Airlines We Lost in 2010

The year is almost done, and you know what that means. It’s time to review the airlines we’ve lost in 2010. The good news? We had fewer airlines disappear this year than last and many of them were piddly little guys that I won’t even bother discussing here. (Strategic France, anyone?) But we did have some big names disappear as well as some quirky little guys. Let’s get going.

Blue Wings TombstoneBlue Wings (again) – January 13, 2010
Wait, didn’t Blue Wings already shut down last year? Yep. It sure did, but it was able to rise from the grave only to be pushed right back in again soon after its resurrection. The airline had plenty of money woes throughout its short life in Germany and now it appears to be gone for good. (Then again I thought that was the case last year as well.) Now we can finally avoid all those problems of passengers mistaking Blue Wings for Blue Wing Airlines in Suriname. Man, that was always such a tough one to deal with.

Taban TombstoneTaban Air – January 24, 2010
Anyone heard of Taban Air? Probably not since it was in Iran and that’s literally an aviation graveyard since the airlines can’t get new airplanes from the west (or parts for that matter). Taban got off the ground in 2006 and had a motley fleet of 1 Russian-built Tupolev along with a couple of leased birds of other types. Things were going swimmingly until flight 6437 had a problem. The plane was holding over Mashhad, waiting for the weather to clear up, when a passenger got sick. Instead of waiting for the weather to clear or diverting, the crew decided to just land the thing anyway. Not smart. The plane cracked up but everyone lived. Good for the people, bad for the airline. It’s certificate was revoked.

Northwest TombstoneNorthwest – January 31, 2010
Some argued that Northwest truly went away last year, but I didn’t see the real end until this January when the website was shut down and the NW code disappeared. While there is still work to do and I’m sure there are some little props flying around with the old Northwest colors, that truly was the end of an airline with a long and storied history. Now it exists in a little corner of the Delta Heritage Museum and that’s about it. I never had much love for Northwest myself but any airline that survived that long certainly deserves some recognition.

Tafa TombstoneTafa Air – February 2010
Raise your hand if you have the worst idea for a low cost carrier. Now put it down, because Tafa Air has to take the cake. The idea was to bring Albanians living outside of the country back and forth. Germany was the primary market, but let’s be honest, there just aren’t that many Albanians in the world. The airline started just before Christmas 2009 so it probably had a couple of good weeks. But then it realized that Christmas travel can’t sustain you all year. The airline lost its aircraft lease in February and tried to come back, but it never did. Tafa was doomed from the start.

Viva Macau TombstoneViva Macau – March 26, 2010
You have to love an airline that shuts down in March but still has a live website by the end of the year. Viva Macau was an, um, interesting airline. Macau was the Portuguese equivalent of Hong Kong that really has been best known for its gambling. Air Macau has a stranglehold on the city but Viva Macau fought hard to start up and bring low cost flights throughout Asia and Australia. That was its first mistake. There was an agreement that allowed Air Macau to veto any routes that Viva Macau wanted to fly, so the airline never could do what it wanted entirely. In the end, the government got involved, canceled the agreement between Air Macau and Viva Macau, and then said Viva Macau was unfit to fly so it revoked its certificate. Great place to operate an airline, it would seem.

Skyservice TombstoneSkyservice – March 31, 2010
Apparently if you aren’t Air Canada or WestJet, you’re doomed to failure. (And don’t start on Porter – have you seen their numbers?) Skyservice was a charter operator in Canada, as so many others have done, and it failed, like so many others. In that truly kind Canadian fashion, it didn’t shut down until after the busy Spring Break season and it was a relatively orderly demise. Gotta love those Canucks. The death of Skyservice has opened the door for primarily regional operator Jazz to step in. It is now flying big jets on behalf of Thomas Cook. Canadians need to get to the sun somehow.

Sama TombstoneSama Airlines – August 24, 2010
Sama was an airline with a plan . . . a plan that changed weekly, it seemed. The airline was one of the first of two low cost carriers to start up in Saudi Arabia. It initially focused on domestic flying, but then it shifted to an international focus. I use the word “focus” loosely because it went in and out of markets on a fairly regular basis. In the end, it couldn’t find any strategy that actually resulted in a profit, so it shut down. Not exactly the easiest place to run a low cost carrier, to be fair, but now there’s only one. Nasair will have to carry the torch for now.

Mexicana TombstoneMexicana – August 28, 2010
Ah, Mexicana. This is another airline that we might see on the list again next year if it gets re-started as supposedly planned. Mexicana is probably the highest profile failure this year and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer airline. Briefly known as the Worst Airline Ever, Mexicana had so many problems that it was better off just going away. There have been attempts to resurrect the airline from the dead, but so far they’ve failed. Meanwhile, airlines like Aeromexico and Volaris have filled in the gaps along with US carriers. Pretty soon, nobody will miss this airline at all.

Midwest TombstoneMidwest Airlines – October 1, 2010
As with Northwest, there are a lot of dates you could use to show the death of Midwest. Sure, it could have been the day former CEO Tim Hoeksema put the airline on a path to the end several years ago. Or it could have been when Midwest stopped flying its own airplanes and instead outsourced it all. But on October 1, the YX code went away as did the Midwest website. Despite the stray airplane painted in Midwest colors, it’s hard to argue that Midwest still exists in any form other than the cookie that Frontier hands out. After a long illness, Midwest is dead.

Fred Kahn TombstoneFred Kahn – December 27, 2010
I’m throwing you a curveball with this. No, Fred Kahn wasn’t an airline, but he was the father of deregulation in this industry. And when he died on Monday, I thought it was only appropriate to include him in this list. After all, the deregulation of the airline industry, while unequivocally the right thing to do, did result in several storied airlines joining the graveyard over the years. Many in the industry say deregulation was a bad thing, and that’s because it probably was for them. But deregulation lowered fares and enabled millions of people to fly and that’s why it was such a good thing. It may not have happened without Fred, so he definitely deserves a salute.

That’s it for this year. I left off some smaller guys including charter and cargo airlines, as usual. Feel free to chime in with the ones you miss most in the comments section.

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