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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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’s origins were actually pretty interesting. The airline was started to fly domestically in the US and 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.)