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  • 25 year timeline: in text

25 year timeline: in text

25 years of the Airline Business

We are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Airline Business this month and have put together a special timeline pullout in the magazine and online interactive version which you can VIEW HERE to mark the most siginficant events of the last 25 years. As we worked on it, it quickly became clear we would have room for only a fraction of the events possible from our original list. So here, in good old fashioned list format, is



  • TWA operates first service across Atlantic with twin-engined aircraft, a Boeing 767
  • The UAE’s Emirates Airline starts operations
  • EgyptAir hijacked and stormed at Cairo, 60 die
  • ATR 42: enters service with Air Littoral


  • FOCUS: Sabre becomes full division of AMR with global intentions, kickstarting a new era for GDSs. Europe reacts with the founding of Amadeus in 1987 by Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa and SAS and of Galileo in 1987 by British Airways, KLM, Swissair and United Airlines. Sabre also launches industry's first revenue management system.
  • Boeing purchases de Havilland Canada
  • Concorde SST celebrates ten years of scheduled service
  • British Government launches sale of British Airways
  • British International Boeing 235LR Chinook crashes in Shetland Islands,in what is the world’s worst civil helicopter disaster, 45 killed
  • Fokker 100 makes first flight


  • British Airways is privatised
  • Low-fare carrier PeopleExpress ceases operations
  • Airbus A320: first flight
  • Fokker 50: first flight
  • British Airways: accepts first female pilot


  • Canadian airline industry is deregulated
  • Boeing 737-300: first flight
  • Boeing 747-400: first flight
  • Airbus A320: enters service with British Airways
  • Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) ceases and is merged into USAir
  • American Airlines: takes delivery of first A300-600
  • British Airways: takes over British Caledonian
  • Civil aviation Administration of China’s (CAAC) operating divisions are split into separate airlines
  • ATR 72: first flight
  • FOCUS: Pan Am flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 on board and 11 people on the ground. The Boeing 747 was en route from
    London to New York. Libyan terrorists were blamed and former Libyan intelligence officer al-Megrahi was convicted in a Scottish court and sentenced to life imprisonment. His release from a Scottish jail in August 2009 on grounds of ill-health caused great anger and controversy


  • Tupolev Tu-204: first flight
  • Boeing 747-400: enters service with Northwest Airlines
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines acquires a 20% stake in Northwest Airlines, an important step towards the creation of a worldwide network.
  • Piedmont Airlines is merged into USAiR
  • ATR 72: enters service with Kar-Air


  • McDonnell Douglas MD-11: first flight
  • Smoke-free flights become mandatory throughout North America on all US airlines
  • FOCUS: Kuwait Airways loses most of its assets, including a dozen aircraft during Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which leads to the first Gulf War. The
    aftermath of the war produces a global recession that affects airlines around the world, plunging many into heavy losses. Middle East traffic  had already suffered throughout the 1980s as a result of the Iraq-Iran war
  • United Airlines: first to introduce satellite communications
  • Australian airline industry is deregulated


  • FOCUS: Eastern Air Lines is dissolved after 64 years of operations. Founded in 1926, Eastern grew into one of the ‘Big Four’ US trunk airlines. In 1961, it introduced the ground-breaking no-reservation, walk-on Eastern Air Shuttle, which featured hourly flights between New York, Boston and Washington. It failed to compete with a new breed of low-fare, no-frills airlines
  • Canadair Regional Jet: first flight
  • BAe RJ70: first flight
  • BAe Jetstream 41: first flight
  • Airbus A340: first flight
  • FOCUS Pan American World Airlines is dissolved. Pan Am was founded in 1927 and became the world’s first truly global airline, largely due to its
     colourful and ruthless founder, Juan Trippe, and a number of industry innovations. Like Eastern, its downward slide began with the fuel crisis in
     1973 and the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978.
  • Dornier Do 328: first flight 
  • McDonnell Douglas MD-11: enters service with Finnair


  • Trans World Airlines (TWA) files for bankruptcy protection
  • United States Department of Transportation is offering to sign open skies treaties with any country wishing to reciprocate. The first such
     agreement is concluded with the Netherlands later that same year
  • FOCUS: European Council of Ministers agree the Third Aviation Liberalisation Package to which the member states had committed themselves in 1986.The Third Package was implemented on 1 January 1993, creating a single European aviation market, removing national ownership and control restrictions and allowing airlines access to any route within the EU
  • Government-owned Australian Airlines and Qantas are merged
  • Airbus A330: first flight
  • McDonnell Douglas MD-90: first flight


  • Airbus A321: first flight
  • Fokker 70: first flight
  • Boeing delivers 1,000th Boeing 747 to Singapore Airlines
  • ValuJet Airlines starts operations


  • India permits private airlines to operate scheduled services for the first time
  • Boeing 777: first flight
  •  Tupolev Tu-204: enters service


  • Airbus A319: first flight
  • Embraer ERJ-145: first flight
  • Boeing 777: enters service with United Airlines
  • Alaska and Horizon first US carriers to sell tickets via the web
  • FOCUS: easyJet is formed by Greek shipping magnate Stelios Haji-Ioannou. Over the next 15 years, the pioneering airline becomes Europe’s second largest
     low-fare airline, operating on over 500 routes in 28 countries with more than 180 aircraft, carrying 46 million passengers annually


  • Fokker is declared bankrupt
  • Tupolev Tu-214: first flight
  • Airbus A319: enters service with Swissair
  • American Airlines and BA launch first antitrust immunity attempt
  • TWA 747 Flight 800 explodes off the coast of New York, 230 killed
  • Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merger is announced


  • Qatar Airways is relaunched and grows into a major Middle East carrier  
  • FOCUS: Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai Airways International and United Airlines launch the Star Alliance network, which was to grow into the largest global airline alliance. By May 2010, when Brazil’s TAM became the latest recruit, the alliance comprised 28 member airlines in all parts of the world, carrying more than 625,000 passengers on 4,000 aircraft, to 180 countries. Combined revenues are $156 billion
  • Asia is gripped by a severe financial crisis that lingers on into 1998 and affects the air transport sector, with airlines recording heavy losses, reducing capacity and deferring aircraft orders
  • Boeing 777-300: first flight
  • ValuJet Airlines ceases and merges into AirTran Airways


  •  New Generation Boeing 737s enter airline service with SAS (737-600),  Southwest Airlines (737-700) and Hapag-Lloyd (737-800) 


  • First Airline Business/SITA Airline IT Trends Survey shows less than 10% of tickets sold online
  • Tupolev Tu-334: first flight
  • FOCUS: The second major global airline alliance, oneworld, is founded by  American Airlines, British Airways, Canadian Airlines, Cathay Pacific
     and Qantas. By November 2010, the alliance comprised 11 airlines, with Air Berlin and Kingfisher Airlines due to join in 2011. The alliance serves 146 countries, carrying 335 million passengers annually on almost 2,500 aircraft. Combined revenues are 90 billion.
  • A co-pilot deliberately crashes an EgyptAir 767 into the Atlantic killing all 217 on board. Probably first known case of suicide while piloting a major aircraft
  • The great Y2K  concern proves a false alarm as the new century kicks in without an IT systems meltdown


  • JetBlue Airways commences operations
  • Emirates becomes launch customer for Airbus A380
  • BA unveils flat-bed seats for business classh
  • FOCUS: Aeroméxico, Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air form the SkyTeam airline alliance ,followed in September by SkyTeam Cargo. On
     its tenth anniversary in June 2010, the addition of Vietnam Airlines and Tarom, brought total membership to 13, with Aerolineas Argentinas and
    China Airlines to join in 2011. A fleet of almost 2,000 aircraft carry 384 million passengers annually to 169 countries.
  • FOCUS: An Air France Concorde catches fire on take-off at Paris Charles de Gaulle and crashes, killing all 100 passengers, nine crew and four people
    on the ground. The crash heralds the beginning of the end of scheduled supersonic airline services


  • Gol Transportes Aereos starts operations and revolutionises the low-fare market in Brazil
  • FOCUS:  Four jet airliners are hijacked in unprecedented and co-ordinate terrorist attacks in the United States killing more than 3,000 people. An American Airlines Boeing 737 is flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, followed closely by a United Airlines 737, which hits the South Tower. On the same day, an American 757 hits the Pentagon, and a United 757 crashes into a field in Pennsylvania after having targeted the United States Capitol in Washington DC. The 9/11 attacks changed the way of travel, with the introduction of strict and ongoing security measures at airports around the world. Closure of US airspace in the immediate aftermath and carriers slashing capacity and staff levels to combat crisis, result in  in the top 150 carrier incurring net losses of more than $20 billion over the next two years.
  • British Airways aborts plan to take over KLM
  • Malaysia’s AirAsia transforms itself into a low-fare carrier and goes on to lead the sector in Asia, with branches in Thailand and Indonesia


  • Airbus A318: first flight
  • Embraer 170: first flight
  • Swiss International Air Lines is founded when regional carrier Crossair takes over operations from the defunct Swissair
  • Qatar withdraws from the multi-national Middle East carrier Gulf Air, which also loses Abu Dhabi in April 2006 and Oman in 2007, leaving the
    Kingdom of Bahrain as its only shareholder.
  • US Airways and Midway Airlines file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
  • Airbus A340-600: enters service with Virgin Atlantic Airways
  • China’s airline industry is restructured into three major groupings: Air China, China Eastern and China Southern
  • United Airlines files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection


  • Entry and proliferation of low-fare carriers in the Indian market
  • The US-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein once again plunges the airline industry into turmoil, with traffic in the Middle East the most affected
  • Emirates places $19 billion order for 71 aircraft 
  • SARS outbreak compounds airline woes, particularly in Asia
  • Concorde supersonic airliner makes its last commercial flight. Three British Airways aircraft land simultaneously at London Heathrow. One, G-BOAF, the last Concorde built, makes its final ever flight on 26 November, leaving Heathrow and returning to its birthplace of Filton near Bristol.


  • FOCUS: Air Berlin acquires 49% stake in Austrian airline Niki, marking the first European low-fare airline alliance. The acquisition of dba in August 2006  and of LTU in March 2007 makes Air Berlin Germany’s second-largest airline. Its reach is further consolidated with a 49% stake in Swiss airline Belair
  • Air France and KLM merge their operations in what is Europe’s largest airline consolidation to date.


  • Unveiling of the four-engined double-deck Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft
  • Airlines to pay compensation for flight delays and cancellations under new European legislation
  • FOCUS: Lufthansa begins its expansion in Europe with the acquisition of 11% of Swiss International Air Lines. Over the next five years,
    Germany’s leading airline acquires full control of Swiss, Austrian,   bmi and Brussels Airlines, making it Europe’s largest airline group.
  • Airbus A380: first flight
  • EOS Airlines becomes first carrier to offer an all-business class service across the Atlantic
  • Boeing launches 747-8


  • United Airlines emerges from bankruptcy protection 
  •  A plot to detonate several passenger aircraft over the Atlantic is foiled, leading to tightened security measures in the UK and USA with consequent cancellations and delays
  • Air Berlin acquires low-fare airline dba
  • Boeing 747LCF freighter: first flight
  • The European Union bans 92 unsafe airlines from landing in Europe, the vast majority based in Africa. The blacklist was created in response to several fatal airline crashes. By September 2010, the list had grown to more than 280 airlines
  • easyJet announces order for 52 Airbus A319s
  • Air Berlin orders 60 Boeing 737s
  • Lufthansa becomes first airline to order Boeing 747-8


  • Last Airbus A300 leaves production line
  • Following a decline in the package holiday market, Europe’s charter industry consolidates into two giants with the merger of Thomas Cook and MyTravel, followed by TUI and First Choice.
  • Boeing 787 Dreamliner rolls out
  • Airbus A380: enters service with Singapore Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines joins SkyTeam, becoming the first mainland Chinese carrier to join a global alliance
  • Emirates places largest ever aircraft order for 120 A350s, 11 A380s and 12 B777s, worth $35 billion
  • AirAsiaX is launched as the world’s first modern-day low-fare long-haul airline


  • EOS Airlines becomes first all-premium trans-Atlantic airline to cease operations, followed soon after by Maxjet and Silverjet
  • Sukhoi Superjet 100: first flight
  • FOCUS: A doubling of fuel prices hit revenues and forces many major carriers to introduce fuel surcharges, some of which remain in
    place today. Other measures include capacity reduction
  • Herb Kelleher, the colourful co-founder of Southwest Airlines, the biggest and most successful low-fare airline in the world, steps down from his role as chairman
  • IATA signals end to paper tickets
  • Plan finalised to bring aviation into EU emission trading scheme
  • FOCUS: September A series of bank and insurance company failures triggers a financial meltdown which seriously affects the world economy. Airlines collectively
     lose some $10 billion in the year XL Airways becomes first major holiday charter airline to succumb to economic downturn
  • After three years of frantic expansion in the aviation sector in India, a weak economy, overcapacity and high fuel prices forces the two leading private airlines Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines to agree a strategic alliance


  • Ted, a United Airlines operation, becomes the last low-fare brand  to be re-integrated into mainline operations, following Delta’s Song
  • FOCUS: Ryanair, which, under the controversial leadership of Michael O’Leary has grown from a small regional Irish airline to Europe’s leading low-
    cost carrier, carries nearly 65 million passengers annually, moving close to the Lufthansa Group and Air France-KLM
  • Colombia’s Avianca and Central American Grupo TACA consortium announce a strategic merger, but will retain their separate identities
  • Delta and Northwest Airlines complete merger
  • Boeing 787 Dreamliner: first flight


  • Japan Airlines files for bankruptcy protection
  • Boeing 747-8: first fligh
  • FOCUS: A widespread formation of ash cloud from a second eruption of  Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano closes large areas of controlled airspace, causing considerable disruption of air services within Europe and internationally over several weeks. Cost to airlines is assessed at $1.7 billion
  • British Airways and Iberia of Spain sign a long-intended deal to merge under the International Airlines Group holding company. Both brands will be retained 
  • United Airlines and Continental Airlines announce their merger,creating the world’s largest airline with annual revenues approaching $30 billion
  • FOCUS: Europe and the USA adopt the second stage of the EU-US open skies agreement, building on the ground-breaking first stage signed in 2007, which permitted full access to both markets. The new deal eases limits on foreign ownership, but only time will tell if Europeans will be allowed a controlling stake in US airlines
  • Emirates places $11.5bn order for an additional 32 A380s, bringing its total to 90 of the type
  • Chile’s LAN Airlines and Brazil’s TAM, Latin America’s two largest airlines, announce an agreement to merge under the LATAM Airlines Group. Annual synergies are projected to amount to $400 million
  • American, BA and Iberia sign trans-Atlantic co-operation agreement, 14 years after American and BA first sought antitrust immunity
  • Sectors charts course back to profitability as IATA forecast industry net profits of $8.9 billion.
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