These 19 Airlines Shut Down Operations In 2023

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Every year, new airlines jump onto the scene with the hopes of carving out their own share of whatever market(s) they target. Unfortunately being the industry that it is, just as many airlines are forced to exit on a yearly basis due to the capital intensive nature of the business.

With the pandemic officially over, there was a surge of travel throughout most of 2023, but for some airlines, it still was not enough to pull them out of the trenches. Even in 2024, there are airlines that have not fully recovered from the damage incurred during the pandemic.

While not every closure is pandemic related, running your own airline is definitely not for the faint of heart. Or is it faint of money? So much for the lame joke. With that said, let’s recap the airlines that shut down operations in 2023. If you’re interested in a blast from the past, I covered closures for 2019, 2021 and 2022 as well.

Cascadia Air (Canada) – Ceased operations on January 11, 2023

Photo: Cascadia Air

Cascadia Air was a smaller commuter airline offering scheduled flights to a handful of small cities in the southern parts of British Columbia, Canada. Operating a fleet of King Air C90s and Piper Navajo Chieftains, the carrier provided services that were pivotal for many who had no other options of airlift in and out of the Vancouver area.

Founded in 2019, the airline struggled to keep its finances above the water throughout 2022, and abruptly ended operations on January 11, 2023. In a statement, Cascadia Air said it was “negatively affected by higher overall costs that have made it unsustainable to continue operations for the time being.”

The airline doesn’t seem to want to give up on the dream, but there have been no updates since.

Flybe (United Kingdom) – Ceased operations on January 28, 2023

Flybe Dash 8 400
Photo: EDDIE/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0 Deed)

After struggling for years to get its finances under control, Flybe shut down operations on March 5, 2020. The Flybe brand was later purchased, with a new company being formed on September 13, 2020. After launching operations in April 2022, the airline announced a number of new cities but was forced to cancel many of its flights due to aircraft delivery issues and low demand on some of its routes.

Not even a year later, the second iteration of Flybe went into administration on January 28, 2023. Redundant staff members were quickly swooped up by competitors, and even after attempts to try to salvage the small airline were made, they decided that the airline would be liquidated on February 15, 2023.

Flyr (Norway) – Ceased operations on January 31, 2023

Photo: ERIC SALARD/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Based out of Oslo Airport in Norway, low cost carrier Flyr launched hot and heavy in June 2021 with a fleet of Boeing 737-800s and MAX 8s. They offered flights to a number of European leisure destinations, but were forced to wrap up shop just a year and a half later, mostly due to poor passenger loads.

As if starting an airline during the pandemic was challenging on its own, they also faced stiff competition from Norwegian Air Shuttle which had come out of bankruptcy around the same time when Flyr began operations. Given Norwegian’s already established brand, customers flocked back, putting Flyr in a tight spot. Even after changing management and significantly scaling back operations, their debt was simply too much to deal with, and the airline shut down operations on January 31, 2023, filing for bankruptcy the next day.

Aeromar (Mexico) – Ceased operations on February 15, 2023

Aeromar ATR 42-300
Photo: Pete Webber/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Aeromar is a Mexican airline that operated domestic flights around Mexico, as well as to the United States and Cuba. Founded in 1987, the company initially operated Bombardier CRJ200 jets, even though they would eventually switch to a turboprops-only fleet.

The small airline which almost became Avianca Mexico, ended up in mountains of financial debt due to the pandemic and was never able to recover. After shutting down operations on February 15, 2023, many passengers were left uncompensated for their now useless tickets. Many staff members were lucky as they were taken on by competing airlines. At the time of closure, Aeromar operated a fleet of ATR 42-600s and 72-600s.

Ultra Air (Colombia) – Ceased operations on February 23, 2023

Ultra Air Airbus A320-200
Photo: Ultra Air

After just one year and change, Colombia’s low-cost carrier Ultra Air was forced to shut down citing rising fuel costs and volatile exchange rates which worked negatively against the airline. This came despite receiving a number of government tax incentives for creating new jobs and meeting certain investment targets.

The carrier which operated five Airbus A320-200s, operated flights out of Medellin to a number of cities in Colombia. Interestingly enough, Ultra was founded by William Shaw, former CEO of VivaColombia (rebranded Viva Air Colombia) and Interjet.

Viva Air Colombia (Colombia) – Ceased operations on February 27, 2023

Photo: Colin Cooke Photo/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Colombian Low-cost carrier Viva Air Colombia began operations in 2012 as VivaColombia. The airline was a subsidiary of Irelandia Aviation which was involved the formation of other popular low-cost brands like Ryanair, Allegiant, Tigerair (now part of Scoot) and Viva Aerobus.

In 2017, the carrier launched Peruvian subsidiary airline Viva Air Peru with the plans of expanding its footprint across Latin America. In 2018, the brand name was changed to Viva Air Colombia, and works were underway to set up another hub in Santa Marta.

Even though Viva Air Colombia would turn out to be Colombia’s third largest airline, they also fell victim to the pandemic, struggling to meet financial obligations. In 2022, Avianca announced its intentions to merge Viva Air Colombia into its operations, but this was blocked by the Colombian Civil Aviation Authority (Aerociv). They stated that the merger would be detrimental for the traveling public with less competition on the market.

In February 2023, both LATAM Colombia and JetSmart announced intentions to acquire the floundering airline, but on February 27, both Viva Air Colombia and Viva Air Peru shut down operations after Aerociv continued to drag their feet regarding approval of any acquisitions.

In March 2023, Aerociv announced that it would approved the Avianca-Viva Air Colombia merger, but listed a number of stringent requirements that needed to be met. After analysis of these requirements Avianca decided to withdraw its proposal, citing the financial and technical difficulties it would face. Viva Air’s entire fleet of Airbus A320-200s and A320neos would eventually go on to join Avianca’s fleet under a new leasing agreement.

JC International Airlines (Cambodia) – Ceased operations in February 2023

JC International Airlines Airbus A320-200
Photo: Alec Wilson/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

JC International Airlines was a Cambodian-based airline which was founded in March 2017 by China’s Yunnan Jingcheng Group. With its fleet of five Airbus A320-200 aircraft, it operated flights to China and Thailand. However the airline struggled to deal with pandemic restrictions, and suspended operations in February 2023.

The Yunnan Jingcheng Group later filed for bankruptcy in late 2023. It is unclear the fate of the airline, but there are talks that the brand will be brought back to life some time in 2024 under new ownership.

Niceair (Iceland) – Ceased operations on April 5, 2023

Unlike traditional carriers, Iceland’s Niceair was a “virtual” airline as it did not possess its own Air Operator Certificate (AOC), and contracted the services of Hi Fly Malta instead. With its one leased Airbus A319-100, the company started operations in June 2022, with flights to a few European destinations out of its base in Akureyri, Iceland.

While Niceair had no funding issues, they did run into two problems. Flights to the United Kingdom were put on hold as a revised air services treaty between the UK and Iceland (as a result of Brexit) prevented Hi Fly Malta from operating flights on those routes.

Hi Fly themselves were also going through some financial struggles, and the Airbus A319 assigned to Niceair was seized by its lessors due to payment issues, putting Niceair in a tough position. As they were unable to source an alternative aircraft in time, they shut down operations on April 5, 2023. They would file for bankruptcy a month later.

Air Moldova (Moldova) – Ceased operations on May 3, 2023

Air Moldova Airbus A320-200
Photo: BriYYZ/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Moldova’s flag carrier, Air Moldova was forced to wrap up operations on May 3, 2023 after going through financial difficulties. Founded in 1993, Air Moldova has its aviation roots as far back as 1944. The carrier at its peak, operated flights to several European, Middle Eastern and Russian destinations.

The Airbus operator flew a combination of A319s, an A320 and A321s. At the time of its shut down, they operated just one A320-200. Even though the company was privatized in 2018, the Moldovan CAA mandated that the airline be restructured some time in April 2023. However this was not enough to save the airline as they did not have to financial resources to continue operations.

Go First (India) – Ceased operations on May 3, 2023

Go First A320neo
Photo: Go First

Indian low-cost carrier Go First (initially GoAir) began operations in November 2005, operating an Airbus fleet with the majority of its operations being domestic. They also flew internationally to countries such as the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Thailand and others.

Initially operating Airbus A320-200s, the airline slowly transitioned towards more fuel efficient Pratt & Whitney powered-A320neos. The first delivery was made in June 2016, with the airline collecting a steady stream of new aircraft over the next few years.

During the pandemic, they were forced to temporarily suspend operations. In May 2021, they restarted flights under the new name Go First, and even went as far as seeking to launch an IPO for additional funding. In 2023, the airline claimed that it was hit with a number of operational challenges mainly due to alleged issues with the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G engines on their A320neos. Due to these problems, they eventually ceased operation on May 3, 2023.

Go First was not the only carrier affected by the PW1000 engine issues, as other brands like JetBlue, Hawaiian, IndiGo, Air New Zealand, and Volaris have reported related issues impacting operational efficiency.

Fly Gangwon (South Korea) – Ceased operations on May 19, 2023

Fly Gangwon Boeing 737-800
Photo: Steven Byles/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Fly Gangwon was a South Korean low-cost operator which began operations in November 2019. They operated flights from Yangyang, to a few countries in Asia including Taiwan, Japan, Philippines and Vietnam. The airline operated Boeing 737-800s and an Airbus A330-200 during its time.

Like many others, it struggled through the pandemic, and even received an Air Cargo Transport Certificate to ship cargo as a way to temporarily generate revenue when passenger demand was low. Unfortunately it was not enough and operations wrapped up on May 19, 2023.

Hi Air (South Korea) – Ceased operations on August 31, 2023

Hi Air ATR 72-500
Photo: ATR

Hi Air was a regional South Korean carrier operating a fleet of turboprop ATR 72-500s. There isn’t much to be said here other than that they were yet another victim of the pandemic, suffering from increased operating costs and the slump in travel demand. They were forced to shut down on August 31, 2023.

Red Way (United States) – Ceased operations on August 31, 2023

Red Way was a U.S.-based virtual airline, operating a mix of Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft from charter airline Global Crossing Airlines. Based in Lincoln, Nebraska, the airline launched service to a handful of U.S. destinations including Las Vegas, Austin, Atlanta, and Orlando. Launched on June 8, 2023, the airline hadn’t even hit the three month mark in service before calling it quits on August 31, 2023 due to financial constraints.

Equair (Ecuador) – Ceased operations on September 30, 2023

Ecuair Boeing 737-700
Photo: Ecuair

Equair was a small Ecuadorian airline launched in January 2022. With its fleet of three Boeing 737-700s, they operated mostly domestic flights, as well as international runs to Curacao and the Dominican Republic.

After less than two years of service, the airline was forced to shut down due to financial difficulties including rising fuel prices and lower travel demand. They shut down operations on September 30, 2023.

Buta Airways (Azerbaijan) – Ceased operations on October 1, 2023

Buta Airways Embraer ERJ-190LR
Photo: Anna Zvereva/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Founded in late 2016, Azerbaijan Airlines created a virtual low-cost airline called Buta Airways, launching service in September 2017. Operating out of Baku, the E190 operator would eventually be merged into Azerbaijan Airlines’ operations. From October 2023, the two carriers joined to form a new entity called AZAL. This shut down is more of a technicality, with the aircraft and related flights now operating under the AZAL name.

Novair (Sweden) – Ceased operations on October 9, 2023

Novair Airbus A321neo
Photo: Alan Wilson/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Long time charter carrier Novair operated flights to locations in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands and Egypt on behalf of Swedish travel agency Apollo. Since inception in 1997, the carrier operated a range of Airbus aircraft, as well as Boeing 737s and as three Lockheed L-1011 Tristar jets.

Unfortunately the carrier was forced out of existence after Apollo chose not to renew their contract with the airline in September 2023. As Novair failed to negotiate contracts with other travel agencies, the airline decided to shut down on October 9. At the time of closure, they operated two Airbus A321neos. That’s why they say don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

MYAirline (Malaysia) – Ceased operations on October 12, 2023

MYAirline Airbus A320-200
Photo: Anna Zvereva/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Launched in December 2022, MYAirline was a low-cost carrier operating domestic flights throughout Malaysia, as well as to Bangkok, Thailand. After launch, the airline had done surprisingly well, sustaining high load factors throughout its expansion.

However on October 12, 2023, the airline would abruptly cease all operations citing financial difficulties. The airline’s co-founder Dato Allan Goh Hwan Hua, and his wife and son, were later arrested for alleged involvement in a number of money laundering offenses.

Swoop (Canada) – Ceased operations on October 28, 2023

Swoop Boeing 737-800
Photo: Swoop

WestJet founded subsidiary airline Swoop in 2017, with operations beginning in June 2018. Swoop was an ultra low-cost airline, using some of WestJet’s Boeing 737-800s. They operated out of five cities across Canada, but would eventually fold into WestJet in late October 2023.

The decision was a strategic one as the Canadian ULCC market became extremely competitive to operate in, with more carriers entering the game. Couple that with high airport costs and pilot salary adjustments, WestJet felt it was not viable to keep the Swoop brand going for much longer, deciding to re-integrate it on October 28, 2023.

Thai Smile (Thailand) – Ceased operations on December 31, 2023

Photo: Alec Wilson/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed)

Founded as a separate entity by Thai Airways International, Thai Smiles was set up as a low-cost subsidiary in July 2012. Operating a fleet of Airbus A320-200s, Thai Smile suffered financial difficulties as a result of the pandemic, and was later re-integrated into the main Thai Airways brand to better control its losses. Thai Smile operations came to an end on December 31, 2023, with all flight ops being shifted to Thai Airways the next day.

[Featured Photo: Flybe]

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