December 22, 2009

Departed Flights: 2009 in Review

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By: Andy Bokanev
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As another year comes to a close, one thing remains as certain as the fact that United does indeed break guitars – some of the airlines that started this year in the air, have not made it all the way through the 12 months and have made it into the “Departed Flights” list. So, it is time to look back at some of those that left us in the past year.

Air Fiji (1967 – 2009) Originally formed as Air Pacific, the airline was a local airline based out of Nadi International Airport, most recently operating a fleet of  Embraer 110s, Harbin Y-12s, and a Britten-Norman BN-2A. Air Fiji shut its doors for good in early 2009 after it was unable to sustain itself financially.

Air Senegal International (1962 – 2009) Operated as part of the Royal Air Maroc Group, Air Senegal was a Dakar-based airline that most recently operated a fleet of Boeing 737-300s and a Dash Q300 to a number of Western African destinations as well as to Spain and France. After several years of poor financial results in the mid-2000s, the Senegalese government decided to reconsider the carrier’s association with RAM and decided to shut down the airline and replace it with a new carrier called Senegal Airways. The new airline will have a fleet consisting of 4 A320s and 2 A330 and is expected to start operations in early 2010.

Even though Pace Airlines re-absorebed Hooters Air in 2006, they too, would go the way of the Dodo just three years later. (Photo by Brian Stevenson)

Even though Pace Airlines re-absorbed Hooters Air in 2006, they too, would go the way of the Dodo just three years later. (Photo by Brian Stevenson)

Pace Airlines (1996 – 2009) Pace Airlines was started with a single Boeing 737-200 (N487GS) owned by the Charlotte Hornets. The business model was to provide exclusive VIP charters for sports teams and other businesses. New airplanes were quickly added and Pace started picking up contracts for leisure charters to destinations like Cancun, Trinidad and others as well as more 737s and a few 757s. In 2002 the company was bought by Robert H Brooks, the owner of Hooters. Pace was then rebranded into what is now infamously known as Hooters Air. Hard economic times, the rising price of oil and competition with established carriers like United forced Hooters Air out of many markets that it tried to take over and the Hooters Air name disappeared as Pace returned to its core charter market. Financial woes continued to follow the airline until September 2009 when Pace finally shut down its operations for good.

Air Tahoma (1995 – 2009) Few people have even heard of Air Tahoma during its 14 years of existence, although as one of the few remaining Convair 240/580 operators it has been on the radar of planespotters in Florida and Ohio. Following several well publicized accidents, Air Tahoma have fallen out of favor with the local FAA inspectors and the airline’s operating certificate was finally revoked in January 2009.

MAT Macedonian Airlines (1994 – 2009) Until September 2009, MAT was the national carrier of the Republic of Macedonia based in Skopje and operated a single Boeing 737-500 (although previously, the fleet included the -200/-300/-400 variants of the 737, as well as a DC-10-30, a DC-9 and a Yak-42). The airline encountered financial problems mid-decade and failed to pay some of its overflight fees, which resulted in flight bans by EuroControl (which is not a good thing when your country is virtually surrounded by EuroControl countries). This was followed by a political ban from flights to Greece, essentially cutting off any remaining MAT service. The Serbian carrier JAT Airlines attempted to buy a majority stake in MAT in 2009 but the deal fell through and MAT closed its doors for good.

SkyEurope Airlines (2001 – 2009) SkyEurope appears to be arguably the only ultra successful and popular airline on this list. Successful in every way besides actually making any money that is. The Bratislava and Prague-based Boeing 737 (-300/-500/-700) Low Cost Carrier quickly grew a large network around Central and Western Europe and at its peak operated a fleet of 17 aircraft. When the well of willing loaners dried up in 2008, the airline slowly started to default on many of its payments resulting in aircraft seizures and demands by its leasing company to returns some of the aircraft. In 2009, the airline was prohibited from flying to several destinations including Vienna. The punches kept on coming until the airline shut down on September 1st, 2009.

Ted seen departing...for good. (Photo by John Klos)

Ted seen departing…for good. (Photo by John Klos)

TED (2003 – 2009) What started as United’s answer to the airline-within-an-airline game (remember Song?) to compete with Frontier out of Denver finally came to an end in early 2009 when the last of the A320s repainted into TED colors were returned to the mainline fleet to support the upcoming withdrawal of the UAL 737 fleet.

FlyLal (1991 – 2009) Formed out of the Lithuanian unit of Aeroflot, the airline originally operated using the inherited fleet of Tupolevs, Antonovs and yakovlevs. FlyLal was able to lease a single Boeing 737-200, which was later supplemented by the -300 and -500 variants of the type. After over a decade of operating in the red, facing stiff competition on its bread and butter routes from Lufthansa, AirBaltic and SAS Scandinavian Airlines, the airline filled for bankruptcy in 2008 and shut down in early 2009.

Others that are no longer around (at least in name) are Aeroflot-DON which is now known as DonAvia after Aeroflot decided to drop its name from the airline after a very public investigation of a Boeing 737-500 crash in September 2008 and Virgin Nigeria which has rebranded as Nigeria Eagle Airlines, after founding member Virgin Atlantic decided to sell its share and remove it’s brand name from the airline’s title.

And then there were other airlines that did not even get off the ground and only existed in the form of a business plan and a marketing campaign, such as JetAmerica, but more on that in a later feature.

  • Dan Webb

    While Virgin Nigeria has been de-branded, Virgin Atlantic still holds its share in the company as it has yet to find a buyer.

  • Dan Webb

    While Virgin Nigeria has been de-branded, Virgin Atlantic still holds its share in the company as it has yet to find a buyer.