Oldest Airlines in India

5 Oldest Airlines in India

The airline industry has been booming in India for the past few years. There have been several new airline companies up and coming in the Indian industry that’s making air travel more accessible and inexpensive. 

Let’s take a trip down memory lane and see the chronology of how the Indian airline industry flourished. 

Now, we all know that Tata Air Services (rebranded as Air India) began India’s air travel journey, but what about the rest of the oldest airlines in India? 

Let’s find out!

5. JetLite

Year Established: 1993
Fleet Size: 200
Headquarters: Mumbai, India
Website: www.jetairways.com

JetLitePhoto Source: The Hindu

JetLite airways is a subsidiary of Jet Airways, a popular airline in India. They first flew only in North India and later expanded to the rest of the country. They used to fly internationally as well, but now, they only fly to Kathmandu, Nepal, outside of the country. 

In the beginning, they only had one office in Mumbai, but has now expanded to other cities like Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, etc. It’s been 30 years since JetLite’s establishment in India. 

Since the pandemic, however, Jet Airways has permanently grounded 5 aircrafts and 2 JetLite aircrafts. So, there  remains a lot of uncertainty about the employment status of over 600 of JetLite’s employees. 

Did you know?

JetLite, before becoming a subsidiary of Jet Airways, was known as Air Sahara. Once it was acquired by the parent company, it was rebranded to JetLite.

4. ModiLuft

Year Established: 1993
Fleet Size: 7
Headquarters: Delhi, India

ModiLuftPhoto Source: Planespotters

ModiLuft was a private airline run in technical collaboration with Lufthansa. They operated domestic flights. 

Because all seven of ModiLuft’s flights were loaned from Lufthansa, ModiLuft was known for their amazing punctuality, maintenance, flight safety and performance. The German airline provided pilots who also trained ModiLuft’s Indian staff. 

ModiLuft was so popular their minimum aircraft utilization was at 12 hours a day. They also had an on-time departure CSAT score of 98.8% in Indian skies. 

They ran for a very short period of time, even though ModiLuft was known for their service. They ceased operations in 1996, after a short 3-year run. 

Did you know?

In their entire history of flying, ModiLuft flights did not have a single incident report.

3. Jet Airways

Year Established: 1992
Fleet Size: 9
Headquarters: Delhi, India
Website: www.jetairways.com 

Jet Airways Photo Source: Rediff

Although Jet Airways was established in 1992, it started “air-taxi” services in 1993. Full-fledged operation began in 1995, with international flights added in 2004. The Jet Airways headquarters were based in Delhi while they conducted training sessions in Mumbai. 

Prior to their founding of Vistara in 2015, Jet Airways was the only full-service airline in India besides Air India. 

Since 1995, this airline has expanded massively. They now have hubs in Bengaluru and Mumbai, including Delhi. 

However, they faced major financial losses when their competitors (Indigo and SpiceJet) came into the scene. Jet Airways ceased operations in 2019. But they are working towards reviving the company by the end of 2023. 

Did you know?

Jet Airways is the first Indian airline service to be revived after ceasing operations.

2. Deccan Airways

Year Established: 1945
Fleet Size: 13
Headquarters: Hyderabad, India

Deccan AirwaysPhoto Source: Wikipedia

Deccan Airways was a small, domestic airline that operated from the erstwhile Hyderabad State. It had 13 Douglas DC-13 Dakota aircrafts, brought from the US Air Force after World War 2. 

Although it was founded in 1945, they only commenced operations in July, 1946. It ran a bi-weekly service between Madras and Delhi with layovers in Hyderabad, Nagpur, Gwalior and Bhopal. They also operated a bi-weekly service between Hyderabad and Bangalore. 

However, the Deccan Airways did not run for long. They ceased operations in 1953, after only an eight-year run. 

After the annexation of the Hyderabad state, the Government of India took over ownership of Deccan Airways. By 1952, the government owned 78% of the stakes. 

Did you know?

Deccan Airways was a joint venture between the then Nizam of Hyderabad and Tata Airlines. The Nizam’s government had a 71% stake in the company while Tata had 29%.

1. Air India

Year Established: 1932
Fleet Size: 119
Headquarters: New Delhi, India
Website: www.airindia.com

Air IndiaPhoto Source: The Indian Express

Air India is India’s oldest and perhaps largest airline company. It was founded in 1932 and was initially established as “Tata Airlines”. This was India’s first commercial airline and is now the flag carrier of India. 

If you would believe it, the owner, J R D Tata himself flew the first single-engine aircraft, flying from Karachi to Bombay (Mumbai), and later to Madras (Chennai). 

They acquired their first Boeing 707 in 1960 and thus became the first Asian airline to introduce a jet into their fleet. The fleet size gradually increased as their popularity did. They now have Boeing 777, 747 and 787 aircrafts equipped with on-demand in-flight entertainment systems. 

Air India also has a frequent-flyer programme as well, called “Flying Returns”. This is one of the few Indian airlines that have a frequent-flyer initiative. 

As per a report in 2019, Air India flew to a total of 102 destinations, 45 of which were international. Air India also has codeshare agreements with a number of other airlines, like Ethiopian Airlines, Air Mauritius, Air India Express, Lufthansa, etc. 

Did you know?

J R D Tata was actually the FIRST licensed pilot in India when he commandeered the aircraft from Karachi to Bombay.


The aviation industry, especially in India, is rich with history. The five oldest airline companies in India definitely had interesting stories to tell of their time, as we saw in the article above. 

Air India is the oldest airline in Indian history. When it started out, it didn’t even have its popular name. Instead, it was called Tata Airlines, after J R D Tata, the founder of the company. 

Once this lit the match for the aviation industry, the Nizam of Hyderabad established an airline company as well. While Deccan Airways only ran for a short period, they were known for their excellent service and punctuality. 

From then on, the airline industry merely continued to grow and thrive in India. 

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