Twenty carriers disappeared in 2013 compared to twenty-six 2012 . Six of them were based in Eastern Europe/former USSR countries.
Most of the carriers were small regional airlines with tiny fleets. Kingfisher of India was only one carrier that could have been considered major, although it has been some time since they were India’s largest airline.
Nearly all of the airlinest that vanished are young but a few Evergreen, JAT, OLT Express and Ryan International are old names in the airline game.
I thought Air Zimbabwe would finally vanish but they managed to get enough aid from an impoverished government to re start some domestic flights and a daily Harare to Johannesburg service.
One airline that collapsed and returned was Russia’s Red Wings after a spectacular crash at Moscow airport . Grounded on 4 February, 2103 because they lacked the financial resources to provide ongoing operations while maintaining a high level of safety, they came back again June 2013 after being sold for a symbolic one rouble to new owners. Hope their safety has improved. See Red Wings Wingless.
In 2014, I expect B & H to collapse. I wonder how Fastjet will survive and how long Virgin America can plough through cash? Despite all logic, Alitalia will probably make it through the year!
This year’s list of vanished airlines is in alphabetical order below. I have not flown any of the carriers that vanished this year. Last years list can be found here.
Ukraine: 25 March 1994 to April, 2013
Fleet: 4 (at collapse),
Destinations: 12 (at collapse), 72 (at peak)
Aerosvit entered bankruptcy in late December, 2012 stranding passengers around the world. The airline attempted to re-start through January before handing most of their fleet back to lessors in february and finally ceasing to exist in April. Most of their operations were absorbed by Ukraine International Airlines.
Air Asia Japan
This joint venture between Malaysia’s AirAsia (33%) and Japan’s All Nippon Airways (66%) failed to meet passenger volumes. One of the factors for this was, bizarrely, that the Air Asia online booking system was not fully translated into Japanese. It was therefore unusable for many domestic customers. In addition, Japanese fliers remain wedded to travel agents for domestic bookings and Air Asia eschews agents. There also appeared to be difficulty in the relationship between ANA and Air Asia.
Air Asia Japan still exists in a form. It was rebranded as “Vanilla Air” under full ownership of ANA. The carrier is focussing on “resort destinations”. With ANA already owning an other low cost carrier Peach, it will be interesting to see how long Vanilla lasts. Vanilla Peach anyone?
Armenia: March 29, 2013
After almost two years of speculation and threats by Armavia’s owner to shut the carrier down, the airline finally succumbed to economic reality.
The airline is the third Armenian carrier to go after Armenian Airlines collapsed in 2003 and Armeninan International merged with Armavia in 2005.
In the post bankruptcy discussions, the collapse was blamed on poor management, high airfares, insufficient government support and bizarrely Armavia’s monopoly position!
Germany: 1980 to 31 October, 2013
Augsburg Airways flew routes on behalf of Lufthansa Regional from 2000. Lufthansa announced the termination of its contract with Augsburg Airways in October, 2012. The last flight by Augsburg Airways under the Lufthansa Regional brand took place on 26 October 2013 and the carrier shut down days later.
Fleet size: 4
Takes a brave company to launch a discount carrier in a country which already has a major loss making airline. Bahrain already had Gulf Air who operate empty aircraft at a hefty financial cost. After failing to succeed as a LCC, Bahrain air became a full service carrier. They collapsed blaming the politcial situation in the Gulf state. Poor business planning and a non existent market may have been more of the reality.
At one point, Air Asia was looking at taking over Batavia and merging it with Air Asia Indonesia. That deal fell through in 2012. Batavia was declared bankrupt by the Indonesia court system last year, after it failed to make lease payments. Six airlines planned to take over the Batavia network.
On November 12, the company announced “Belle Air is obliged to temporarily suspend its operations due to the general economic situation, the decline of the purchasing power, recession in the markets it operates as well as from the freezing for over 18 days of its bank accounts.”
Belle Air Belly Up
Belle Air Europe
Kosovo: 2009 to 25 Nov 2013
Belle Air Europe announced on November 26 that operations would continue as normal but then suspended all flights the next day.
Tonga: 2007 to 2 March, 2013
Air Chathams operates services from New Zealand to the Chathams, an archipelago 680km (400 miles) east of New Zealand. In 2007, with the blessing of the Tongan government, they launched into the Tongan market. They were the 11th airline to try and break into the market.
In early, 2013, the Tongan government were given a MA60 (50-seater) aircraft by China which they leased to a new airline called Real Tonga. The government promised a ten percent reduction in fares.
Air Chathams then shut down Chathams Pacific believing it could not compete in the tiny market.
Dutch Antilles Express
Nationalisation of the airline in 2011 did nothing to prevent the carrier running out of cash. Unable to pay its bills, it was shut out of its own home airport. Bankruptcy followed when the government cut its cash.
USA: November 28, 1975 to December 31, 2013
Evergreen planes always intrigued me. An slmkst entirely 747 carrier in the last two decades, they flew more “confidential” missions for Uncle Sam
The airline was mooted to close at the end of November a charge the carrier denied. December 31 the threat came true and seven associated companies went into liquidation.
The 89 year old founder and owner Delford Smith of the airline also owns Evergreen Air Museum which seems to have not been affected by the closure.
Fly Non Stop
Norway: April 25th, 2013 to October 29th, 2013
This airline’s short history was the result of a combination of the founder’s lack of airline experience, a lack of sufficient cash and a poor business plan. The airline’s business model was based on flying non stop services on haphazard timetable pattern from a small regional town north of the Arctic circle to 17 European destinations. Unsurprisingly, a passenger market never emerged and the owner’s cash vanished.
Serbia: April 1st 1947 to October 1st, 2013
Jugoslovenski Aerotransport (JAT) was very successful carrying millions of passengers through Belgrade on a mainly jet fleet until the 1990s. Sanctions and war crippled the carrier and it never fully recovered. They changed their name to Jat Airways on 8 August 2003. The government of Serbia then unsuccessfully tried to privatize Jat Airways in 2008 and 2011 before approaching Etihad in March 2013. Etihad took a 51% stake and renamed the carrier Air Serbia.
Kingfisher, backed by the largest brewery in India, a five star Skytrax airline and on track to be a member of One World, lost money from day one. The situation became critical through 2012 with the slow death of the carrier becoming almost a tragic soap opera. Planes were grounded, bank accounts frozen, litigation over unpaid taxes and employees on a hunger strike. Still the airline’s CEO continued to promise a bright future until the Indian government finally cancelled Kingfisher’s operating licence.
Germany: 2009 to January 29, 2013.
OLT Express was founded in 1958. It took over part of the insolvent Cirrus Airlines in 2012. In December 2012, after losing two international contracts, OLT Express Germany announced major cuts to its network, staffing and fleet as part of a reorganisation. It ceased all operations on 27 January 2013 after talks with its Dutch owner Panta Holdings about a reorganisation plan failed. The company filed for bankruptcy on January 29.
The carrier ran out of cash and completely ceased this year after not flying most of 2012.
UAE: 2007 to 2009 then 2010 to 31 December, 2013.
Fleet size: 2
RAk was the national airline of Ras Al Khaimah, one of the seven United Arab Emirate states. It attempted to be a “value for money” carrier, positioned between Low Cost and full service carrier. In a statement, the company said: “The decision for suspending operations was taken following increased pressures on the carrier’s performance due to continuous market conditions, increased operating costs and the impact of the regional political instability on the overall aviation industry.” I am not sure the UAE has room for more airlines?
Ryan International (not Ryanair of Ireland)
USA: 1972 to January 11, 2013
A charter carrier, Ryan International has been struggling through 2012 before finally succumbing to market forces in 2013.
Tatarstan, Russia: 1999 to December 31, 2013
Following the crash of one of their 737s in November killing 50 including the son of the Tatarstan president and the the head of Tatarstan’s Federal Security Service regional office. A Russian government investigation found violations in established flight norms, working hours and rest periods for the flight crew and qualification standards of the crew. Enough to close them!
Tatarstan, Russia: 2004 to December 25, 2013
Tulpar Air was nominated Russia’s least punctual airline with in 2010 with 21% of flights delayed! Following the Tatarstan crash, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsiya, reported that the Air Operator Certificate of Tulpar Air has been revoked due to safety issues.