An airline is a company that provides air transport services for traveling passengers and freight. Airlines lease or own their aircraft with which to supply these services and may form partnerships or alliances with other airlines for mutual benefit. Generally, airline companies are recognized with an air operating certificate or license issued by a governmental aviation body.
Airlines vary from those with a single aircraft carrying mail or cargo, through full-service international airlines operating hundreds of aircraft. Airline services can be categorized as being intercontinental, intra-continental, domestic, regional, or international, and may be operated as scheduled services or charters.
The Handley Page W.8b was used by Handley Page Transport, an early British airline established in 1919.
The earliest fixed wing airline was the Aircraft Transport and Travel, formed by George Holt Thomas in 1916. Using a fleet of former military Airco DH.4A biplanes that had been modified to carry two passengers in the fuselage, it operated relief flights between Folkestone and Ghent. On 15 July 1919, the company flew a proving flight across the English Channel, despite a lack of support from the British government. Flown by Lt. H Shaw in an Airco DH.9 between RAF Hendon and Paris – Le Bourget Airport, the flight took 2 hours and 30 minutes at £21 per passenger.
On 25 August 1919, the company used DH.16s to pioneer a regular service from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome to Le Bourget, the first regular international service in the world. The airline soon gained a reputation for reliability, despite problems with bad weather and began to attract European competition. In November 1919, it won the first British civil airmail contract. Six Royal Air Force Airco DH.9A aircraft were lent to the company, to operate the airmail service between Hawkinge and Cologne. In 1920, they were returned to the Royal Air Force.