Airlines We Lost in 2008

It’s time once again for the third annual edition of “Airlines We Lost.” This was a pretty active year, as you can probably imagine. Sadly, my wish last year for Alitalia to be on this year’s list has not come true. That airline soliders on while others have not been so lucky to have a government behind them to prop them up. As I said, last year, let us hope that all the former employees of these airlines find new jobs with ease. I’m probably taking Friday off, so I’ll be back again Monday. Happy New Year!

AlpiEagles TombstoneAlpiEagles – January 3, 2008

We were barely into 2008 when AlpiEagles became the first airline of the year to shut down. To be honest, I don’t know much about these guys, but if I couldn’t include Alitalia, I had to at least find one Italian airline. A Google search found some references that make me think it wasn’t much of a surprise that these guys went under. In fact, I’m somewhat amazed they lasted as long as they did.

Boston Maine (Pan Am Clipper Connection) TombstoneBoston-Maine (Pan Am) – February 29, 2008

It’s not often that I’m happy to see an airline go out of business, but this is most certainly one of them. When the Pan Am name and colors were slapped on this two-bit outfit flying old 727s into backwater airports, it was an embarrassment. To make things even worse, this airline was effectively a union-buster that was given the Pan Am name and routes when the previous version of Pan Am was shut down by the parent company. Earlier this year, the DOT put out a scathing report that the airline was financially unfit, lacked proper management oversight, and didn’t follow rules.

Big Sky TombstoneBig Sky – March 8, 2008

Big Sky was a sad loss, at least for those who relied on the airline to get around the upper Midwest for years. Big Sky was acquired by Mesaba’s parent, but when Mesaba was sold to Northwest, the parent company wanted out of the airline business. The 19-seaters weren’t making much money, so it was time to call it quits. I remember when I was at America West and we signed a codeshare with Big Sky. There were very few airports they served that I’d even heard of before, but they were the lifeline for the people who lived in those places.

Adam Air TombstoneAdam Air – March 18, 2008

If anyone is actually surprised by this one, you must not pay much attention to aviation accidents. Adam Air came out of Indonesia and did a good job of convincing people not to fly it. There were a number of accidents and incidents over its relatively short life span, and ultimately the Indonesian government mercifully shut them down. We should all be able to sleep easier at night knowing that this airline is gone from the scene.

Aloha TombstoneAloha Airlines – March 31, 2008

For me, this is the saddest failure of the year. If this were the Academy Awards when they show the people who died in the last year, Aloha would undoubtedly get the loudest applause. The oldest airline to fail last year, Aloha succumbed to a brutal competitive environment thanks to the entry of go! into the Interisland Hawaiian market. Lawsuits have dragged on, but it appears they have recently been settled with the understanding that go!, the very airline that killed Aloha, will rebrand as Aloha. This was so unpalatable that even the judge put a temporary stop to it.

ATA TombstoneATA – April 3, 2008

Though ATA was an airline that many people hated, I actually never had a bad experience flying them. In fact, I always had good experiences. They reached their zenith in the early 2000s as they grew their Chicago and Indianapolis hubs under now-United drone John Tague but collapsed mightily soon after. Southwest picked up the remains, and the airline limped along for awhile, but ultimately, the owners bought a couple other airlines and shut down the original. A sad end for an airline with a long history.

Skybus TombstoneSkybus – April 4, 2008

Ah yes, remember Skybus? It seems like it was only around for a few minutes, so you may have forgotten them by now. The idea was to offer ultra low fare flights originally only from its Columbus hub. Columbus? Yeah. That might go a long way to explain why it didn’t work. But this airline called it quits before it actually had to. In fact, there was money left in the bank, but the management decided it just wasn’t going to work in the end. By this time next year, we’ll probably have forgotten completely that they ever existed.

Skyway TombstoneSkyway – April 5, 2008

Poor little Skyway, better known as Midwest Connect, died because of Midwest’s insistence on not actually flying any airplanes itself. Skyway was Midwest’s wholly-owned regional subsidiary, but Midwest decided it would rather have SkyWest operate the routes instead. So while Skyway lives on as a ground operations company, it no longer has any planes. Then again, Midwest doesn’t have many of its own planes left either.

Oasis Hong Kong TombstoneOasis HongKong – April 9, 2008

Like Skybus, Oasis HongKong had a meteoric rise only to come crashing down hard. The airline was running long haul, low fare flights between Hong Kong and both London and Vancouver. Apparently, it’s fares were too low, because one day it just disappeared. Many have argued that the long haul, low fare model doesn’t work, though Air Asia X is currently going to do its best to prove that hypothesis wrong. (Nonexistent labor costs help, by the way.)

Eos TombstoneEos Airlines – April 26, 2008

There’s a special place for Eos in my eyes, because I interned with the airline during business school, long before it got started. In fact, it was just me and David Spurlock in a Palo Alto office working on getting funding for the airline back in 2003. The experience was great, but high fuel prices, a very small niche market, and, according to others, weak management, did the airline in. With fuel at today’s prices, it undoubtedly could have held on longer, but it’s not clear that it would have survived.

Nationwide TombstoneNationwide Airlines – April 29, 2008

I’m sure there were a few thousand airlines in Africa that failed this year, but none had a higher profile than Nationwide. This airline, based in South Africa, grew to have a fairly sizable operation that even served London. In 2007, Nationwide was shut down for regulatory non-compliance, but it briefly came back. Of course, a temporary shut down like that is just as bad as being shut down for good, so it did just that and decided to call it quits.

Far Eastern TombstoneFar Eastern Air Transport – May 12, 2008

I don’t know really know a ton about Far Eastern Air Transport except that their tails had FAT spelled out in big block letters. That’s good comedy. I was surprised to find that this airline was actually around for fifty years, primarily as a very strong domestic carrier in Taiwan. Increased competition (in the air and on the rails) put this airline into financial trouble, and it finally called it quits after struggling to the right the ship for awhile.

Silverjet TombstoneSilverjet – May 30, 2008

Like Eos, Silverjet tried to do the all-premium airline model and failed miserably. I’m told Silverjet had a very nice facility at London’s Luton airport, but that wasn’t enough to make it successful. Locating the airline at Luton probably didn’t help much either. Toward the end, there was all kinds of drama. It was said that a Middle Eastern firm would pump money into the airline and refocus it, but that never came through and the airline ran out of luck . . . and money.

Champion TombstoneChampion – May 31, 2008

Though Champion flew charters with its 727 fleet toward the end, its 2 letter code “MG” alludes to its roots as MGM Grand Air. MGM was a luxurious airline flying between LA and New York, but Champion did a lot of sports charters and some leisure work as well. In the end, the aging fleet wasn’t competitive in the charter market and the airline simply opted to shut down and go quietly into the night. Fortunately, it didn’t go away until after delaying the Spurs to a playoff game against the Lakers. Thanks, guys.

Air Midwest TombstoneAir Midwest – June 30, 2008

Little Air Midwest was another casualty in the 19 seat aircraft market that really took a hit this year. This airline had been owned by Mesa for several years, and ultimately Mesa opted to completely shut down its 19 seat operation. I had the chance to fly Air Midwest on one of its little Beech 1900s from Yuma to Phoenix, and I certainly had no complaints. Then again, the weather was good that day. Were it not, I might have had a different opinion of the little airline.

ExpressJet (Branded) TombstoneExpressJet (branded service) – September 1, 2008

Let’s get one thing clear. ExpressJet still exists and is still flying around as Continental Express and as a charter airline. The piece that died was the “branded” ExpressJet operation that was set up to fly point-to-point between smaller cities; sort of a Southwest Express in my mind. If Aloha’s failure tugged at the heartstrings, this one bothers the brain. This model still looks interesting to me, especially with lower fuel prices and a different aircraft type. I just think ExpressJet was ahead of its time on this one.

Zoom TombstoneZoom – August 28, 2008

This quirky airline had a very strange setup. The original airline was Canadian and began flying Transatlantic from Canada. Then they wanted to fly back across the Atlantic to the US from the UK so they set up a UK subsidiary to do the work. Flights went from London to places like San Diego, where no other nonstop service existed. The idea may have made sense in someone’s head, but it didn’t work at all. They collapsed under their own weight.

XL TombstoneXL – September 12, 2008

You knew XL was set on being a low cost carrier when it decided that letters were too expensive and shortened its name from Excel. The British low cost charter operation focused on shuttling pasty white Brits to sunspots, but apparently it wasn’t concerned about getting them back when it stranded fifty thousand travelers after its shutdown. Another 200,000 had future bookings so this was likely a more expensive winter than many had planned.

Aero California TombstoneAeroCalifornia – October 4, 2008

Wait, didn’t these guys already shut down? You know it, but somehow the Mexican airline didn’t make my 2006 list. AeroCalifornia operated aircraft so old they were actually flight tested by Charles Lindbergh (um, maybe not), but they were considered airworthy enough to fly to the US until 2006 when it first shut down. The airline made a brief comeback with only domestic Mexican operations, but that again ended abruptly when they ran out of money.

Sterling TombstoneSterling – October 29, 2008

Sterling quickly rose to be a massive low fare airline in Scandinavia and Europe in general, especially after acquiring Maersk. I flew Maersk once and loved the product, but Sterling had plenty of ownership shifts and never fully found its groove. It didn’t help that its most recent owners were Icelandic, not exactly a good place to be from a financial perspective these days. Cimber Air says it’s going to resurrect the airline, but, well, we’ll see about that.

European Aviation TombstoneEuropean – November 30, 2008

Oh man, am I finally done? European wouldn’t get a mention here except for two things. First, it was one of the last operators (if not the last) of the 737-200 in Europe. And second, it operated for Palmair, an airline I really enjoyed learning about this year. Palmair was surprised by the failure of European, but it has found an aircraft from Jet2 to pick up the slack for now. Meanwhile, European will probably disappear quietly without any fanfare at all.

[Airlines We Lost in 2007]
[Airlines We Lost in 2006]

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