Flight Through Time: Top 5 Airlines of the 20th Century

20th Century

Air travel has come a long way since the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903. In the 20th century, airlines played a crucial role in shaping the world of aviation. From the introduction of jumbo jets to the development of computerized flight reservation systems, airlines made significant contributions to the industry’s evolution. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the top five airlines that defined the 20th century.

1) Ansett Australia: A Pioneer in Domestic and Regional Travel

Founded in 1936, Ansett Australia was one of the leading airlines in Australia. It took over Australian National Airways (ANA) in 1958 and became one of the few airlines to purchase the Boeing 767-200 during the early years of the widebody era. Ansett’s stylish livery, which featured multiple cheatlines, became an inspiration for airlines and flyers.

The airline primarily flew domestically within Australia and expanded its operations to Asia in the 1990s. However, after a financial collapse and organized liquidation, Ansett Australia ceased operations in March 2002.

20th Century
Image by: Mark Ijsseldijk via PLANESPOTTERS

2) Braniff International Airways: The Most Stylish Airline

Braniff International Airways was a Texas-based regional airline founded in 1948. It was bought by the Great American Corporation in 1965 and operated an incredible range of passenger aircraft, including the Boeing 747SP and Concorde. Braniff changed the existing livery to a single, iconic color on each aircraft, chosen from a carefully selected palette of bright hues. This move gave each plane a unique identity and set it apart from other airlines.

Everything from ground equipment to ticket jackets received the same branding, making Braniff the most stylish airline in the world. Air traffic controllers would even place bets on which colored plane would be flying over their radar rooms. Unfortunately, Braniff went bankrupt in 1982 and ceased operations.

20th Century
Image by: Mario Ferioli via PLANESPOTTERS

3) Eastern Airlines: A Pioneer in US Air Travel

Eastern Airlines was one of the earliest major US air carriers, founded in 1930. It enjoyed a monopoly on the US Atlantic corridor between New York and Florida and pioneered the air shuttle service between New York and Washington DC and New York and Boston. Eastern used Douglas jets into the jet age and became the launch customer for the Boeing 727, which brought jet service to suburbs and towns.

Eastern also became the first US airline to obtain the European Airbus A300. However, the carrier filed for bankruptcy in 1989 and ceased operations in 1991.

20th Century
Image by: Ethan Minnich via PLANESPOTTERS

4) Trans World Airlines (TWA): A Luxury Carrier

TWA was initially founded as two companies, Western Air Express in 1926 and Transcontinental Air Transport in 1928. The two companies merged in 1930 to become TWA. The airline became a major international carrier after its acquisition by Howard Hughes, a United States billionaire, in 1940.

TWA was known as a luxury carrier that promoted technological innovations in air travel through its products and services. TWA became the first airline to offer coast-to-coast flights in 1940, and after filing for bankruptcy for the third time, it was acquired by American Airlines in December 2001.

20th Century
Image by: Felix Goetting via PLANESPOTTERS

5) Pan American World Airways (Pan Am): The Most Prominent International Airline

Pan Am was the most prominent international airline for most of the 20th century. Founded in 1927, Pan Am began as a scheduled passenger and airmail service between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. By the mid-20th century, Pan Am enjoyed a near monopoly on international routes and pioneered numerous innovations in the modern commercial aviation industry.

Pan Am kick-started the jet age of aviation in 1958 and introduced the first ever jumbo jet, the “Queen of the Skies” Boeing 747, in January 1970. Pan Am was the first airline to introduce a computerized flight reservation system and epitomized the luxury and glamour of intercontinental travel in the 20th century with large modern aircraft and superior cabin offerings.

20th Century
Image by: Francesco Della santa via PLANESPOTTERS

These five airlines played a significant role in shaping the world of aviation in the 20th century. They introduced new technologies, pioneered innovative services and amenities, and set new standards for air travel. While they may no longer be in operation, their legacies continue to inspire the aviation industry today.

Have you ever flown on any of these historic airlines?

Also, you might be interested in reading: Top 5: Unique Aircraft Hotels to Add to Your Travel Bucket List


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