Undoubtedly COVID decimated the airline industry. With no income and high fixed costs, by rights, almost all carriers should have gone bust. However, thanks to the support of governments and airlines’ own refinancing efforts, the list of casualties for 2020 stands at just 34 airlines.
That might sound like a lot, but when you consider 23 collapsed in 2019 without the impact of COVID, it’s actually not a terrible outcome. Here’s a summary of all the airlines that ceased trading in 2020, according to data from CAPA
January 11th: Ernest Airlines, Italy
The first casualty of 2020, Italian low-cost Ernest Airlines’ demise can’t really be played as a COVID-related collapse. The end began on December 29th when the Italian CAA announced it would be revoking the airline operator’s certificate on January 13th due to a lack of required guarantees. Before that could happen, it closed up shop.
February 14th, AtlasGlobal, Turkey
Not to be confused with cargo operator Atlas Air, AtlasGlobal had also been in trouble for some time. In November 2019, it suspended all flights pending a restructuring. Although it resumed services a couple of weeks later, it was still in difficulty. The airline returned its sole two A330-200s to the lessors in January and filed for bankruptcy in February.
February 26th: Air Italy, Italy
Air Italy was something of a surprise; the money was most definitely on Alitalia to be the airline that didn’t make it out alive. Regardless of investment from Qatar Airways, the airline couldn’t do enough to survive and landed its last flight on February 26th last year.
March 4th: Flybe, UK
For Flybe, COVID was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Although the Connect Airways consortium, which included Virgin Atlantic, had bought the European regional airline, a lack of investment from the UK government and losses bleeding the airline dry meant it was time to call it a day.
March 11th: Paradigm Air Operators, USA
Dallas-based Paradigm Air was another whose fate was largely sealed without COVID. The airline had its operating certificate revoked by the FAA on March 11th, amid allegations of illegal charter flight operations using pilots not qualified for Part 135 operations.
April 1st: Shoreline Aviation, USA
It was no April fool for Shoreline Aviation, as the 40-year old seaplane operator closed down on the first of the month. Operating a fleet of 10 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan Amphibians, it shuttled passengers on charter services around the northeast from its home in Connecticut and to South Florida and the Bahamas in the winter.
April 4th: Trans States Airlines, USA
TSA was another airline with a long history in the USA, founded as Resort Air in 1982. In more recent times, it operated flights for United Airlines under the United Express brand. It had planned to gradually cease operations in 2020, sending its fleet to ExpressJet Airlines, but the COVID impact brought this date forward.
April 4th: Island Express Air, Canada
Canadian Island Express Air, also known as IAXpress, operated a small fleet of six Piper Navajo, one Piper Cherokee, a Piper PA-32, and a Beechcraft King Air. It operated charter and cargo services, as well as a scheduled service between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island. COVID pushed it to the edge, and it closed and sold its assets to a group of investors.
April 5th: Frontier Flying Services, USA
Frontier Flying Services was better known in its Alaska home as Ravn Connect. It flew charters and cargo services around Alaska and into Canada for other Ravn branded companies, including Corvus Airlines and Hageland Aviation. After Ravn Alaska declared bankruptcy, the assets were sold off to other airlines.
April 5th: Hageland Aviation Services, USA
Hagleand Aviation was another Ravn Alaska casualty. Having flown since 1981, it combined with Frontier Alaska in 2008, adding Era to the stable in 2009. Ravn’s bankruptcy saw the end of this airline also.
April 5th: PenAir, USA
Yet another Alaskan casualty of 2020, PenAir was a regional airline based in Anchorage and was Alaska’s second-largest airline. It operated codeshares with Alaska Airlines, flying five Saab 2000. Since 2019, it sold all its flights under the Ravn Alaska brand and was therefore sold off as part of Ravn’s restructuring.
April 7th: Germanwings, Germany
Germanwings was a small part of the mighty Lufthansa Group, wholly owned by the German giant and operating under the Eurowings brand since 2015. Partly due to the travel bans in place because of COVID-19, Lufthansa closed down Germanwings in April.
April 7th: Compass Airlines, USA
Compass was a regional airline formed out of a dispute between Northwest Airlines and its pilots’ union. Its fleet of Embraer E175s met the scope clause that allowed it to operate as a regional wet lease to a number of major airlines. It operated as both American Eagle and Delta connection, but the challenges of 2020 caused it to close down.
April 22nd: LGW Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter, Germany
Founded as an independent airline in 1980, Luftfahrtgesellschaft Walter (literally, Walter’s airline) specialized in charter and air taxi services. It became a subsidiary of Air Berlin in 2017 and was later bought by Lufthansa to operate under Eurowings. In 2019, Zeitfracht Group bought the airline, but when it lost the contract with Eurowings in April 2020, insolvency was the only route left.
May 4th: Ghadames Air Transport, Liberia
This little known Liberian airline operated two Airbus A320 and two MD DC-9. Flying out of Tripoli to Istanbul, Tunis, and Khartoum, it ceased operations in May.
May 5th: Avianca Peru, Peru
Formerly TACA Peru, Avianca Peru had a 21-year history in South America. Flying Airbus aircraft, including the A319, A320, A321, and a single A330, it was liquidized as part of Avianca’s bankruptcy filing.
May 8th: Tigerair Australia, Australia
Tigerair had a brief history of offering low-cost flights around Australia from its home in Melbourne. Since 2012, it was majority-owned by Virgin Australia. Virgin’s own problems came to bear when, in February 2020, it slashed Tigerair’s fleet from 13 to eight aircraft and abandoned five of its routes. Bain Capital bought the brand but chose to shut it down.
May 19th: TAME, Ecuador
TAME EP Linea Aerea del Ecuador had a lineage stretching back to 1962. As the flag carrier and largest airline of Ecuador, it flew from Quito to domestic destinations as well as Cali in Colombia and New York. But in May 2020, the Ecuador government decided to liquidate the airline and ceased all operations.
May 29th: Air Georgian, Canada
Based in Toronto, Air Georgian once flew for Air Canada but was snubbed in favor of Jazz Aviation in 2019. An Ontario-based company called Pivot Airlines purchased the company, but almost immediately, it entered bankruptcy.
June 17th: LATAM Airlines Argentina
LATAM Argentina started life as Aero 2000. Bought by LAN Chile, it rebranded to LATAM when the two companies merged. It was 49% owned by LATAM, and 51% by Argentine investors. LATAM Airlines Group announced in June it would end operations, as the parent company battled its own insolvency problems.
June 18th: LEVEL Europe
Owned by Vueling and IAG, Level Europe operated short-haul flights from Amsterdam and Vienna. It filed for insolvency on June 18th and stopped flying the same day.
June 23rd: Jetlines, Canada
Jetlines was intended to be an ultra-low-cost carrier operating from Vancouver. However, financing woes meant it never got off the ground. It has now been merged into the forthcoming Global Crossing airlines.
June 26th: NokScoot, Thailand
NokScoot was a Thailand-based low-cost carrier formed from a partnership between Nok Air and Scoot. However, the effects of COVID meant the airline was unviable, and it went out of business. It hadn’t managed to generate a profit since its inception.
June 26th: SunExpress Germany, Germany
This German leisure airline was based out of Frankfurt and was a joint venture between Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa. It was liquidated in 2020 and its route network taken up by SunExpress and Eurowings.
June 28th: One Airlines, Chile
This small Chilean airline with its two Boeing 737-300s flew since 2013, providing charters and mining worker transportation. Blaming its demise on too much competition from the likes of SKY, JetSMART and LATAM, it ceased operations in June.
July 21st: Jet Time, Denmark
From its base in Copenhagen, Jet Time flew Boeing 737s to destinations around Scandinavia and European sun destinations. It went bankrupt in July 2020, but had all its assets transferred to the creatively named new company ‘Jettime.’ It hopes to resume operations in 2022.
September 30th: ExpressJet Airlines, USA
ExpressJet was better known as United Express, as it flew under the United Airlines brand with its fleet of Embraer regional jets for the US major. United took the decision to end its contract with ExpressJet in July 2020, favoring instead its other partner CommutAir.
October 5th: AirAsia Japan, Japan
This offshoot of the mighty AirAsia brand was formed as a joint venture between AirAsia of Malaysia and Japanese partners. Founded in 2011, it flew 0out of Narita in Tokyo to other Japanese destinations, as well as South Korea and Taiwan. Amid financial problems, it closed in October.
October 17th: Indonesia AirAsia X, Indonesia
Indonesia AirAsia Extra (operating as Indonesia AirAsia X) was a joint venture between Malaysian AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia. The airline actually ceased all flying operations on 14 January 2019 but wasn’t officially closed until October last year.
October 21st: Cathay Dragon, Hong Kong
Owned by Cathay Pacific, the Dragon brand was its regional feeder airline, flying to destinations around China and other parts of Asia from its hub in Hong Kong. Formerly Dragonair, it was rebranded by Cathay in 2016. Sadly, as Cathay figured out its own restructuring, Dragon was closed.
November 11th: Austral, Argentina
Austral Líneas Aéreas can trace its history back to 1957 when it was founded as Compañía Austral de Transportes Aéreos SACI (CATASACI). Having been rebranded several times, owned by the government, owned by Iberia, and then renationalized once more, it laid plans to merge with Aerolíneas Argentinas fully in May last year. In November, it ended operations.
November 20th: Flyest, Argentina
Flyest was perhaps the shortest-lived airline on our list. Formed in 2017, it was a subsidiary of Spanish carrier Air Nostrum. However, the drastic lockdown of Argentina and related travel restrictions meant it ceased operations last October.
December 26th: Montenegro Airlines, Montenegro
The flag carrier of Montenegro had been flying since 1997, despite being formed three years previously. It had been in deep financial trouble for many years before COVID, and in December, the government announced it would be closed down. However, Minister Mladen Bojanić has since said that the airline could be reorganized and replaced with a new company called ToMontenegro as the new flag-carrying airline.
December 29th: Palestinian Airlines, State of Palestine
Surviving right up to the wire, the small Gaza-headquartered airline already had a rocky history. Closing down in 2005, it restarted in 2012 but with limited services. At the point of its closure, it had just eight employees.
S: Simple Flying