Another year has come to a close, and with it, so have the lives of several airlines. There weren’t any spectacular shutdowns as we’ve seen in previous years, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t a handful of interesting stories to pop up. I’m sure I missed some obscure airlines out there, so feel free to add your own in the comments.
Kingfisher – January 1, 2013
Admittedly, this one was a little late. Kingfisher really shut down in 2012 but there were so many promises that it would come back, I wasn’t convinced it was truly dead. I was wrong. Founded by the Richard Branson of India, Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher had a meteoric rise when India deregulated air travel. It grew fast, bought Air Deccan, announced plans to join oneworld, and ordered a ton of airplanes. It created amazing service levels and won plenty of awards, but it was horribly unprofitable. Management continued to lie about how things would all work out. In the end, a lot of workers were stiffed and the airline fell apart.
Ryan International – January 11, 2013
No, no, this isn’t Ryanair. That airline continues to make silly money flying around Europe. Ryan International was a US-based airline that you probably never knew. Why? Because Ryan flew airplanes mostly under the names of other companies. It was an airline for hire, basically. It did a lot of military work as well, but it lost those contracts over time. Ryan also leased out airplanes to whomever needed them. I guess nobody needed their small fleet anymore, because they disappeared without making any real noise.
OLT Express Germany – January 28, 2013
For years, OLT was a small regional airline in Germany, but things went downhill and eventually it was purchased by a Polish company. That’s when things got interesting. The Polish company also purchased two Polish airlines and merged them into OLT Express in Poland. The German airline became OLT Express Germany and they were going to take over Europe with their awesomeness… or not. The parent company’s fortunes (or lack thereof) crumbled and OLT Express in Poland failed last year. OLT Express Germany hung on until this year. Under new ownership it merged with Contact Air, but it wasn’t enough. The airline was struggling and it was eventually put out of its misery.
Bahrain Air – February 13, 2013
Bahrain Air was a confused little airline from the beginning. When it launched in 2008, it was supposed to be a low cost carrier. That lasted for a couple of years until the airline made an about-face and decided to become full service. That didn’t work, and the airline bled to death. Apparently, it didn’t want to go down without a fight, so it hoisted the blame on to the government. Bahrain Air said the unstable political situation led to the failure of the airline. I guess there’s only room for one poorly-run airline in Bahrain, and that’s Gulf Air.
Chathams Pacific – March 3, 2013
If you want to hear a tale of crazy government policy, look no further than Tonga. Air Chathams is based in New Zealand specializing in flights to the distant Chatham Islands. But back in 2007, it stepped into the domestic Tongan market, one that has seen failed airline after failed airline. Things were going ok but the government decided it wanted competition. So it took an MA-60 airplane that was gifted to it by China (who knows why) and offered it on lease to a local mechanic to start his own airline. Air Chathams, realizing this was an impossible competitive situation, decided to walk away and shut down Chathams Pacific. I can’t say I blame them.
Armavia – April 1, 2013
Armavia really was the closest thing Armenia had to a national airline for the last few years. Unfortunately for the company, that standing didn’t prevent the airline from going down the tubes. The owner simply was never able to get the airline on strong financial footing and racked up debt like crazy. The state has apparently agreed to repay the debt, but the airline isn’t coming back. Armenia is now primarily reliant upon foreign airlines with a few flights by Air Armenia thrown in for good measure. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before someone else tries to start an airline there.
Saha Airlines – April 9, 2013
I wasn’t quite sure whether to include Saha since it has shut down previously and come back from the dead. But this time, I fear it might be done for. And why do I care? Saha, based in Iran, was the last commercial operator of the 707. Yes, the 707, an airplane that makes Delta’s DC-9s look young. Saha clearly was only flying the airplanes because it couldn’t get any other airplanes thanks to the embargo against Iran. But enthusiasts loved it and flocked to the chance to fly the 707. For now, it appears those flights have ended. Maybe they will come back, but I’d be surprised. So long, 707.
Dutch Antilles Express – August 26, 2013
The Netherlands Antilles no longer exists, and now neither does its short-lived carrier Dutch Antilles Express (DAE). DAE was based in Curacao and bounced around the Caribbean, even reaching into the US. It did so while losing a bunch of money and relied on bailouts from the Curacao government to keep flying. Its last attempt at a loan was turned down by Curacao and that was the end of the line for the airline. It’s not uncommon to see Caribbean airlines disappear, so this one will probably be forgotten quickly.
Augsburg Airways – October 26, 2013
Augsburg Airways began life as a domestic airline within Germany. That lasted a couple decades, but by the turn of the century, change was in the air. In 2000, Augsburg became a regional affiliate of Lufthansa’s. The partnership grew and Augsburg decided to pass over more of its core functions to Lufthansa. But in 2012, Lufthansa decided to restructure its regional operation. As part of that, Augsburg found itself out in the cold with no flying left to do on Lufthansa’s behalf. The writing was on the wall, so, like Cirrus last year, Augsburg decided to just shut down. Its last flight was on behalf of Lufthansa on October 26.
Flynonstop – October 29, 2013
These guys had a great plan. They were going to fly nonstop. But that’s kind of where the plan stopped. Six months after launch, they were out of money. Really they just wanted some more international flights from their base in Kristiansand, Norway (home of fewer than 100,000 people). So they leased an airplane and flew throughout Europe. Turns out the reason nobody flew internationally beyond Scandinavia was because there wasn’t enough demand. Unfortunately for their pocketbooks, it took them 6 months after launch to realize that fact.
Belle Air – November 25, 2013
Little Belle Air started up as the first low cost carrier in Albania and when it shut down, it left… no carriers at all based in Albania as far as I can tell. What caused this airline to fail? How about the “general economic situation, the decline of the purchasing power, recession in the markets it operates as well as from the freezing for over 18 days of its bank accounts.” I’m gonna say that the last point might be the most salient. When Belle Air failed, its subsidiary Belle Air Europe in Kosovo went down as well. But fear not, they say it’s temporary. I’m sure they’ll be back up and running in no time. Yeah, that’s it.
Tulpar Air – December 25, 2013
Tatarstan is a Russian republic that lies about 500 miles east of Moscow. Its capital, Kazan has over a million people and is pretty wealthy. So you would think this would be a good place to start an airline. It very well may be, but so far it doesn’t appear to be a place where people want to start a safe airline. The government started looking into airlines in Tatarstan after another airline’s aircraft crashed. Inspections at Tulpar revealed problems with “violations of established norms for flight hours, failure to observe the duty and rest schedules of flight crew members, and maintenance issues.” As you can imagine, that was enough to shut the airline down.
Tatarstan Airlines – December 31, 2013
Remember what I said about another airline’s plane crashing above? Yeah, it was this airline’s plane. Tatarstan Airlines lost a 737 in November, and inspections that followed revealed issues with “violations in established flight norms, working hours and rest periods for the flight crew and qualification standards of the crew.” As with Tulpar, you’d think that would be enough to shut it down, and you’d be right… sort of. The airline was told it wouldn’t lose its license until December 31. So, you still have a full day to fly on this unsafe airline, just in case you’re a gambler.