It’s that time of the year again where we look back and review all of our fallen comrades. This year, the list isn’t full of many recognizable names. It was a good year for airlines indeed. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty for us to discuss. I worked with Thomas over at ch-aviation to make sure that I caught everything this year. Some of these are so tiny that I don’t have much to say so I’ll just list them at the end. Think of it as a Tomb of the Unknown Airline.
RAK Airways – January 1, 2014
I was surprised to find that RAK hadn’t been on this list before. After all, it went out of business once already. RAK was the official carrier for Ras al-Khaimah, one of the United Arab Emirates. That’s right. Emirates is to Dubai as Etihad is to Abu Dhabi… as RAK was to Ral al-Khaimah. RAK thought it could be a value carrier. Provide a nice level of service for a good fare. It was wrong. Part of the problem? Nobody wants to go there. I believe Air Arabia is the only scheduled carrier that even serves the airport now. It’s no surprise that this didn’t work.
Merpati – February 1, 2014
Merpati is an airline that I never thought I’d see die. Indonesia is a crazy market. With so many islands and inaccessible locations, air service is absolutely essential. And Merpati was really the domestic flag carrier for 50 years. At one point, it was merged into Garuda Indonesia, the international flag carrier, but operated separately. Then it eventually was split back out again with Garuda owning a small stake. This was one of those airlines that you could never understand how it was still flying. It operated older equipment, didn’t have a functioning website, and, like most airlines in Indonesia, was no stranger to accidents. But the writing was on the wall. As more modern low cost carriers grew in Indonesia and restrictions eased (see Valuair below), Merpati just didn’t have a place. It lost a bunch of money and when the government refused to help any further, it shut down. I still half expect it to randomly start up again. We’ll hear about some airplane in a far flung corner of Indonesia that’s still flying because somebody forgot to tell the pilot the airline shut down. But for now, it appears to be over.
World Airways – March 27, 2014
I have to admit to having a soft spot for World Airways. When I was a kid, World brought me to Hawai’i (which is why I included the vintage logo). But World was actually a very important carrier to the US, carrying troops all over the world. If you fought in Vietnam, you very likely flew on World at some point. In Vietnam, World is famous for operating the last flight out of Da Nang before the fall to the north. The 727 was overloaded with over 300 people (more than double its capacity). A grenade damaged the left wing and the runway was blocked so the pilots had to use a taxiway to depart. It was nothing short of incredible. In its later years, World suffered when military movements went down. The company was gobbled up with North American and ATA into one company. They were all run straight into the ground.
Lakeshore Express – April 1, 2014
The idea behind Lakeshore Express must have seemed good to someone, but it wasn’t going to work. The airline contracted for some Saab 340s and flew them between Chicago/Midway and Pellston way up in Northern Michigan as well as Oakland County Airport near Detroit. In theory, the airline only failed because the company it contracted with to fly the airplanes quit flying them. But I think we know that’s just an excuse.
Fly540 Angola and Ghana – April 29, 2014
This one is confusing, so stick with me. Fly540 was a low cost operator in Africa that ended up getting into a complex relationship with fastJet. FastJet is an effort to bring European-style low cost carriers to Africa, but it hasn’t worked all that well yet. And the relationship between fastJet and Fly540 has been rocky. With Fly540 struggling, the decision was made to shut down the Angola and Ghana operations to focus on Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania) and southern Africa. So those particular parts of Fly540 are gone. Get it? Good.
North American Airlines – April 29, 2014
North American’s origins were actually pretty interesting. The airline was started to fly domestically in the US and feed passengers on to El Al’s flights to Tel Aviv. North American eventually grew and tried some really dumb things. It was an ill-fated experiment flying from Oakland to Hawai’i that got me onboard in 2005. Why? Well heck, it was cheap. I was happy. The airline ended up becoming sister carriers with ATA and World, all of which are toast. North American somehow held on until its final assets were sold off to Omni earlier this year.
go! – March 31, 2014
I’ve already written about the death of go! and the airline’s sordid past so I won’t dwell on it too much here. Suffice it to say that there weren’t a lot of people shedding tears when go! shut down except for the very few people who lost jobs in the process. (Since Mesa owned go!, some went back to the mainland while others worked for local contractors.) Let’s just say good riddance to an airline that marked a dark period in Hawaiian aviation.
Bingo Airways – June 15, 2014
There’s really no good reason for me to write about Bingo Airways. It was just a small charter airline based in Poland that flew around to a few places with Airbuses. It wasn’t doing a very good job, apparently, so it had its certificate revoked by the Polish government. Oops. So why am I writing? This airline had a livery that made my images on this site look downright professional. The airplanes had a white body with a red nose and a smile underneath. Then it had 3 red vertical stripes on each engine. But the tail was the real masterpiece. It was all red with the name in Comic Sans. Seriously. Click that link above if you’d like to see it.
Tigerair Mandala – July 1, 2014
I feel like this won’t be the last Tigerair we see on this list. Less than a year before the airline shut down, Tigerair purchased a third of Mandala, which operated in Indonesia. It later increased its share to 38.5 percent. But just a few months later, Tigerair said “oops” and realized it was in such bad financial shape that it had to be shut down. Way to do your due diligence there, Tigerair. Then again, we probably shouldn’t be surprised.
Air Uganda – July 21, 2014
I’ll gladly give Air Uganda the award for the coolest logo. Tell me that doesn’t look awesome? But this is actually a pretty sad story. There was an audit of the government’s aviation office and it found serious deficiencies. So the decision was made to revoke all air operators certificates (AOC) for carriers flying internationally that were based in Uganda even though the issue was with the regulator and not the airlines. Air Uganda was the only passenger-carrying airline impacted. Without an AOC, it couldn’t fly. And that was it. It’s technically just suspended for now, but it’s been long enough that I think it’s safe to say we won’t see it flying in this form again.
FlyOlympic – July 29, 2014
This is not the Olympic you know from Greece. This one is actually from Sweden, of all places. FlyOlympic wasn’t actually an operating airline but it worked with others to fly for it. Unfortunately, its plan was very bad. I’ll let this blurb explain why. “Approximately 500 to 600 passengers are stranded in Somalia, Iraq and Eritrea because of cancelled flights, says Sweden’s Consumer Protection Agency.” When you think of places that an airline should be able to profitably fly, those countries are not usually on the list unless it’s carrying troops.
Dobrolet – August 4, 2014
We’ve already talked about Dobrolet here on the blog. Remember, that was the airline that got caught up in the whole Crimea mess. Eventually sanctions put the airline out of business. Now it’s been resurrected as Pobeda. With oil prices plunging, maybe Dobrolet was lucky to go out of business. After all, the economy is not looking good in Russia these days.
Greenland Express – September 18, 2014
I think I figured out the fatal flaw here. Nobody lives in Greenland. Greenland Express contracted with Denim Air to fly twice weekly Fokker 100 flights between Copenhagen and Greenland. That giant island has only 55,000 people, give or take. Oh, and the Fokker couldn’t fly nonstop between the two cities so it stopped in Iceland. What a hot mess. It shut down almost immediately and now it’s back to the drawing board. Apparently they think that bigger airplanes that can fly nonstop will be the answer. Yeah, that’s it. We’ll never see it fly again.
PEOPLExpress – September 26, 2014
Oh, PEOPLExpress, you never had a chance. I mean, I always assumed this attempted reincarnation would fail. Nobody succeeds with a hub in Newport News. But I didn’t think it would be quite as spectacular of a failure as it was. Vision, the airline that operated PEOPLExpress flights, had some airplanes damaged and that was it. PEOPLExpress just shut down. Passengers were pissed. Newport News was pissed (it’s owed a lot of money). And all the airline could do was promise it would come back. Deadlines have been missed, and that’s just not going to happen. For all those people trying to reincarnate other dead airlines, take note. You’ll end up following the same path.
Valuair – October 26, 2014
Valuair should feel used. Because it was. Jetstar bought Valuair ages ago and wanted to merge it into the main brand but it couldn’t. See, Indonesia got strict about allowing airlines to fly there. Valuair was already in the market so it could continue to fly but Jetstar couldn’t get in. So Valuair remained as the arm of Jetstar that was completely separate (yeah, right) that flew to Indonesia. Once those restrictions were lifted, Valuair was toast. Jetstar took over in October.
Air One – November 1, 2014
Air One should have ceased to exist long ago. It was merged with Alitalia a couple of restructuring attempts ago, but inexplicably the Air One name was kept around to be sort of a low cost carrier. It was silly, but hey, it’s Alitalia, right? Once Etihad got its paws on this mess, it decided to kill Air One as a brand almost immediately. Most of the flights it operated disappeared as well. This should have been killed long ago.
AirTran – December 28, 2014
Last night, AirTran flight 1 landed in Tampa and AirTran was no more. This is an airline with nine lives to be sure. When it started as ValuJet, it was such a simple plan. Fly from Atlanta to places people want to go for cheap. No tickets (my flight to New Orleans in 1994 was the first time I ever flew on an e-ticket) and a casual, fun atmosphere. Of course, ValuJet was a mess and had all kinds of safety problems. When an airplane went down in the Everglades (interestingly, mostly because a contractor screwed up), that was the end. But did ValuJet really die? No. It just merged itself into little AirTran and took the name. From there, it grew like a weed and became a reliable low fare airline. It’s been more than 4 years since Southwest bought AirTran but only yesterday did the name finally get retired. And with it, the AirTran 717s disappeared as well, headed to a new life with Delta. Many in smaller towns will miss AirTran, primarily since Southwest walked away from those cities. And many others will miss AirTran for it assigned seating and business class cabin. Southwest doesn’t do that. But I can’t say I ever would have picked AirTran to last this long back when it was ValuJet. Now, the end has finally come.
Tomb of the Unknown Airline
- Central Connect Airlines
- City Airways
- Eznis Airways
- Gorkha Airlines
- Helitt Líneas Aéreas
- Imatong Airlines
- JAL Express
- Krohn Air
- Moldavian Airlines
- Moskovia Airlines
- PAL Chile
- Rostock Airways
- Siam General Aviation
- Small Planet Italy (and FlyPlanet)
- Vincent Aviation
- Vladivostok Avia
- Wat Phnom Airlines
Oh, and there were 8 tiny airlines in the Congo which you’ve never heard of and would never fly if you had any sense of sanity.
That’s it for this year. We’ll take a look at 2015 a year from now. There are already some airlines circling the drain. (SpiceJet, I’m talking about you.)
Thank you, thank you for the feature on Comic Sans, my least favorite font.
You know.. I kindof like Bingo’s livery.. Its like PSA’s younger brother.
Hey, its at least better than the livery that United announced when they first merged with Continental. (It never got painted onto a plane.)
Do you have a link to that proposed livery? I’d be interested in seeing that.
I could be wrong, but I believe this is it. The only real difference is that it has a terrible font and spacing on the name.
Yeah, the livery was going to be identical but they were going to use the
old Continental serif font for the name. It looked pretty dated.
Did they name their Bingo Buses? I’m thinking “Chuckles” and “Bozo” for starters.
I flew World Airways way back in 1971 on a trip to Europe. Much different than today of course with larger seats, legroom and no extra charge for food. No high tech back then so you either brought something to read, slept, looked out the window or just stare at the back of the seat. :)
RIP Airtran. It’s a darn shame Southwest didn’t incorporate anything from them.
Also with flyolympic, what were they smoking? They must have been sharing with peoplexpress.
Most of these carriers I’ve never heard of. Airlines that come and go in a short period of time you just think should never have even started. But carriers that have been around for awhile, make you wonder what went wrong.
One big issue for PEOPLExpress was using Vision Airlines that couldn’t even operate its own scheduled airline fron a city no one knew about until it tried.
The PeopleExpress fiasco was a good one.
Honestly, I was surprised they even got off the ground in the first place.
I had the honor of flying on AirTran 1 last night, and I was pretty impressed. From the moment I arrived at the gate in ATL, to an hour and a half after arrival at TPA, it was a nonstop party.
I wonder, did they over cater the liquor cart? Seems like lots of people would be buying on that flight..
Cocktails were free and they had plenty left when we landed. They also did a champagne service after they finished the normal beverage service.
That’s great. I traveled TPA-ATL last night on Delta and almost walked over to C Concourse after returning to see AirTran flight 1 off. Should have done it.
Many memories of flying AirTran and ValuJet from ATL to TPA and return, plus in and out of Piedmont Triad International Airport (GSO) when I lived in NC.
Bye, Critter/Citrus. You were the little airline that could. I am going to miss you!
Ennis was Mongolia’s largest airline at one point. I flew on their Saab 340B from Ulan Bator to Dalanzadgad, and it was modern, clean, and professional. Sad to see them go.
I am also surprised about Eznis. Flew them from Ulaan Bataar to Bayan-Ulgii a couple years ago. Very professionally run, relatively new planes, European pilots, and a full plane both ways. Not to mention that Mongolia is a booming economy in a country that essentially doesn’t have roads between many cities – think of it as Asian Alaska.
The passing of AirTran makes me sad. As a former Indianapolis resident, I loved the frequent flights to ATL and various spots in Florida as well as the ability to select seats and upgrade to the front of the plane with a nominal fee. Southwest never had any intentions of incorporating any of AirTran’s network or services. They just wanted to put an emerging competitor out of business and this was the way to do it. Also, it seems that only after the imminent death of AirTran that Southwest has become a full-fledged “normal cost carrier”. They like to brag about the low cost but, at least from Chicago, AA and UA are often cheaper, have more frequent flights, and a rewards program that actually provides free tickets to cool places (unless, of course, you’re excited for your ticket to see Grandma in Jackson, Mississippi).
A lot of people like to forget that Southwest includes several things in that fare that the others don’t. If you want to take bags or might need to change your flight, Southwest provides more value. Also, Rapid Rewards is very useful for shorter cheaper domestic flights. I fly MSY-DAL at least 6 times a year and never pay cash for it. AirTran definitely had it’s benefits, and it’s always sad to see less competition in the marketplace, but people like to give SWA a lot more shit than they deserve.
Don’t confuse Low Cost Carrier with low price tickets. LCC refers to the airlines’ costs to operate, and yes – Southwest isn’t either of those things any more.
Good job, CF: last year I could think of a couple airlines (mentioned in comments later on), this year till the very end I didn’t believe you’ll mention Livingston, but you did, thus happy with the list!
However, I can think of one more: Hamburg Airways who hasn’t flown since 20DEC14 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamburg_Airways ). Technically not bankrupt, but operations are suspended and AOC is revoked; therefore, likely not to fly again… at least not any time soon!
Ah, well I did put this together before that one happened. But that’s
pretty recent so I’m not sure if it’ll be worth counting just yet.
Probably gone though.
there is another one: Polet Airlines (operated 28 a/c, sort of (since their alleged route map didn’t match reality)). Has suspended operations since 28th of November. AOC also revoked, even though could be that it was revoked only in 2015 (02.jan.15).
Thanks for that. Hadn’t heard of them – sounds like an… interesting
I find it interesting how much AirTran and Delta’s history are intertwined. ValuJet’s first plane was a Delta DC-9 and now AirTran’s last planes are going to Delta. AirTran Corp. started as a holding company for Mesaba Airlines who eventually ended up owned by Delta (before merging into Pinnacle and becoming part of Delta again).
I also want to add Cranky that Chautauqua Airlines will be disappearing December 31st as it is merged into Shuttle America.
Daniel – Oh wow, I didn’t realize Chautauqua’s days were coming to a close
so soon. Then again, that’s almost insignificant in the eyes of most
people. It’s not even a merger, of course. It’s just using one certificate
instead of two now that airline contracts allow it. But still, it means
I’ll have fewer opportunities to horribly misspell the airline’s name.
I’ve flown some of those airlines in the Congo, by choice, and I feel I have a general level of sanity. Which are the 8 that went bankrupt this year? I flew ITAB (“International Trans Air Business” in one of the stranger airline names) on one of the oldest 737s I’ve ever seen earlier this year and it was alright.
Simon – I show Air Baraka, Gisair, Goma Express, Lubumbashi Air Service,
Okapi Airlines, Pegasus Aviation, Sion Airlines, and Tracep Congo Aviation.
I can’t stop smiling about Bingo’s livery. Change the Comic Sans to something sane (Trade Gothic?) and I think it’s awesome. It’s friendlier than Southwest’s heart, even.
I actually flew Air Uganda about 1.5 years ago. It was an RJ flight to Dar es Salaam and was fine. The logo is cool but kinda difficult to understand visually from a distance or on a moving tail. It is not surprising that there were regulatory compliance issues with the aviation authority.
missing Chataqua….rolled into republic…predictions for 2015 of failed airlines or merged …= eastern, sun country, frontier, baltia air, alaska, hawaiian
Maybe Baltia, but the rest are uninformed choices. Eastern is well capitalized. Sun Country is rebounding. Frontier is fine and using a new model with new investors. Alaska and Hawaiian are no where near death, and merger rumors are unfounded.
Now that air Tran is gone so will the free bags at SWA. Air Tran made to much money doing that and SWA will continue with that air Tran model.
Source? Oh, that’s right, you’re just making wild conjectures. AirTran never had anything to do with the way WN ran it’s business.
You left out Evergreen Air Cargo in Oregon, and I think Ryan International folded in early 2014 or late 2013.
Rusty – Evergreen officially shut down New Years Eve last year and didn’t
make it into the post. But it was discussed in the comments. Ryan Intl
went bust January 2013 so it was in last year’s post:
Lao Central Airlines is missing on this list
cpt73 – Really? Do you have anything showing they’ve shut down? They
still have an operational website but I don’t see flights available.
Still, I can’t find anything saying one way or the other.
Good column, but please remember that operations such as the new PeoplExpress are NOT airlines. When a tour company or wholesaler slaps its logo on someone else’s certificated aircraft, leasing plane and crew, that does not make an airline. In the US, the FAA & DOT frown upon airline wannabes that call themselves airlines.
Former aviation reporter
Former airline corporate communications director
writerross – For the purposes of this column, we’ll count them as
airlines. But I did note in the People Express bit that there were issues
with the actual airline operating airplanes for the outfit. But yes, fair
Gambia Bird Airlines shut down today.
Another one bites the dust. Something tells me these guys would have ended
up in the Tomb of the Unknown Airline.
Low cost Jet Konnect and cargo carrier Rayyan Air are missing from the list, both Asian.
Can’t say I’ve ever heard of Rayyan Air, but yep, looks like it should be
on there. Good catch on JetKonnect. Not really an airline but just a
brand I suppose. But it’s worth noting for sure.
Is Malu actually one of the Congolese airlines? I always considered going there to fly on their Nord 262 but never got around to it.
No Malu was not on the list