American, World’s Largest Airline, Turns 90

By Paul Riegler on 15 April 2016
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Cue Miss Sophie and her butler, James: American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, turned 90 Friday.

Robertson Aircraft Corporation of Missouri, a predecessor airline, took to the air on April 15, 1926, with pilot Charles A. Lindbergh at the controls of a DH-4 biplane.

While American was not the first to operate a scheduled flight (that honor belongs to competitor United Airlines), it was first in many innovations including the introduction of airport lounges, computerization, and frequent flyer programs.

American was the first airline to work with New York City Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to build an airport in New York City. The airport, New York City Municipal Airport, opened in 1939 and was later renamed after the mayor. American was the first airline to open an airport lounge, the Admiral’s Club, thanks to its involvement there.

The Fort Worth-based airline was also the first to introduce a computerized reservations system and the first to operate a modern frequent flyer loyalty program, AAdvantage, now the world’s largest with over 67 million members.

Other innovations include the world’s first training facility for flight attendants, the American Airlines Stewardess College, which opened in 1957.

In January 1959, American became the first airline in the United States to offer coast-to-coast jet service, using the Boeing 707.  More recently, in 2008, American became the first U.S. carrier to offer domestic in-flight Wi-Fi.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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