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 (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 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 It’s certificate was revoked.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 – 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 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 – 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 – 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 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 – 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 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 – 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.
I never heard Kahn referred to as Fred, it was always Alfred.
His full name was Alfred Kahn but my understanding is that he went by Fred.
Northwest, Midwest, Mexicana – with a Customer Service Philosophy of “How may we not help you.”
And I’m not 100% sure about deregulation being a good thing. I’m definately conflicted. Anyway, I am putting you on my blogroll as a must read.
I have mixed feelings about the demise of NWA. On the one hand, my first trip on an airplane (aside from when I was an infant, which doesn’t count) was on an NW 747, so the airline does carry some sentimental value. But on the other hand, some of the crappiest airline experiences I’ve had were during the ugly Northworst days of the late 90s. I’ve been lucky and only been treated rudely by a handful of airline employees over the years, but a good 2/3 of them were on one trip with NW in 1998.
I was up in MSP a few months ago. Noticed the NW livery on a few planes. I “believe” they werent express jets. Sooo, I’m thinking the paint jobs are not fully done, anyone? Or they are NOT painting planes they plan on retiring?
I know they’re not repainting some of the DC9s (-40 series I believe) that are being retired, although that should be done shortly.
Yes, I believe the DC-9-40s are the only former Northwest airplanes still in Northwest colors (other than ones parked in the desert). Those will be retired soon.
Being retired tomorrow in fact. Last revenue flights are December 31, 2010.
It’s amazing how quickly DL has been repainting the former NW fleet, in contrast to NW just slapping red tails on former RC aircraft after that merger. And I wonder how long it will take UA/CO to get all of its fleet into the CO colors.
“(And don’t start on Porter – have you seen their numbers?)”
Actually, I haven’t. I know that Porter was preparing for an IPO at some point, but has the company filed financials yet? I see that Porter reported a 54 percent load factor for November 2010 and claimed that its break-even load factor for 2009 was 49 percent, so that sounds promising, but press-release numbers are certainly subject to more fudging than audited IPO materials.
It would be interesting to hear more about the financial side of the operation, since its service seems to be popular and the airline at least appears to be growing.
Yep, here is an in-depth look at the prospectus:
This doesn’t mean it can’t be successful but it does mean that it’s had a hard time making money so far. And the IPO was canceled so clearly investors didn’t like what they were seeing.
Deregulation means a lot, but in different ways. It maybe should have been rolled out in stages. First allowing any airline (even new start ups) to fly any route in the USA, but still have the fares controlled by the Feds, even if those fares were lowered. Then after seeing how that went, then down the road let airlines set their own fares or again do that in stages with the Feds setting prices ranges in each market, then later on giving airlines the freedom to set their own fares.
I believe that deregulation did happen in stages, although not really in the steps that you’ve described. The legacy carriers were able to protect a certain number of routes for a certain amount of time; I’m nit sure how pricing was affected until total deregulation.
We can start to add Spirit, Frontier, Jetblue, Virgin America, and Alaska to the list soon enough. With all these mergers with the big boys these people don’t stand a chance. And fares will go up. Thank you Southwest and DELTA
I’m not so sure. Who is left to transact a merger? AA doesn’t have the capital, US is still full of labor issues, DL is still digesting NW, same with CO and UA, ditto with WN and FL. As for your targets B6 is partially owned by LH and has agreements with AA, F9 is now owned by Republic who have some decently deep pockets, NK is still owned by an investment group IIRC, VX has some deep pockets as well. Finally, AS has some good profits and actually has a market cap much larger than its size… in fact it isn’t that far behind AA in market cap, so it would take a lot of capital to take them out.
I agree with you Jason. But by the end of the year 2011 and the airline tie-ups and stuff we will see labor issues healed and more biting the dust. I’m almost certain that half my list of airlines to be gobbled up (aka gone) will eventually happen in less than 3 years.
The reason why I make a big deal out of it is because it is bad for the consumer; very bad.
At least the YX code lives on with Republic?
Too bad US Airways wasn’t part of your list. I deal with lots of airlines…Their accounting folks are -by far- the worst of any carrier out there. They have a one page (well, actually one word) training manual and it says “NO”. It is beyond belief to me.
Iraqi Airways – http://tinyurl.com/25uyjac
Interlink Airlines (South Africa)
Quantum Air (Spain)
I was involved with one of those but happily steered a PE firm away from an investment:)
I feel you left out who, if you looked at their operation, you would call the “worst regional airline ever,” Freedom Airlines. They finally died after cancelling flights because they failed to schedule enough crew, cancelled flights because there was weather at destinations they didn’t even fly to, and cancelled flights because they just could care less to fly. Thank god Delta got rid of them and their operating certificate expired so they can’t fly again.
Oh man, you’re so right. How could I leave them out?!? Granted it was just a shell airline set up by Mesa but yes, they should have been on here.
Alitalia survives to see another year. Take that, Cranky! :)
I think I may be right about Virgin America. Bloomberg Business Week just ran a whole big story on how things are not looking to great over there. And that was after they kicked off their Dallas service to go against (ahem) AA and Southwest. It’s ashame because they do have a great product. Too bad their mood lighting doesn’t help their financials even with Bran$ons backing.
Honestly I don’t think NW the airline died, just the brand name. Much of NW, including staff and systems are still alive and doing very well on Virginia Avenue in Atlanta. It seems like each passing month, DL looks more and more like NW, albiet with much better branding and positive attitude from the staff.
Midwest Airlines (YX), formerly Midwest Express, most certainly did not start in 1948 as shown on the tombstone on this page. It started in 1984 in Appleton, WI as an offshoot of the Kimberly-Clark corporate shuttle. Their original operating plan was to run a commercial airline with one DC-9 and one Convair 580. They later went with a fleet of three DC-9s, one of which was lost in an accident in MKE (YX105).
Kimberly Clark started its first air shuttle service in 1948 for employees. Midwest was born out of that later, but its roots began in 1948 and that’s why it’s shown that way here.