2021 has been a relative good “recovery” year for aviation. Many passenger airlines have come out from the trenches thanks to a variety of reasons including bailouts, a new found need for additional cargo capacity, and people’s burning desire to travel again. After taking a look at the list of airlines that shut down operations in the last two years, I was surprised to see the numbers of casualties being much less when compared to 2019 for instance.
As with our previous list, we will look at passenger airlines that have shut down in the last year (2021), as a handful of them potentially could return to the skies when the situation improves globally. If we have missed any, please feel free to send us an update.
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The first victim of 2021 was a single-jet operation based in Uruguay called Amaszonas Uruguay. The airline which operated a lone Embraer ERJ-190LR was formed in 2015 and operated out of Carrasco International Airport to destinations within Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. Like many others below, the airline was plagued by the fallout from the pandemic and was forced to close up shop on January 21, 2021. The airline has since been sold to the Nella Airlines Group, the same folks that own Brazilian low-cost startup Nella Linhas Aéreas. At the moment, the group’s main focus is clearing the company’s debt and working out a restructuring plan. If Amaszonas Uruguay does return to the skies, I wouldn’t be surprised if it also goes through some type of rebranding to reflect the Nella name.
Founded in late 1946 as South West Air Transport (SWAT), the airline was founded to operate flights between Windhoek and Grootfontein in Namibia. Over the years, the airline’s name changed as it went through a series of mergers, changing its name to South West Airways/Suidwes Lugdiens in 1959, and then eventually Air Namibia in 1991. Maybe the inspiration came from Namib Air, a once subsidiary of Suidwes Lugdiens. After transitioning from prop to jet operations in the late 80s, Air Namibia slowly started to make a name for itself as they took on larger jets including a Boeing 737-200, Boeing 747s, and a McDonnell Douglas MD11.
As they progressed in the 2000s going forward, they phased out their remaining turboprop aircraft, and acquired a range of Airbus aircraft including an A319, A320, and even picked up two A330-200s to replace their A340-300. In 2017, the airline received permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation to fly to the United States, and also was cleared by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to fly to any European destination. Unfortunately issues started arising in 2020 after the Transportation Commission of Namibia suspended the carrier’s license, citing financial and safely concerns.
With the pandemic also in play, Air Namibia declared themselves insolvent on July 8, 2020 and officially ceased operations on February 11, 2021. According to reports, 636 staff members were unemployed as a result of the closure, and were paid a basic salary for 12 months as they were transitioned out of the company.
Sky Regional Airlines was a Canadian-based regional airline, operating flights on behalf of Air Canada as Air Canada Express. Founded in 2010, the airline initially started off with a fleet Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s which were sub-leased from main line Air Canada, wearing the Air Canada Express name. In 2013, 15 Embraer E175 were also transferred to the regional brand, along with the acquisition of another 10 from Azul Brazilian Airlines over the span of 2015, bringing the E175s fleet total to 25. In 2017, their Q400s were transferred to Jazz Aviation.
As a result of COVID, Air Canada made sweeping changes, consolidating a number of brands and phasing out some of its older aircraft. As a result, the company terminated its contract with Sky Regional Airlines and transferred the E175s and its respective pilots to Jazz Aviation. The last SRA flight was flown on March 31, 2021. Prior to the shut down, they operated flights out of Montréal and Toronto-Pearson, with service to cities mainly on the Canadian and U.S. east coast.
Founded in December 2018 as a subsidiary of Ethiopian Airlines, Ethiopian Mozambique Airlines came to fruition despite heavy criticism from the competing LAM Mozambique Airlines trade union. They argued that the subsidiary would solely benefit Ethiopia rather than Mozambique, but the claims were laid to rest after the Mozambique Civil Aviation Institute said airline was registered and certified under Mozambique standards. Sadly the airline did not make it to its third birthday, wrapping up shop on May 6, 2021 due to the fallout from the pandemic. The airline operated a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 and Boeing 737-800 during its time in service.
Born in 2019 as a joint venture between City Jet and KLM, Air Antwerp was a Belgian carrier picking up from the scraps of VLM Airlines (which ceased operations in August 2018). Operating a single Fokker 50, Air Antwerp operated flights between Antwerp in Belgium to London City Airport, but quickly became another victim of the pandemic due to harsh border restrictions. City Jet transferred all its shares to KLM, and KLM decided to close the airline on June 11, 2021.
Founded in 1970, Stobart Air was first known as Aer Arann. It was created with the intention to offer flight services between Galway and Aran Islands (both on the west coast of Ireland). Over the course of time, the carrier became a major regional airline, going on to operate flights on behalf of Aer Lingus Regional, BA CityFlyer and KLM Cityhopper. Unfortunately the airline started to bleed money as it struggled to deal with the fallout of the 2008 economic crisis, and eventually underwent restructuring in 2013 when it was bought out by Everdeal Holdings Limited.
Stobart Group (parent company of Everdeal) would later go on to take over the majority share ownership of Aer Arann, rebranding the airline in 2014 to Stobart Air. Heading into 2020, the ATR exclusive operator was performing flights for Aer Lingus and Flybe, but suddenly hit hard times as a result of the pandemic. Flybe was forced to close its doors in March 2020, and Stobart tried to operate some of the routes left unfulfilled by Flybe. However even these temporary measures would not save the airline as travel restrictions reduced capacity by as much as 94%. Stobart Air eventually ceased operations on June 12, 2021. There was false some hope after Ettly, an Isle of Man company, entered into negotiations to buy the carrier, but failed to provide any financing as promised.
At the time of closure, the airline had one ATR 42-600 and 12 ATR 72-600s.
Orange2Fly is a Greek charter company, which operated many flights out of Pristina, Kosovo. Founded in September 2015, the carrier which operated up to 4 Airbus A320s at one point never really gained the necessary financial position it needed for serious expansion. Like other brands, the pandemic was the final nail in the coffin. Orange2Fly tried to prevent closure by filing a temporary restraining order on its assets, with plans of eventually restructuring. It flew its last set of flights in January 2021 but failed to secure a loan and eventually wrapped up its remaining operations in September 2021. At the time of closure they were left with one Airbus A320.
Great Dane’s story is a bit different from the rest as they were a case of starting business at the wrong time. Founded in 2018 and beginning service in June 2019, Great Dane set up to operate a number of seasonal flights out of Denmark to various European countries including Spain, Greece, Italy, Croatia and others with a fleet of 3 Embraer E195LRs. The pandemic did not do them any favors as they quickly were swallowed by debt, and had to cease operations on October 11, 2021.
Alitalia is technically not dead as they’ve essentially wrapped up the company and transferred some of their assets, employees and operations to the new brand ITA Airways. However as it technically is a closure, it will be included in this list. The airline was founded in September 1946 as Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane S.p.A. (operating as Aerolinee Italiane Internazionali) as a result of funding from both the Italian government and British European Airways (BEA). The name Alitalia was derived from the Italian words ali (wings) and Italia (Italy).
Heading into the early 2000s, Alitalia struggled to keep its head above the water as the airline’s financial records were always in the red. Situations like route reductions, worker strikes and canceled flights were commonplace, and the carrier was passed on from owner to owner, each failing to bring the airline out of debt. After the onset of the pandemic, the Italian government took full control of the failing carrier, and eventually reorganized the company under a new government-owned entity called Italia Trasporto Aereo S.p.A. (ITA Airways). Even though ITA is pretty much a result of Alitalia, part of the agreement was to drop the Alitalia name entirely as it would indicate some kind of continuity rather than a start from scratch brand.
Alitalia ceased operations on October 15, 2021, and paved the way for the commencement of ITA Airways the very same day.
Founded in 1998, Blue Panorama Airlines (another Italian brand) also ceased operations in October due to financial constraints spanning well before the pandemic. The smaller leisure carrier which first entered into bankruptcy protection in 2012, has been in and out ever since. The airline was set to be rebranded as Luke Air in late 2019 and even went ahead to paint its Airbus A330-200s in the new livery. Blue Paronama was eventually forced to suspend operations on October 26, 2021 due to lack of financing, and they even blamed the Italian government for lack of support during the pandemic. A few days later, the company was once again granted bankruptcy protection, preventing creditors from going after its assets.
Italy strikes yet again? Founded in 2017, Tayaran Jet was a Bulgarian-based company (financed by Italians) that operated flights to a few Italian destinations out of its hub in Trapini. The airline was subsidized to operate its routes, but eventually terminated the respective contracts citing extremely low passenger numbers due to pressure from the pandemic. They airline had two Boeing 737-300s at the time of closing up.
Trying again for a second time, ITA Transportes Aéreos Ltda, operating as ITA or Itapemirim, was a Brazilian airline operating domestic flights out of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Their small fleet of A320-200s were painted in yellow and black similar to the buses belonging to the airline’s parent company, Viação Itapemirim S.A. After purchasing ASTA Linhas Aéreas, the company starting commercial flights from June 29, 2021 but ceased operations on December 17, 2021 citing the need for internal restructuring. It seems very unlikely that ITA will fly again as both the airline and bus divisions have racked up significant debt. At their peak, they were in possession of 6 Airbus A320-200s. They were also supposed to take on a leased Hi Fly Malta A319-100, but that never came to be.
[Featured Photo: Gustavoaguiar/Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)]