Running an airline is tough job, requiring enormous capital and income to stay afloat. It’s always nice to hear about new airlines popping up, opening the doors to new markets or providing additional airlift in already covered regions, but not all carriers live to tell the tale.
2022 proved to be a slightly better year compared to 2021, with most of the casualties being smaller airlines. While this article focuses on airlines that shut down operations in 2022, it does not necessarily mean they are gone forever given that circumstances could change.
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Based out of Parma Airport in Italy, EGO Airways was a private start up aiming to provide domestic service to the Italian market. The airline was founded in 2019, but only commenced operations in late March 2021.
They operated a number of charter flights with an Embraer E190, and even signed with the SSC Napoli football club to provide air services for the sports team. The airline was due to start scheduled service from summer 2021, but was forced to shut down operations on January 4, 2022. It turns out that a conflict in the sublease contract between EGO and German Airways prevented them from continuing operations.
German Airways eventually repossessed the aircraft after “several months of differing views on the interpretation of the contract”, resulting in EGO being forced to cease operations due to a lack of aircraft. The Italian Civil Aviation Authority suspended the airline’s permit, and the company’s management later announced that the airline would be liquidated.
Starting operations in October 2021, Air Ocean Airlines was a short-lived Ukrainian domestic carrier, operating a fleet of two Antonov An-148s. The airline quickly started experiencing difficulties and ceased operations on January 15, 2022 with plans to resume operations in March. However the Russian/Ukraine war put a hold on that.
It appears that the company is not completely out of the woods, but the war definitely has put a hold on that, potentially sealing their fate.
After Norwegian-based regional carrier FlyViking collapsed after less than a year in operation, the founders quickly re-organized as a virtual airline by the name of Next Move in March 2018. They later renamed to Air Leap and eventually obtained their Swedish Air Operator Certificate (AOC) so the airline could operate flights between Norway and Sweden.
With three Saab 340Bs, and help from other charter operators, they flew routes between Finland, Norway and Sweden. Even though Air Leap made it into early 2022, they were not able to properly recover from the pandemic and blamed the government’s lack of financial aid as one of their biggest downfalls.
They shut down operations on January 24, 2022, and it is not known if the airline will ever return to the blue skies. Maybe they may start afresh and rebrand?
Gran Colombia de Aviación Airlines (GCA Airlines) was founded in 2017 and operated its first batch of flights almost two years later in late November 2019. The Colombian-based airline was a subsidiary Venezuela’s Avior Air, and was set up to operate routes out of Cali, to various Colombian airports.
They also had long term plans to fly to Florida, Ecuador, Venezuela and Peru, and operated three Boeing 737-400s and three Fokker 50s. Unfortunately the airline quietly shut down on April 25, 2022, with a few media outlets citing financial difficulty being the main cause.
Founded in 2021 by travel agency owner Shlomo Almagor and ex-Germania salesperson Paul Scodellaro, Tel Aviv Air was created with the intention of re-establishing flights between Hamburg, Germany and Tel Aviv, Israel.
Flights were operated by an Airbus A320-200 from Cyprus-based Tus Airways. After many COVID-19 related delays, the first flight took place in March 2022, but after two months of operations, Tel Aviv Air hung up the jacket, shutting down operations in May 2022 due to technical reasons. The company later filed for bankruptcy.
Formed as a joint venture between the government of Eswantini (previously known as Swaziland) and South African-based airline Airline, Eswatini Airlink was initially founded as Swaziland Airlink in 1999. They were set up to take over operations from Royal Swazi National Airways Corporation (RSNAC), the previous flag carrier of Eswatini.
They went on to provide service to Manzini in Eswatini, as well as Johannesburg in South Africa. The airline’s name was updated to match the country name change in 2018, and operated the BAe Jetstream 41, Fokker F28, and Embraer ERJ-135 under its on AOC over its lifetime.
The joint venture was formally brought to an end on June 1, 2022, after Eswatini established their wholly owned flag carrier called Eswatini Air. Things have come full circle as this new airline is owned by the Royal Eswatini National Airways Corporation (RENAC), with two Embraer ERJ 145 listed in its fleet.
At the end of December, the airline had yet to operate a single flight, even though it’s too early to say whether or not this new establishment will be a success or not.
Founded in 1943 as Commercial Air Services, Comair operated domestic scheduled flights in and out of South Africa as a British Airways franchisee. They also operated the popular low-cost brand kulula.com. The two brands operated out of Johannesburg, with Cape Town and Durban being focus cities.
Kulula focused strictly on domestic flights, while the British Airways/Comair brand flew both domestic routes, as well as to international destinations such as Mauritius, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Both brands operated a combination of Boeing 737-400s and 737-800s. Comair had even taken delivery of their first of eight Boeing 737 MAX 8 in February 2019.
Comair’s major problems began when the 737 MAX line was grounded. As they were still required to make payments for these jets they could not fly, their total operating costs quickly skyrocketed, eating away at the remaining profitability they had. This was followed by the pandemic, which had harsh consequences for all operators in South Africa as a result of the collapse of the tourism market.
Even with the re-opening of the tourism market, rising gas prices made it even harder for Comair and its subsidiary to get out of the financial mess it found itself in, and Comair and kulula.com shut down on June 9, 2022.
Initially, the company hired business rescue practitioners in May 2020 to try to devise a plan towards recovery, but it was eventually decided that things were too dire given that there was not adequate investment, and it was decided that the airlines should be liquidated instead.
Bees Airline was a Ukrainian low-cost carrier, starting operations in March 2021. They operated a fleet of Boeing 737-800s, flying to a number of domestic and international destinations including Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Egypt, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Montenegro and Spain.
Unfortunately due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, Ukraine’s airspace was closed on February 24, 2022. With no financial aid, the airline eventually returned its fleet to its lessors due to inability to keep up with payments, and its AOC was revoked in August, effectively killing the airline.
Tchadia Airlines was launched in 2018 as a joint project between the government of Chad and Ethiopian Airways. The national airline operated two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s, flying to various domestic cities as well as Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Sudan and Central Africa Republic.
Unfortunately the pandemic hit the airline hard, resulting in them suffering three years of consecutive losses. In August 2022, the airline ceased operations and entered liquidation stages.
Founded in 1986 as a U.S. regional carrier, ExpressJet closed its doors in September 2020 as a result of the fallout from the pandemic. Almost a year later, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) re-approved the airline for commercial operations, and their first charter flight was flown on September 30, 2021, a year after they shut down.
The company also launched a new leisure company titled “Aha!” which stood for “air-hotel-adventure”. On the airline side of things, they operated flights out of Reno, Nevada, offering low cost flights to various destinations along the U.S. west cost with a fleet of Embraer ERJ-145s.
They also were working towards establishing relationships with a number of resorts, casinos and attractions in Reno and Tahoe City, to offer bundled travel packages. ExpressJet focused on cities that were under served as a result of the pandemic.
ExpressJet suffered from a combination of rising fuel prices, repercussions from the pandemic, inability to obtain more aircraft, and not being able to properly outfit the cities in planned to serve in a timely manner. Even though the airline tried to attract crowds from smaller cities, it did not go in their favor, and the airline shut down again on August 22, 2022.
Founded in 2004, Romanian low-cost airline Blue Air offered cheap flights to various parts of Europe with two bases in Romania, and one in Italy.
Like many others, the airline also suffered the consequences of the pandemic, struggling to meet payment criteria even after the recovery. However the airline claims that statements made by Horia Constantinescu, the president of the Romanian consumer watchdog, also hurt their recovery.
It is alleged that in July 2022, Constantinescu advised that customers buy tickets with other airlines, claiming that Blue Air was in serious financial difficulty. Blue Air said that his words resulted in many suppliers now requiring pre-payments, along with two major investment opportunities falling through shortly after.
On September 6, Blue Air’s bank accounts were frozen by Romanian authorities for one day, resulting in the airline’s operations grinding to a halt. Even though they tried to restart operations on the 7th after their accounts were released, they were unable to pay for basic services and fuel. Eventually their fleet of Boeing 737-800s and 737 MAX 8s were returned their lessors, and the company was later nationalized, with the intention of being sold off to new investors.
[Featured Photo: Alan Wilson/Flick (CC BY-SA 2.0)]