Here’s the second part of our series detailing some of the airlines and brands that disappeared from 2010 to 2019. You can read the first part here.
Malév Hungarian Airlines
Malev Hunagarian Airlines suspended flights in March 2012 after some 66 years of operations.
Controlled by the Hungarian state, the airline was forced to stop flying after airports in Dublin and Tel Aviv refused to allow its aircraft to take-off because of unpaid debts. The European Commission had also ruled that it had to repay 100bn Hungarian Forint in state aid.
Malev was, by some margin, the largest airline in Budapest and the void was quickly filled by Ryanair and Wizz Air.
Mexicana suspended operations in August 2010 under the weight of debt and citing depressed visitor numbers to Mexico.
A plan to restart the airline’s operations with new investors and a slimmed down fleet and workforce never came to fruition.
The collapse of Monarch was one of the most high profile airline failures of 2017.
The airline’s owner, Greybull Capital, cited falling yields and volatility in markets such as Egypt and Turkey, as the reasons for its collapse. Rivals, such as easyJet and IAG, also failed to express an interest in the airline. Its collapse was, until the failure of Thomas Cook two years later, the UK’s biggest peacetime repatriation as the CAA had to bring 110,000 holidaymakers home.
BA took advantage of the liberalisation of the EU-US transatlantic market by launching a new subsidiary OpenSkies.
This was not BA’s first foray into owning airlines based in mainland Europe – it had previously held unsuccessful investments in Air Liberte and Deutsche BA. Undetered, Open Skies started with grand ambitions. The plan was to provide with the airline with a large number of reconfigured Boeing 757s from BA. Its launch was controversial and provoked industrial relations tensions with BA pilots who objected to the establishment of a new airline outside of their collective bargaining agreements.
On launch, OpenSkies was clearly aimed at the US market, possibly because it knew that local French loyalty to Air France would be hard to crack. Its long-haul business class was branded “Biz Bed”. This was effectively a reupholstered version of BA’s first Club World flat bed, and “Prem” (also briefly called “Biz Seat”) for premium economy and “Eco” for economy.
The branding and service at the time of launch was quite distinct from BA and it borrowed very much from “boutique” premium airlines of the era such as Silverjet and eos. The intention was give the feel of a small airline, with just 82 passengers on board each flight, but with the backup and support of its parent, such as the Executive Club frequent flyer programme.
The airline launched with Paris to New York JFK in June 2008. Whilst it was well received by passengers, later route launches between Amsterdam and New York and Paris and Washington were not successful. In early 2009, BA decided to sell what remained of its Boeing 757 fleet rather than transfer them to OpenSkies.
OpenSkies was left in limbo for some time with no evident plan to upgrade its fleet and in-flight product which, baring the addition of a BA Boeing 767, had remained the same since launch.
In 2018, BA finally decided to plug the plug. After suspending Paris Orly – New York JFK in March 2018, the last flights between Paris Orly and Newark operated on Sunday 2 September 2018.
Primera Air began operations in 2004. It only entered the consciousness of the UK travelling public in 2017 with the launch of transatlantic flights from UK airports.
By any measure, its transatlantic operations got off to a difficult start. Flights from Birmingham were suspended shortly after launch. At Stansted, the airline had to lease aircraft to cover late deliveries of new Airbus A321 aircraft, with some flights carrying very substantial delays. Late aircraft substitutions also meant that some flights had to stop in Reykjavik for refuelling. It suspended all operations on 1 October 2018.
Bern based SkyWork Airlines suspended operations in August 2018 due to over indebtedness.
It had suspended its route from London City airport to Bern a year earlier.
Brazilian based TAM Airlines merged with LAN Airlines in Chile, and both brands were subsequently subsumed under the name LATAM.
Thomas Cook was of course one of the most high profile corporate failures in the UK in 2019.
It was of course much more than an airline and its history dates back centuries. The story behind its collapse is much more complex than the competitive environment of aviation. Since its collapse its slots at Gatwick have been acquired by easyJet.
US Airways, formerly known as USAir, merged fully with American Airlines in 2015.
It never had a particularly large presence in London, flying to Charlotte and Philadelphia immediately before its merger. It also did not have a particularly good reputation for customer service, nor harmonious industrial relations.
However, the combined operation did add these routes, along with Phoenix, as Oneworld alliance transatlantic hubs.
Virgin America was originally founded in 2004, but did not launch operations until 2007 after much opposition and lobbying from US airlines.
Virgin America had to change its capital structure and management team before finally receiving approval from the US Department of Transportation.
The airline won many plaudits from passengers and countless awards from the travel industry. However, it still had to work very hard to lure passengers away from the legacy network airlines and their frequent flyer programmes.
The majority investors in Virgin America, much to the very public frustration of Sir Richard Branson, decided to sell the airline to Alaska Airlines.
The last Virgin America coded flight was VX1948 from San Francisco to Los Angeles on 24 April 2018.
Virgin Nigeria / Nigerian Eagle Airlines / Air Nigeria
What started as Virgin Nigeria has a very complex history.
Virgin Nigeria was founded in 2005 with Virgin Atlantic owning 49% of the airline and the balance held by institutional investors in Nigeria. It was seen as very high risk venture at launch due to the poor safety record of aviation in Nigeria. The airline launched regional and international routes from Lagos, including London Gatwick.
However, matters soon turned sour. A dispute emerged between Virgin Nigeria and the Nigerian Government over its use of the international terminal at Lagos Airport for both domestic and international flights. Virgin claimed this had been agreed with a previous administration and a single terminal was essential for connecting passengers.
The dispute turned violent as Virgin Nigeria’s domestic lounge at Lagos was smashed up. Virgin Nigeria was forced to relocate its domestic operations to another terminal. Virgin subsequently withdrew the right to use the Virgin name. The airline was subsequently rebranded as Nigerian Eagle Airlines, and then, Air Nigeria, before suspending operations in 2012.
VLM Airlines suspended operations on Friday 31 August 2018 when, at the time, it flew from London City to Antwerp.
WOW air was founded by Skuli Mogensen in 2011.
It engaged in an aggressive expansion to capture connecting traffic between North America and Europe, with the ambition to make Reykjavik the “Dubai of the North Atlantic”. This never made sense. Many of the city pairs it offered were already served by direct flights and there were already ample one-stop connections between Europe and North America.
After both a deal to merge with Icelandair and a private equity investment failed, WOW air suspended operations in March 2019.
French airline XL Airways also ceased trading in 2019.
(An airline of the same name ceased trading in the UK in 2008).