Last updated: 05:00 PM ET, Thu April 07 2016

Watch 90 Years of United Airlines History in One Minute

Airlines & Airports | United Airlines | Josh Lew | April 07, 2016

Watch 90 Years of United Airlines History in One Minute

Image via YouTube

United Airlines celebrated 90 years of flying on Wednesday. A company that would become one of the founding members of United started its life on April 6, 1926 as Varney Air Lines. However, the first Varney plane did not carry passengers at all; it carried mail from Boise, Idaho to Pasco, Washington.   

After its early airmail days, Varney went on to become one of the carriers that combined forces to form United Airlines in 1928. These other carriers included at least one very well known name: Boeing Air Transport. The airline operated coast-to-coast-flights that carried both passengers and mail. These early journeys took in excess of 24 hours to complete.  

Interestingly, Varney Airlines founder and namesake, Walter Varney, is linked to United in another way. He created another company called Varney Speed Lines in 1934. This carrier eventually went on to join with other small airlines to form Continental Airlines. Of course, Continental merged with United in 2010, once again connecting the two companies founded by Varney over eighty years ago. 

United marked its birthday by treating employees to birthday cake at airports around the country. Passengers on domestic flights in the U.S. and international flights originating from the U.S. were given special birthday cookies. 

The airline also created a video that shows all the different logos that United has used over the years. The minute-long presentation also displays the logos of Varney and the other airlines that merged together to form United. Continental and its forerunners are also included. 

CEO Oscar Munoz wrote an open letter to mark the occasion.    

READ MORE: Rare Aluminum Birds: A History of Commercial Aircraft Livery

He began the letter by trumpeting the “firsts” that United has been a part of over its 90 years, mentioning things like the airline being the first to employ a female flight attendant and being the first American carrier to fly a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  

Munoz then goes on to hype future upgrades, including new aircraft (including more 787s), new routes (including the world’s longest Dreamliner flight, from Singapore to San Francisco) and new in-flight offerings (including HBO programming that will be streamed on the aforementioned SFO-Singapore route). 

What about the other airlines in the United States? How old are they? Delta claims to be the oldest airline in the country. It began as a crop-dusting operation in Georgia in 1924, two years before Varney’s airmail flight. Delta flew its first passenger in 1929, a year after United claims to have started passenger service. 
American Airlines, meanwhile, began flying in 1930. Southwest and most smaller airlines are much younger. Southwest’s first flight was in 1971. 

You can certainly make an argument that these airlines should measure their age from the time they started passenger service, but, at the very least, United's recent birthday celebration gives people a chance to look back at the rather interesting (and humble) origins of today's airlines. 

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