It’s that time of the year once again where we review those airlines that had their wings clipped. Last year, I said it was a pretty good year in terms of the airlines we lost. If that’s true, then this was a rock star kind of year. There were very few airlines that went under at all – this took a lot of sleuthing to dig up anything remotely interesting. Next year, we’ll have some big names in Continental and AirTran, but this year, let’s enjoy the relative silence.
Mandala Airlines – January 13, 2011
Anytime an Indonesian airline fails, I figure nobody cares. It’s a fairly regular occurrence over there, chances are it wasn’t exactly a safe airline anyway. This one was different. When Mandala shut down in January, it said it vowed to return to the skies. How many times have we heard that? But this time, it’s true. See, Mandala is partially owned by Indigo. Indigo has a stake in a bunch of low cost airlines including Spirit and Tiger. Yes, Mandala may come out as Tiger Mandala so Tiger can get a foothold in Indonesia. So, Mandala is dead, technically. But it may rise from the grave again.
Wataniya Airways – March 16, 2011
Wataniya seemed promising in the way that anything in the Middle East seems promising. It was sort of a premium low cost model with business and premium economy seating throughout the Middle East from its base in Kuwait. Its base was something awesome in its own right – it flew out of a private terminal. While something this crazy could only work in the Middle East, even that didn’t work. The airline lost a bunch of money and eventually was shut down, a mere couple years after it first started flying.
Air Cuenca – June 21, 2011
This one could have been seen coming a mile away. Ecuador is a crowded place with a lot of airlines vying for domestic traffic. Air Cuenca was started to, um, do the same thing as everyone else. Based in Cuenca, the hope was that they could build some kind of profitable operation. That was just a silly thought. Its main routes from Cuenca to Guayaquil and Quito were already served by others. There just wasn’t a need for Air Cuenca, and it disappeared quickly. You know you’re insignificant when there isn’t even a Wikipedia page.
Icaro – ?, 2011
Air Cuenca wasn’t the only blood spilled in Ecuador this year as Icaro also went belly up. Well, at least, I think it’s gone. Icaro actually applied to shut down on June 20, but I haven’t seen any confirmation that it’s actually gone. I’m just going to assume that it sailed into the sunset by now. Icaro will actually be sorely missed. At least, horny young guys will miss Icaro a lot since it had lingerie fashion shows. Don’t believe me?
Wow. That’s, um, interesting. Adios, Icaro, I think. If you actually are shut down by now.
Air Southwest – September 30, 2011
Wait, the mighty Southwest has gone under? Yeah, not quite. Air Southwest was a little operator out of the UK with a funny story. It shut down because its primary airport went away. No kidding. Air Southwest started up to fill a void. When British Airways pulled out of Plymouth, Air Southwest stepped right in. Air Southwest tried to grow into a few different airports but nothing really caught on. In 2010, it was bought by Eastern Airways. This year, Plymouth’s City Airport was shut down, and the original plan was to keep flying other routes. Eventually, Eastern decided to just throw in the towel on Air Southwest. Eastern still operates, but Air Southwest is just a memory.
Avianova – October 9, 2011
Avianova was a disaster from the start. This was another Indigo investment that was hoping to be an ultra low cost carrier that could crack the difficult Russian market. That didn’t happen. It actually grew very quickly, becoming the largest airline behind Aeroflot at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo, but then it all fell apart. Typical Russian politics took over and sunk the airline. The major shareholder decided to kick all foreigners out, claiming that they refused to follow Russian law. Indigo fought back, and in the end, the airline went up in a ball of red tape. Nothing was resolved and it shut down. Pathetic.
Lufthansa Italia – October 29, 2011
This wasn’t so much an airline failure as it was a mercy killing. Back when Alitalia was in the throes of bankruptcy, Lufthansa saw an opening. It already had a strong presence in Northern Italy with Air Dolomiti service to nearby Munich, but it wanted more. Lufthansa Italia was an effort to start serving major business markets around Europe from Milan. The ultimate hope, I assume, was to end up taking a piece of the combined Alitalia/Air One and steal them away from SkyTeam for Star Alliance. It didn’t happen. Alitalia/Air One merged, but they stuck with SkyTeam. Lufthansa’s Air Dolomiti is still a solid operation but the Milan hub simply didn’t work. It was axed.
Astraeus – November 21, 2011
I don’t usually write about charter airlines that lease aircraft to other airlines, because you’ve probably never heard of them. But Astraeus was a little different because of its most famous pilot (and, toward the end, marketing director). You might recognize Bruce Dickinson as a lead singer for the metal band Iron Maiden, but he was also quite an accomplished pilot. He even piloted the band around on a reunion tour a couple years back. So it’s sad to see Bruce having to fall back on his other job, but well, things don’t always work out. As for Astraeus, since its main business was in flying airplanes for other airlines, you probably would have never heard of them were it not for Bruce.