Welcome to my favorite post of the year. This year, we had far fewer entries than in last year’s bloodbath, but that’s because the herd was really culled when the pandemic began. This year is full of stragglers who somehow held on longer but ultimately failed. It may not be as big of a crowd this year, but we do have some worthy failures, so don’t worry.
Thank you once again to ch-aviation for helping me fill in the gaps. The depth of the ch-aviation database know no bounds.
Norwegian Air UK (United Kingdom) and Long Haul (Ireland) – January 14, 2021
Norwegian had spun such a web here, that I honestly can’t even tell you if these subsidiaries are truly gone or if they somehow exist in some new form or not. What I do know is that Norwegian has decided it will not return to the long-haul world, and that should naturally mean that Norwegian Long Haul, the Irish subsidiary flying 787s, is gone. Norwegian UK which did 787 flying out of, ahem, the UK, should also be gone since its only 737 was pulled off the certificate back in 2019. I think Norwegian Air International out of Ireland is gone too, but who can really be sure?
SilkAir (Singapore) – January 28, 2021
When it began under the name Tradewinds, Singapore Airlines used its subsidiary to fly charters to leisure destinations. After more than a decade, it went into the scheduled business, and in 1992 it took on the name SilkAir. Silk became Singapore’s narrowbody workhorse, flying 737s and A320s where widebodies wouldn’t fit the bill. Unlike another subsidiary, Scoot, SilkAir wasn’t billed as a low-cost carrier. It was a full service operator that just used smaller airplanes. It only took Singapore 45 years to say, “hey, why don’t we just fly these smaller airplanes under our brand?’ And just like that, SilkAir was gone.
Thomas Cook Balearics (Spain) – January 31, 2021
Thomas Cook spectacularly imploded in 2019, but it had several subsidiaries in far flung locations that didn’t go away. The Danish subsidiary went out on its own and became Sunclass. Also, German airline Condor was supported by the German government until it could stand on its own. And then there was the curious case of Thomas Cook Balearics. The Balearics subsidiary was only founded in 2017 in Mallorca as a way to get cheaper labor and more flexible aircraft routings. After Thomas Cook failed, the Balearics airline kept flying its 6 aircraft on behalf of Condor. It did that for awhile until its new ownership decided that was dumb, and it would be better off just shutting the thing down.
Air Namibia (Namibia) – February 10, 2021
You may not know much about Air Namibia, but it was one of the oldest airlines in the world to fail this year. The airline incredibly made it 75 years from when it was founded as South West Air Transport, later South West Airways. Until 1990, Namibia was a territory known as South West Africa, so the name was certainly appropriate. That is where the airline got its SW code, one that Southwest Airlines would have gladly used if the option was readily available back in the day. Air Namibia took its current name in 1991, and flew some heavy metal, including 747s. To the surprise of nobody, that strategy and many others resulted in heavy losses, and the Namibian government finally cut the cord this year.
Sky Regional Airlines (Canada) – March 30, 2021
Sky Regional is one of those airlines that might sound vaguely familiar, or maybe not. But if you flew smaller aircraft in Air Canada colors, you may very well have flown this airline. Sky Regional was originally a Porter killer. It flew Q400s starting with the Toronto/City – Montreal route. By 2013, it became the Embraer 175 operator for Air Canada, and the Q400s left the fleet in 2017. At its peak, it flew 25 of the Embraers. Air Canada eventually turned to its old sweetheart Jazz and decided to consolidate its regional flying with that airline. This year, the whole fleet was transferred over the Jazz, and an undoubtedly sad crew flew the airline’s last flight from an equally sad Newark. What a way to go out.
SpiceShuttle (India) – April 15, 2021
I can’t figure this one. Is it still an airline? Will it fly? Will it not? This remains to be seen, but I’m calling this dead unless there’s a resurrection. India’s SpiceJet got the brilliant idea that it could fly float planes, and it did so, if ever so briefly, at the end of 2020. The service didn’t last with that whole pandemic thing going on, and so it was shut down. There have been reports of it coming back, but the best I can tell it still hasn’t flown again. News on this is pretty spotty, but it seems like an uphill battle to get this thing back up and running again. Then again, most of us had left SpiceJet itself for dead long ago, and it’s still flying, so who really knows?
Mango (South Africa) – April 28, 2021 and again July 27
Oh Mango. This airline deserves the award for the biggest mess of 2021. Mango is a wholly-owned subsidiary of South African Airways, so it’s kind of like when a child of terrible parents turns out to be terrible… it just had no choice in the matter. The idea back in 2006 was to make Mango a low-cost operator that could compete with other airlines since South African isn’t capable of competing with anyone. Mango has been caught up in the South African reorg, and in April it ran out of money and was shut down. Then best I can tell, it did fly again, only to be cut one more time in July. I think. Either way, I know for sure it isn’t flying now. It remains to be seen whether it will end up being extricated from this South African mess, or if it will just disappear for good, but I’m more than happy to call this one dead for now.
Stobart Air (Ireland) – June 12, 2021
Stobart Air sounds vaguely familiar, right? The airline out of Ireland had its fingers in all sorts of trouble. It used to be called Aer Arann and flew as a regional with Aer Lingus. Had it just done that, it would probably still be flying. (In fact, a new airline Emerald is being started to take over that flying.) When it became Stobart in 2014, it started flying for Flybe, got bigger airplanes, and then even ended up flying for KLM… for a month. Things really took a turn when Stobart partnered with Virgin Atlantic to create Connect Airways and take over Flybe. That was a dismal failure, and Flybe shut down a year after the takeover. Stobart came back to its roots as an Aer Lingus operator, but then it lost the contract. And now it has disappeared.
Great Dane Airlines (Denmark) – October 11, 2021
What a weird little airline this was. Every time I think of the airline, I just imagine a cabin full of giant dogs, but in this case, Great Dane referred to Denmark and not the lovable and lazy canines. The airline picked up two Embraer 195s from Stobart, and began flying in 2019. It did charters but also some scheduled flying, including Aalborg to Dublin as its first scheduled route. In 2020, things weren’t looking so great, and the airline leased airplanes out to Bamboo Airways since it had no better use itself. There was all kinds of drama with this airline, including a founder who had to step down thanks to lying on his resume. Anyway, it gave up and is gone, so we can now forget about it.
Alitalia (Italy) – October 14, 2021
And there she is, the grand dame herself. The worst airline ever finally died. Or did it? I mean, it also died in 2009, 2015… you get the point. This airline lives as long as the Italian government lets it. But as has been well documented, the Europeans were no longer willing to let the Italians pour more money in, so the Italians had to go and create ITA as a new airline to replace Alitalia. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still the same thing, but technically the Alitalia name is no more, so this airline does indeed belong on this list.
Blue Panorama (Italy) – October 27, 2021
Blue Panorama has actually been around for a couple of decades, which in Italy is a pretty impressive feat. I honestly can’t figure out how it lasted that long. The airline flew mostly 737s with some 767s. It replaced those 767s with fewer A330s, but it decided to rebrand as Luke Air in the process. The airplanes were painted, but it doesn’t appear that Luke Air ever actually flew. It did have a Blu-express sub-brand at one point, but that’s gone. And now, well, the whole thing has been shut down. It ran out of money, but it wants to try and restart. Since this is Italy, nothing would surprise me, but this is even more confusing than usual.
Ultimate Air Shuttle (USA) – December 16, 2021
This is another questionable one. Ultimate Air Shuttle has an underlying charter operation that, best I can tell, is still operating as normal. But the airline’s scheduled charter operation which focused on connecting business travelers to close-in airports others don’t serve, like Cincinnati/Lunken, was suspended in 2020 and then again just this month. Will it come back? This probably has the best chance of any airline on this list this year, especially whenever business travel returns, but I honestly don’t know so I figure it’s best to just call it dead and see if it rises again.
Tomb of the Unknown Airline
- Aerogalan (Colombia)
- Aerotranscargo NL (Netherlands)
- Air Antwerp (Belgium)
- Atlantis Armenian Airlines (Armenia)
- ITA (Brazil)
- JetReady Aircraft Charter (USA)
- Pacific Air Express (Australia)
- Petroamazonas (Ecuador)
- Samoa Airways (Samoa)
- Southeast Aviation (USA)
- Southern Air (USA)
- Stout Flying Service (USA)
- SUN-AIR Germany (Germany)
- VolDirect (France)
- West Wind Aviation (Canada)
Alitalia is alive and well as ITA. Nothing has changed. It is smaller in size, but with the same toxic, selfish, greedy unions in place and an unworkable network that doesn’t generate profits, that will assure it will fail just like its predecessor.
It’ll eventually fail, but not before hoovering up vast amounts of subsidies from the Italian government, which will make the EU wring its hands and bemoan illegal state aid but do nothing, as they did for decades with Alitalia until the excuses just ran out.
Alitalia, in one form or another, will survive until just before the heat death of the universe, outlasted only by Her Majesty the Queen, Keith Richards, Tom Brady, and a few DC-3s.
I’ve never flown UAS but have always been a fan of their concept.
I’m not sure how flexible their lease agreements are on the planes they use for their scheduled service, but I really hope they make it to the other side of the downturn in business travel and can restart service.
Have flown them several times and am a huge fan. Not only did they depart from Part 135 FBOs but they offered free wine, cheese plates and one of the best aircraft around – the 328.
At the risk of being cynical, do you sometimes think European airlines would perform better if they just concentrated on the flying rather than building these ridiculously convoluted corporate structures and multiple brands?
(Looking your way, Lufthansa.)
It certainly adds overhead (marketing, management, aircraft painting and re-painting), customer confusion. Since it is also designed to save labor cost, it also pisses off crew and leads to labor action. I, too, find it difficult to believe that it’s worth it. KISS…
Craig – Unfortunately sometimes they don’t have the choice. Many of these countries require keeping things separate for pride reasons. It’s certainly not for business reasons! But LH has perfected the ability to make things even more convoluted than normal. They then decide it’s time to make it less convoluted so they spend even more money and time restructuring every few years. It’s a silly cycle, that’s for sure.
With Air Namibia demise, one has to wonder if Southwest is going to try to change its IATA designator symbol to “SW”.
Do they allow that? Some airports have been trying to change their codes for years (e.g. Fresno from “FAT” to “FYI” for “Fresno-Yosemite International) with no luck.
I got curious and looked up SUX (Sioux City Gateway). Apparently they didn’t like the options that the FAA offered for alternative airport codes (one of which was “GAY”, not kidding), and decided to just embrace the SUX code, to the point that they run marketing campaigns and sell merchandise around it, and even promote the Sioux City area with it.
I really don’t think that “FAT” is that bad of an airport code, especially for a smaller airport; at least it’s memorable, and there are certainly worse ones.
Helsinki has done probably the best job overall in embracing their airport code. All around the airport are “life in hel” hashtag signs. Perfect Instagram opportunity for a certain generation.
Just to clarify, I’m referring to the airline’s IATA code – i.e., “WN” in the case of Southwest. Air Namibian code was “SW.”
Air Namibia’s code was SW. I hate spell check.
Is Samoa Airways dead? They have no int’l service since the country has closed itself off to the outside world, but a ch-aviation article last month still listed some limited domestic prop service.
Their website does say all sales offices are closed, which makes it pretty hard to operate, but the governmental propping up of this airline is as bad as Italy or South Africa. It looks like they still have a leased 737 sitting in Brisbane.
Yes, Samoa was a tough one. I believe they have broken the lease on the 737 and given up on all jet flying. I didn’t see any proof of flights actually operating, and they don’t seem to have any domestic flights for sale on their booking engine. So, I don’t really know if it’s dead or not, but it was close enough.
Wikipedia hasn’t killed off Samoa Airways yet but they certainly haven’t been seen here in AKL since early 2020. They may still be flying between the islands of Upolu and Savai’i but it doesn’t look like it. The flights from Apia to Pago Pago don’t seem to be operating either. Air New Zealand is still flying supply flights between Auckland & Apia return, but we Kiwis can’t travel there.
If I understand, Southern’s certificate was merged into Atlas Air Inc.’s certificate November 2021.
Ahhh, Blue Panorama… in 2012, to much fanfare — at least in Nicawawa, they flew FCO-HAV-MGA-FCO. The service lasted three (3) months. Load factors were mostly in the single digits — including the inaugurals!
The FAs were a nice addition to the Crowne Plaza Bar. AND they did bring in a lion for the National Zoo.
Does the “reincarnated” Midwest Express Airlines count as a failure this year? Happy New Year
Angry Bob – You have to actually fly paying passengers to count!
You missed Tayaran from Bulgaria
And EGO Airways in Italy, and maybe also Litorali in Italy and Meer Express in Germany
No doubt, the most devastating loss here is SilkAir. I mean, come on, it was my favorite name in the industry.
Pacific Air Express is indeed gone – I will miss seeing that 757 parked between flights here in Brisbane.
Cranky, you should start out the year by doing an Airlines We Gained. It can be your new favorite post of the year.
Air Namibia nurtured unrealistic dreams of operating to the USA at a time when it still couldn’t make money flying to Germany. Initially they filed plans for New York and later Miami and Houston instead. An FAA inspection team didn’t find either the country or airline suitable for US services but by then it seems the idea had fallen by the wayside anyway.
Air Namibia never made a profit – Namibia is thinly populated with only 2.1 million people calling it home, and at the time of its demise its only longhaul destination was Frankfurt.
Operating a small national airline in Africa is hard work – infrastructure, high operating costs, volatility of local currencies against the US dollar, small fleets with long haul routes and competition from foreign airlines. Profitability is hard to come by.