Anniversary of the World’s First Airline: November 16, 1909

Today is the anniversary of the world’s first airline. DELAG was established on November 16, 1909, and provided passenger service — including the world’s first transatlantic airline service — using zeppelin airships.

DELAG was an acronym for Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft, or German Airship Transportation Corporation Ltd.

Brochure and "seat map" for the DELAG passenger airship Bodensee.

Brochure and “seat map” for the DELAG passenger airship Bodensee.

While many of the flights before World War I were local sightseeing tours, the DELAG airship Bodensee began regular scheduled service between Berlin and southern Germany in 1919. The flight from Berlin to Friedrichshafen took 4-9 hours, compared to 18-24 hours by rail.

DELAG offered the world’s first transatlantic passenger airline service, using LZ-127 Graf Zeppelin to make regularly scheduled flights between Germany and South America beginning in 1931. Graf Zeppelin crossed the South Atlantic 136 times before being retired after the Hindenburg disaster in 1937.

Transatlantic schedule of DELAG airships Graf Zeppelin, 1934

Transatlantic schedule of DELAG airships Graf Zeppelin, 1934 ( collection)

DELAG also employed the world’s first flight attendant, Heinrich Kubis.

Heinrich Kubis with passengers on LZ-120 Bodensee

The world’s first flight attendant, Heinrich Kubis, with passengers on the airship Bodensee

DELAG’s operations were taken over by the newly-formed Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei in 1935.

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4 Comments on "Anniversary of the World’s First Airline: November 16, 1909"

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Thanks for another great little chunk of LTA history. The Bodensee was a first in LTA design with its tear drop hull and purely civilian purpose. She paved the way for the Graf Zeppelin and later the Hindenburg class airships. It can happen again with another small airship like the Bodensee to raise interest in the mainstream public in LTA travel.

Dagmara Lizlovs

If Heinrich Kubis was the world’s first flight attendant, then who would be the world’s first airline captain? Dr. Eckener? I have come across a caption of a photograph of the Schwaben in flight in Eckener’s book “My Zeppelins” (Im Zeppelin über Länder und Meere). The caption reads “The world’s first successful passenger aircraft, the Zeppelin Schwaben, commanded by Dr. Eckener landing at Johannisthal near Berlin. A Taube monoplane is flying below her.”


I should think the crazy Count himself. He flew and piloted many of the early passenger airships before the Bodensee was built.

Dagmara Lizlovs

Dagmara Lizlovs November 18, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Crazy or visionary? It is hard to tell the difference. Mozart was a bit quirky too. Isaac Newton dabbled in alchemy for a bit. Most inventors and geniuses were/are a bit crazy, but they’ve changed our world in ways we take for granted today. So the next time you’re on a plane, and you hear the pilot come on the intercom with “This is your captain speaking . . .”, smile as you think of the crazy old count with a vision who first said these words to his passengers.