It’s the end of the year, and you know what that means. As we do every year, it’s time to look back and remember those airlines we lost. The biggest surprise is that SpiceJet is not on this list. It was teetering last year, but it shrunk and recapitalized so it continues to live.
Once again, I turned to Thomas at the excellent ch-aviation site to make sure I had a complete list. Still, it’s always possible something was missed, so feel free to leave those in the comments below.
Cyprus Airways – January 9, 2015
The failure of Cyprus Airways is a tale as old as time. (No, not Beauty and the Beast; a different one.) Cyprus was the flag carrier in a small country with limited air service demand. That worked in the old days, but then low cost carriers invaded. There are a bunch of them in the market now from easyJet to Wizz (and Ryanair entering soon). That meant that there just wasn’t a place for Cyprus Airways to exist. The airline is gone, but air service in Cyprus continues to grow. Flag carriers just aren’t necessary in every country. Go ask Hungary about that.
Tyrolean – March 1, 2015
This story always made me feel kind of dirty. Tyrolean was a regional airline that was bought by Austrian. But once Lufthansa Group got its claws into Austrian, it saw problems. Notably, Lufthansa came to the conclusion that labor costs at Austrian were too high. No agreement could be reached, so guess what happened? Austrian stopped flying airplanes. That’s right. Tyrolean took over the entire fleet and operated all Austrian flights at a lower cost (using Austrian crews). Management finally got the concessions it wanted, so Tyrolean no longer needed to exist. Flights were transferred back to Austrian and Tyrolean disappeared. Dirty.
EuroLOT – March 31, 2015
EuroLOT started out as a regional airline in Poland, and it eventually became a regional feeder for LOT itself, ultimately flying only under the LOT name. If that were the end of the story, then EuroLOT might still exist today. Instead, it was turned into a semi-low cost carrier type of operation and started flying under its own name. This was a disaster. The entire airline was such a mess, that the decision was made to just shut the whole thing down. That was probably the best strategy the airline had.
B&H Airlines – June 11, 2015
After the Soviet Union fell apart, many Eastern European countries formed their own airlines, and this was one of those. It started as Air Bosna in 1994, but it eventually shut down and came back to life as the national carrier of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2005. The airline never did well, but at one point it had a lifeline thrown by Turkish Airlines. If this sounds a lot like Air Serbia and Etihad, it does… except for the part where Turkish realized this was a bad idea and walked away. The airline only had a couple of props to its name and it never prospered. Eventually the government gave up and shut it down, letting other airlines fill the (very tiny) void in Sarajevo.
Syphax Airlines – July 31, 2015
There were such high hopes for Syphax. In the wake of the Arab Spring overthrow of the Tunisian government, Syphax was founded by a local businessman. The airline had big plans, it picked up some widebodies and even placed orders for A320neos. But the airline never found solid financial footing, and the Tunisian market didn’t flourish as hoped. As the losses mounted, the orders were canceled and the airline shut down. There was word that it was going to restart with new capital, but I don’t believe that ever actually happened. Put this into the growing pile of broken dreams in that region.
SkyGreece – August 27, 2015
What a silly idea this was. SkyGreece was actually a Canadian-owned airline primarily meant to connect Greek people in Canada and the US with their homeland. The airline picked up a 767 and actually briefly flew to Montreal, Toronto, and New York. But as silly as the idea was, the execution was worse. Flights were unreliable (it used contractors which it apparently didn’t like to pay) and within a couple months, this experiment was done. It never should have made it off the ground in the first place.
CanJet – September 2, 2015
You might be asking yourself “Didn’t CanJet fail years ago?” Well yes, and no. CanJet has had nine lives, or close to it. After starting in 1999, it soon merged with Canada 3000, an airline that failed shortly after. It came back as an independent airline in 2002 and flew for four years until that didn’t work. Then, it became a charter carrier. Things were looking up as it picked up some charter business and began to grow. Ultimately, it lost the bulk of its business, and that was that. It was finally put to sleep this year.
BizAir Shuttle – September 3, 2015
Remember how I said SkyGreece was a silly idea? BizAir Shuttle makes SkyGreece look brilliant. When United Express carrier SkyWest retired its last props, it had to cancel service to a handful of cities including Carlsbad in North San Diego County. That was the last commercial service at the airport, so somebody thought there was opportunity. They took a Dornier 328JET (one of the few commercial jets that could operate on that short runway) and flew it to LA and Vegas. The problem in LA was that BizAir Shuttle had no agreements with other airlines, so it was a cumbersome process to fly anywhere beyond LA… and nobody wanted to just fly to LA. Demand tanked and service disappeared. I just wish I had flown the 328JET when I had the chance.
Korongo Airlines – September 4, 2015
It might not seem surprising to hear about yet another failed airline in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After all, most of them fail or crash (or both) at some point. But Korongo was going to be different. Brussels Airlines wanted to have a feeder operation in Congo for some time. (As a former colony, Congo has plenty of Belgian business interests.) After one aborted attempt, Korongo was founded with 70 percent owned by a Belgian consortium including Brussels Airlines. The airline’s launch was delayed multiple times, but it did finally get airborne. Why did it fail? This is the saddest thing. It had an incident with the only airplane in its fleet and couldn’t operate. Looking at the competitive landscape, they figured it best to just quit.
Virgin Atlantic Little Red – September 26, 2015
2015 clearly was the year for many bad ideas to fail. Though to be fair, Little Red wasn’t started for commercial reasons alone. When British Airways bought bmi, it had to divest some slots at Heathrow. Some of those were set aside to serve UK destinations. Virgin Atlantic thought it worth a go, so it contracted with Aer Lingus to operate Little Red flights to Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Manchester. Planes were empty, fares were low, and the service hemorrhaged. Presumably once Delta took its stake in Virgin Atlantic, it told the airline to knock it off. So it did.
US Airways – October 17, 2015
This has already been covered extensively, but 2015 marked the official end of US Airways. In reality, US Airways died in 2005 when it was days away from liquidation. America West’s decision to step in and put together a merger was the only thing that kept US Airways going. Really, the surviving airline was America West, but since they kept the US Airways name, it seemed otherwise. After the American merger, it was only a matter of time until the US Airways name was gone. That day came on October 17 when flights were all sold under American’s code. US Airways was an unlikely survivor and the last airline born as one of the original local service airlines in the US. It should be remember for that. (Just forget about all the bad stuff.)
Transaero – October 26, 2015
When the Soviet Union fell apart, it wasn’t just Eastern European countries that formed their own airlines. New airlines began to pop up in Russia itself to challenge Aeroflot. Transaero actually started by leasing airplanes from Aeroflot and was the first private scheduled carrier in Russia. It made bold moves, including operating Western-built aircraft early in its life. The airline grew a lot, but not in a seemingly smart way. It had a motley fleet with a bunch of different classes of service. As the Russian economy tanked, Transaero’s past issues began to catch up to it. With a crushing debt load, it was forced to shut down and its fleet scattered to anyone who showed an interest.
Estonian Air – November 8, 2015
Estonian was another one of those airlines that came out of the break-up of the Soviet Union, and like Air Lituanica from its neighbor Lithuania, Estonian didn’t make it through 2015. Estonian first caught my attention in 1999 when I visited Helsinki. I didn’t realize until then that Tallinn, the capital, was a mere 63 miles by air from Helsinki. As far as air service goes, Tallinn wasn’t a huge market, but low cost carriers had begun to creep in as they did in Cyprus. easyJet, Norwegian, Ryanair, and Vueling all have a presence at the airport. There just wasn’t a need for another flag carrier.
Island Airlines – December 11, 2015
If you’re like me, you probably thought this was Island Air in Hawai’i. After all, that airline hasn’t been doing well and has struggled to find its place in the world. But Island Air keeps flying. This is Island Airlines, the oldest airline to fail on this year’s list. It had been flying to Nantucket since 1930. The predecessor to Island Airlines was the first to fly into Nantucket, long before Sandpiper and Aeromass launched their brutal rivalry. Times changed, and eventually, Island Airlines just didn’t see a way to continue.
Those are the most notable failures this year, but as usual there were many more that I didn’t feature. Here they are.
Tomb of the Unknown Airline
- Adriatic Skyways
- Air Lituanica
- Air Melbourne
- Ak Bars Aero
- Alitalia Express
- Appalachian Air
- Asia Airways
- Business Air (Thailand)
- Falcon Air Express
- Fil-Asian Airways
- Freedom Air (Guam)
- Guinea Lineas Aéreas
- KAPO Aviakompania
- LAC (Lignes Aériennes Congolaises)
- León Airlines
- Nordic Flyways
- Nordic Global Airlines
- Midex Airlines
- Osprey Wings
- Pegasus Asia
- Seabird Airlines
- Sky Bishkek
- Skyforce Aviation
- Snowbird Airlines
- South Supreme Airlines
- Southeast Airlines (Kenya)
- Transportes Generales Aéreos
- Turks Air Cargo
- Volare Airlines
- Wizz Air Ukraine
Rest in peace, failed airlines. Let’s hope for fewer failures in 2016.