UPDATED (9/10/19): Airline bankruptcies, 2019 list is open
One month and a half into 2019 and we have the first, but surely not the last, airline demise of the year: Germania (of Germany, as it is obvious from the name) ceased operations on Feb 5th.
In order to keep track, as closely as possible, of the airlines that stop operating I have decided to make this post, that will act like an open list that will be updated throughout the year as, inevitably, more airlines go broke.
Airlines that stopped flying in 2018
(this is not an exhaustive list, but I think it gets most of the largest or more relevant ones)
- Primera Air (Denmark)
The transatlantic long haul low cost market proved a bit too tough for Primera. It was expected to be the launch operator of the Airbus A321LR, an honour that then went to Israeli carrier Arkia
- Saratov Airlines (Russia)
One of the World’s few operators of the Antonov An-148 aircraft. This Russian regional airline (based in the city of the same name) had ambitious growth plans and new aircraft on order when tragedy struck. It only lasted a matter of months after one of its An-148 aircraft crashed with no survivors and its AOC was revoked.
- Small Planet Airlines (Lithuania)
A charter and leisure operator with subsidiaries in several countries (the successor to another airline called FlyLaL). It had a fresh, colourful branding that back in the day, we covered in this blog.
- Privat Air (Switzerland)
A charter and ACMI operator with a strong focus on business and VIP flights. It has operated some business-oriented routes on behalf of Lufthansa.
- Skywork Airlines (Switzerland)
Its been tough times for Swiss regional airlines: FlyBaboo, Darwin Airline (after changing hands to Etihad then to Adria Airlines) and now Skywork. All gone.
An airline that aimed to fill the void left by the demise of the old Cyprus Airways and make of Cyprus a major air hub. It had a promising start, but turbulence soon started, including some abrupt managerial changes. Lack of additional funding sealed its fate.
- VLM Airlines
One of the last operators of Fokker 50 aircraft. It went from a profitable niche operation out of Belgium and London City to several changes of ownership and finally a period as charter operator.
- FlyViking (Norway)
A small regional airline in Northern Norway
- Dart Airlines (Ukraine)
Although it had been operating for quite a few years, it is only recently that this Ukrainian airline entered the scheduled market.
- Nextjet (Sweden)
A regional operator in Sweden. As a curiosity it operated Bae ATP aircraft, a not too common type
- OneJet (US)
It attempted to do something quite difficult: operate a hybrid between regular commercial flights and executive jet service. Didn’t work.
- Wataniya Airways (Kuwait)
This airline folded twice. Its latest re-emergence didn’t last long. It had only one operational aircraft, but more than 25 Airbuses on order
- PAWA Dominicana (Dominican Republic)
Any visitor to the Sonesta resort in Maho Beach, Sint Maarten, could tell when the PAWA flight was landing because of the extremely noisy approach of its old MD-80 series jets. No more.
- LC Perú
Declared insolvent just before the end of the year. It operated a domestic network with a mix of turboprops and B737 Classics.
- Bassaka Air (Cambodia)
A small airline (2 A320s) that operated mainly between its home country and China
- Air Bagan (Burma)
An ATR operator with a rather convulse history: hit by US sanctions against Burma a few years ago. First suspended operations in 2015, and later gave up its license in 2018.
- Zoom Air (India)
A small Indian airline operating CRJ200 aircraft. It got its license suspended due to safety concerns.
- Orient Thai Airlines (Thailand)
I just learned about this airline, that was actually operating pretty large aircraft (B747s and B767s, in addition to B737s). Looks like it had more than one brush-off with authorities due to safety and regulatory concerns before finally ending operations
Airlines that stopped flying in 2019
(this is not, by any means, an exhaustive list, feel free to send suggestions if some airline is missing)
- Germania (Germany)
Although little known outside Germany, its fleet of 30 aircraft (+25 on order) makes it hard to classify it as a “small” airline
- California Pacific (US)
A regional airline that operated mainly within California with ERJ145 jets
- Flybmi (UK)
The last remaining vestige of Bmi (British Midland International), once a relatively important player in the British airline industry, that was folded into British Airways in 2012. Bmi’s regional operation was purchased by private investors and continued to operate as an independent entity with Embraer ERJ135/145 until February 2019.
- Insel Air (Curaçao)
A airline that had seen better times. It served the Dutch Antilles and, previously quite a few destinations throughout the Caribbean and South America. It now operated only 3 Fokker 50s.
- Tajik Air (Tajikistan)
This was actually one of the oldest airlines in the World when it ceased operations in January 2019.
UPDATE: it looks like Tajik Air re-launched operations in the summer of 2019 after an 8-month hiatus. For the time being it seems to be operating a twice weekly frequency between Dushanbe and Mashhad (Iran) using a Boeing 767. So, at least for now, more of a temporary suspension of operations than a total shutdown.
- Asian Express Airline (Tajikistan)
Yet another airline from Tajikistan and one that I had not heard about before a reader brought it to my attention.
- WOW (Iceland)
In some ways, a pioneering trans-Atlantic lcc. Perhaps Iceland was two small to support two airlines of a certain size. Its colourful livery will be missed.
- Aerolíneas de Antioquía (Colombia)
A reader has alerted me of the demise of this small Colombian airline that operated a domestic network out of Medellín with Dornier 328-100 aircraft.
- Fly Jamaica Airways (Jamaica)
A one-aircraft airline that operated flights to the US and Canada from Jamaica and Guyana. It was left without aircraft after an emergency landing of its only B757 in November 2018.
- Air Philip (South Korea)
Another airline that I had not heard of before it stopped flying (thanks again to the readers for pointing this one out!). It operated a handful of ERJ145s out of Muan county, in the South-Western corner of South Korea
- Jet Airways (India)
The largest airline so far in this list and not a completely unexpected event, since it had been gradually winding down operations over the last few weeks. The grounding has been labelled as “temporary”, will see what happens. Despite the market’s amazing growth, it looks like it is tough being a full service airline in India.
- Wisdom Airways (Thailand)
A really small airline operating Cessna Caravans out of Chiang Mai. Once again, thanks to readers for pointing this one out!
- Avianca Brasil
With all flights suspended as of May 24, it looks like the ending chapter for the Brazilian subsidiary of the Colombian airline group. This puts an end to the Avianca Brasil’s agony, that had seen the airline drastically reducing the number of routes and aircraft it operated over the last few months.
- Avianca Argentina
The Argentinian subsidiary of the Colombian group shares the same fate than Avianca Brazil (detailed above), although in principle they are operationally separate and just share the brand. Difficult times for once-(relatively)mighty Avianca. In principle the ceasing of operations, announced in June, was meant to be for 180 days. Will update if there are changes.
- Al Naser Wings Airlines (Iraq)
A one aircraft airline (a Boeing 737-200) operating mainly between Iraq and Syria, not exactly a great market to be in right now.
- Aigle Azur (France) Having high profile investors such as David Neeleman and the Chinese group HNA has not prevented this French airline, that focused on the France to North Africa market from having to cease operations. Until very recently Aigle Azur had some ambitious growth plans that included the addition to its fleet of A330 aircraft
- XL Airways (France)
Quite a bad month for French airlines. XL Airways was a small (4 A330s) but entrepreneurial player in the long-haul market out of Paris. It operated a no-frills, ancillaries-focused low cost model and its CEO, Laurent Magnin took pride in delivering the lowest base fares in the market. This is yet another reminder of how hard it is to crack the long haul low cost market, particularly for smaller airlines.
- Thomas Cook (UK)
One of the big names of the travel industry and the firm that pioneered the tour-operator concept more than 150 years ago. This could be one of the largest airline bankruptcy in recent times, since its different subsidiaries have a combined fleet of more than 100 aircraft. The key question now is how to bring back home the thousands of tourists that have been left stranded all over the world.
- Adria (Slovenia)
The flag country of the, admittedly, small country of Slovenia. Adria had been lately focusing on ACMI services. For a short period of time and up until its closure in 2017, it also in charge of Darwin Airline, a Swiss regional airline based in Lugano. It also had a role in the launch of Estonian airline Nordica, an airline that has also experienced problems of its own and recently switched to the ACMI market. Adria currently had a fleet of 20 aircraft, a mix of A319s, CRJs and Saab 2000s. In principle Adria’s cessation of operations is “temporary”, but given the state of the market, it is unclear how it will get back on its feet.
- Peruvian Airlines (Peru)
A small domestic carrier that operated Boeing 737 Classics. Last year it was reported that Peruvian intended to get 10 Sukhoi Superjets and 10 MC-21s (the upcoming Russian mid-sized airliner). I guess this isn’t happening anytime soon.
- New Gen Airways (Thailand)
A reader has alerted me (thank you!) that this Thai airline, which operated 11 Boeing 737s (8 of them NGs) primarily between Thailand and China, stopped operating. Indeed, last August it suspended all flights and this October it has forfeited its whole fleet, so it looks unlikely it will re-launch.