Which Airlines Were The First To Appear In Latin America?

The first airline that appeared in Latin America was founded by three Germans and six Colombians. They created this airline on 5 December 1919 under the name Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transporte Aéreo, or SCADTA. Now we know it as Avianca. A couple of years later, two US citizens founded a new carrier in Mexico, which would be known as Mexicana de Aviación.

These two are the oldest airlines in Latin America, although Mexicana de Aviación no longer exists (even though there are talks of its revival). But, which other carriers are the oldest to appear in the region? And which ones continue to fly? Let’s investigate further.

Mexicana de Aviación Getty
Mexicana was one of the oldest airlines in Latin America. Photo: Getty

A quick landing in Bolivia

In 1925, another group of German immigrants founded an airline. This time it was in Bolivia, and it was called Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano.

This small airline ceased operations in 2010. Coincidentally, just as with Mexicana de Aviación, there’s a whole movement trying to revive Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano. The airline has a website and in 2018 Orlando Nogales, supposed CEO of the deceased carrier, gave an interview saying that Lloyd had three airplanes.

One of these airplanes is actually a Boeing 727-200, so, if by any chance, this airline ever goes into the skies again, this could also mean a commercial revival for the old model. Iran’s Aseman Airlines operated the last commercial flight of a B727 last year.

Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano
Lloyd Aéreo Boliviano ceased operations in 2010. It wants to come back. Photo: Martin Oertle vía Flickr.

Brazil’s oldest airlines

The first airline to appear in Brazil was called Varig. Another German aviator, Otto Ernst Meyer-Labastille, founded the airline in 1927. Right around the same time, another Brazilian carrier appeared: Serviços Aéreos Cruzeiro do Sul. The latter also had German roots and was linked to the first Deutsche Lufthansa.

Now, neither airline flies anymore. Serviços Aéreos Cruzeiro do Sul closed in 1993 when Varig absorbed it.

Meanwhile, Varig continued operating for a few more years. It applied for bankruptcy in 2005 and was divided into two airlines. The first rebranded itself as Flex Linhas Aereas but stopped flying in October 2008. GOL Linhas Aéreas absorbed the second Varig at a ost of 320 million USD.

Cubana de Aviación
Cubana de Aviación turned 90 years old in 2019. Photo: Dmitry Terekhov via Flickr.

Which other airlines beside Avianca are still operating?

Avianca turned 100 years old last year. It is one of the oldest existing airlines in the world, along with KLM. But there are a few other players in Latin America that are over 90 years old.

LATAM Chile started operations in March 1929. Its original name was Línea Aeropostal Santiago-Arica. In 1932, the Chilean carrier took its wider know name: Línea Aérea Nacional, or LAN. It was until 2010, that LAN merged with TAM Airlines (born in 1961). Then they rebranded both airlines as LATAM.

Two more airlines that still exist were founded in 1929. Aeropostal Alas de Venezuela, the State airline of Venezuela appeared on 3 July. It currently has two McDonnell Douglas MD-80 on its fleet, according to Planespotters.

Finally, the third Latin American carrier to appear in 1929 and still operate is Cubana de Aviación. The Cuban State airline is still alive even though it has faced enormous problems over the last few years. It has, arguably, one of the coolest fleets out there, with some Soviet-made airplanes like four Ilyushin Il-96, three Tupolev TU204, and six Antonov An-158.

Have you flown in any of these old Latin American airlines? How was it? Let us know in the comments.