment of the first commercial airline in 1913, the Wright Brothers built the first working aircraft known as the Wright Flyer in 1903. Events such as these must have motivated Albert Plesman and others just like him to establish the three airlines that have unlike previous airlines, stood the test of time.
The circumstances surrounding the establishment of these airlines should have been enough to deter anyone or country from going further with the project. For the Colombians who didn’t have an airport, the need to own a national airline and flag carrier was greater than any snag. The nine aircraft in the Avianca fleet which was known as Sociedad Colombo-Alemana de Transportes Aéreos or SCADTA for short before most of its shares got transferred to a US-owned Pan American World Airways, had to make landings on the water with floaters. KLM’s first flight was with a rented aircraft but the airline now boasts of 120 aircrafts. These airlines proved through their impossible establishments that businesses do not necessarily need to have all the means of production before venturing into the hot sea of entrepreneurship.
One of the centenarians, (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines) had a hand in making Nigeria Airways in West Africa more profitable and productive in the 1980s. The KLM Royal Dutch Airline had a team that worked with the Nigeria Airways and during the period which the team was present, the Nigeria Airline reached its peak but two decades after the KLM team left, Nigeria Airways ceased to exist(2003). Nigeria Airways was founded in 1958. Two years into its conception, Nigeria Airways had a fleet of nine aircraft and had over 30 in the 1980s, unlike KLM that started with a leased aircraft. Nigeria Airways not only ceased to exist in the year 2003 but met its end in a debt of $528,000,000 which was equivalent to $719,123,010 in 2018. With the vast available data and information on business and aviation that didn’t exist decades before the conception of the Nigeria Airways, National airlines and flag carriers such as KLM, British Airways and Avianca that started the industry with crude knowledge and raw information have managed to outlive the Nigeria Airways. This goes to prove that the centenarians not only focused on the establishment of an airline but also made sure that the future of their various airlines are secured and not jeopardized by mismanagement, corruption, and poor safety measures.
KLM Airlines, British Airways, and Avianca Airlines have all suffered devastating attacks on their various flights. Notwithstanding the massive blow that the attacks all dealt with the airlines, the centenarians used them to improve. The 1941 attack by the Japanese during WWII that claimed the lives of all crew members and passengers on a KML passenger flight and the attack by Pablo Escobar in 1989 on an Avianca commercial flight saw to the improvement of security checks and a more secure airway for flying.
A century of commercial flying shows that the lack of extensive information and data is never a setback and with cases such as that of Nigeria Airways, good management should never be underestimated in the administration of any venture. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, British Airways, and Avianca Airlines have all survived for 100 years and are now looking to conquer another 100.