Avianca Turns 100 Years Old – South America’s Oldest Airline

**Update: 06/12/19 @ 11:55 UTC – An Avianca spokesperson sent Simple Flying an update on how the carrier is celebrating its centenary, details below.**

Celebrations will be rife in Bogotá today as Avianca celebrates its 100th birthday! The Colombian airline traces its roots back to December 5, 1919, and has gone on to become a major player in commercial aviation.

Avianca A320
Avianca is celebrating its centenary today Photo: Avianca

Where it all started

Avianca is Latin America’s oldest airline, with its first incarnation being in the form of SCADTA. This was a Colombian-German venture, operating across the tropical regions along the Magdalena River. The operation specialized in running seaplanes such as Junkers. Eventually, its budding success forced global players such as Pan American to venture in to South America to compete.

It wasn’t until the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 that forced SCADTA to cease operations due to its German part ownership. This allowed the airline to be taken over by the Colombian government, to become the national carrier that it is today.

SCADTA Junkers W 34
A SCADTA Junkers W 34 operating along Colombia’s Magdalena River Photo: Air and Space via Wikimedia Commons

Triumphant celebrations

We recently took a look at the colorful timeline of the airline, from its busy beginnings to its survival through financial hardships. Avianca also took a look at its rich history on Twitter.

The company said that, as it celebrates 100 years of operations, its biggest wish is to keep on connecting thousands of hearts around the world. It went on to say that it opens its wings with conviction to fly as high as it can for its customers.

Avianca has also been celebrating with its passengers in person. Across its flights, the firm has made presentations and special offerings for its fliers. At departure gates across the globe, travelers have been welcomed onboard with cake and other sweet treats.

Avianca cake
Avianca was in the mood for a party at Washington Dulles Airport this week. Photo: Mikaela Vilaseca / Simple Flying

The Star Alliance airline joins other operators such as KLM and British Airways in marking 100 years of service. The time between the end of World War I the beginning of World War II was a crucial period for aviation, as several new inventions were created to allow for greater air travel.

Avianca Gate
Plenty of treats to go around for Avianca’s passengers. Photo: Mikaela Vilaseca / Simple Flying

Ups and downs

Avianca has seen some troubles as of late with financial difficulties. These problems led the airline to seek a $250 million loan from Kingsland Holdings and United Airlines.

Previous loans from United also indirectly forced the company to scrap its flights to Cuba due to the United States’ sanctions on the country. The terms of the loans meant that the airline had to follow US law.

Avianca B787
Despite various issues over the years, Avianca still stands tall. Photo: Avianca

Even though it has faced recent hardship, Avianca is keen to head into 2020 stronger than ever. The carrier is focusing on its strengths, with over 20,000 employees and 176 planes. Ultimately, the company continues to collaborate and serve 76 destinations in 27 countries across the world. 

Local festivities

An Avianca spokesperson informed Simple Flying about how the firm has been celebrating its birthday. The carrier has marked the occasion by conducting events at the place it was born.

“We started our celebration in the city where we were born: Barranquilla. On September 28th we made the first flight of the Airbus A320 with retro livery on the Bogotá-Barranquilla route,” the spokesperson said.

“With this airplane we wanted to evoke the golden era of the 50s, in which our airline had a great growth in routes and fleet; and, of course, its first flight had to be to the city where our history began.”

Avianca A320 with classic livery
An Avianca A320 with classic livery to mark the joyous occasion. Photo: Avianca

This month, Avianca also celebrated further in the coastal city of Barranquilla with a visit to Deutsche Schule which has a museum that displays the legacy of SCADTA. This was before the airline brought celebrations back to the capital on December 3.

“In our hangar in Bogota we celebrated in person and by streaming with employees from all the cities; we remembered our past and present; our former uniforms; our routes, but above all by our stories… by the families who have inherited the love for this company, and of course, we recharged energies for the next 100 years.”

Here’s to the future

Heading into next year, Avianca wants to strengthen its commitment to the planet. It says that climate change is one of the greatest challenges in all industries and the aviation industry has a major impact on communities. Therefore, there is a requirement for it to show concrete actions in this field.

Simple Flying would like to wish Avianca a very happy 100th birthday.

Have you seen any of Avianca’s celebrations on your travels? Let us know your thoughts on the carrier’s journey in the comment section.