11 Covid-battered global airlines that failed to survive

The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc in the aviation industry with a number of noted airlines going belly up

11 Covid-battered global airlines that failed to survive
(Clockwise from top left): Avianca, Germanwings, LATAM and Flybe planes. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

The Covid-19 pandemic has tested the mettle of almost all industries and individuals but the aviation sector remains one of the most affected. Airlines are reeling from multiple layoffs, cost cuts due to limited operations and sparse passenger turnout. According to experts, airline operators are struggling to survive and the coronavirus has proved to be the final nail in the coffin of cash-strapped airlines across the globe.

Here is a list of airlines that went belly up due to Covid-19:

1. Flybe

A Flybe De Havilland Dash 8–400. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

This airline, which began its operation from 1979, collapsed sooner than anticipated as a result of the coronavirus. Flybe posted a pre-tax profit of 2.7 million pounds even as recently as 2016 and was Europe's largest regional airline serving 57 airports. As the demand for air travel slumped due to restrictions imposed by governments around the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the years of financial deficit caught up with Flybe. It entered administration on March 5, 2020.

The airlines chief executive, Mark Anderson, in a statement, said the company had made “every possible attempt” to avoid collapse but had been “unable to overcome significant funding challenges”. The airline employed more than 2,000 people directly and was one of the leading carriers at airports like Belfast, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham. About eight million people a year used its services.

2. Compass

A Delta Connection Embraer 175 operated by Compass Airlines. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

US-based regional airlines Compass became one of the more notable corporate casualties of the ongoing coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. The airlines ceased its operations with its final flight on the evening of April 5. The airline, which was functioning for the past 13 years, was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Trans State Holdings.

On March 19 the company had announced it would pare back and stop its operations in the weeks to follow. The Minneapolis-based Compass Airlines used to fly smaller passenger jets for American Airlines and Delta Airlines.

3. ExpressJet

A United Express Embraer ERJ-145 in Houston, USA. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Atlanta-based ExpressJet, which flies exclusively on behalf of United Airlines as United Express, said on August 24 that it will cease operations on September 30 and lay off most of its workforce. The company has no other airline customers. The September 30 date also coincides with the day that the US government’s financial assistance for airlines ends.

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Prior to the pandemic, ExpressJet served more than 100 destinations in the US, Canada and Mexico, with more than 3,300 weekly flights from bases in Chicago, Houston and Newark. It had about 3,000 employees.

4. Trans States Airlines 

An ERJ 145EP of the Trans States Airlines at Washington Dulles International Airport. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

This airline officially closed its doors when flight UA4695 landed in Denver from Springfield/Branson, Missouri on April 1. The carrier was already planning to shut down by year-end, but the demand-related problems in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis hastened its demise.

5. Avianca

An Avianca Airbus A330-200 at El Dorado International Airport in Colombia in 2009. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Latin America’s second-largest airline Avianca filed for bankruptcy in May this year after failing to meet a bond payment deadline.

The airline had been seeking financial aid from Colombia’s government. Its efforts remained unsuccessful for long but finally, the government announced that it will extend a loan of $370 million to the ailing airline.

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A Colombian court has issued an emergency injunction temporarily blocking the loan. It is still unclear if the airline would be able to resume normal operations.

6. RavnAir 

A Ravn Alaska Beechcraft 1900C (N575Q) in Nome, Alaska. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Alaska’s largest rural airline RavnAir (or Corvus Airline) filed for bankruptcy after a sharp decline in passenger revenue amid the Covid-19 crisis. Corvus Airline operates all its flights under the brand name of Ravn Alaska.

RavnAir cited the economic impact of the pandemic when the company halted operations on April 5, laying off its staff and filing for bankruptcy protection.

The company used to operate more than 400 flights per day, using a fleet of 72 aircraft. After the coronavirus outbreak, passenger traffic dropped more than 90%. Ravn Alaska plans a resumption of scheduled service to many of its hub communities by mid-September 2020.  

7. LATAM Airlines

A LATAM Chile Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at John F Kennedy International Airport in USA in 2016. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Latin America's largest airline LATAM Airlines Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US in May. LATAM is among the biggest corporate victims of the coronavirus crisis that has led to a virtual halt to air travel.

LATAM was formed in 2012 by the merger of Chile's Lan Airlines and Brazil’s biggest airline Tam. At the time it was the world’s second-biggest carrier by market value. The airline will continue to fly while it is in bankruptcy protection and its affiliates in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay were not included in the Chapter 11 filing.

8. Germanwings 

A Germanwings Airbus A319-100. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Lufthansa, which owns national airline brands in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, ceased the operations of its budget regional subsidiary in April partly in the wake of the travel ban imposed in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The Cologne-based Germanwings functioned as Lufthansa's low-cost carrier till October 2015 when the Germanwings brand was replaced by Eurowings. Since 2016, Germanwings had been flying as a wet lease operator for Eurowings.

Under a wet lease, an airline (the lessor) provides aircraft, complete crew, maintenance, and insurance (ACMI) to another airline or other type of business acting as a broker of air travel (the lessee). The lessee pays by hours operated. It also makes arrangements for fuel and airport fees, and any other duties, taxes. A wet lease generally lasts 1–24 months. The IATA code of Germanwings '4U' operated under the Eurowings brand till March 2018, after which it was discontinued and replaced with the Eurowings code 'EW'.   

9. German Airways 

An LGW Dornier Do 228 in 2004. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

Formerly called Luftfahrgesellschaft Walter or LGW for short, this German regional airline headquartered in Düsseldorf filed for insolvency in April after Eurowings terminated wet lease contracts, having had to decommission 90% of its own fleet. LGW's fleet of 15 Bombardier Q400 aircraft was used exclusively as part of a long-term agreement with Eurowings.

LGW's insolvency was a direct result of air travel coming to a virtual standstill in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it brought in its wake. 

10. LEVEL Europe

A LEVEL Europe Airbus A321-200. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

This Austrian airline, which was part of the International Airline Group, undertook its first flight on June 17, 2018. It filed for insolvency on June 18 citing the coronavirus and ceased operations on the same day. It was the first airline in Europe to stop trading after Flybe. 

11. SunExpress Deutschland

SunExpress Deutschland flew on leisure routes between Germany and Turkey. Image courtesy: Wikipedia

This airline was the German subsidiary of SunExpress, a joint venture of Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa since it was founded in 1989 to operate leisure routes between Germany and Turkey.

This Frankfurt-based airline was founded in 2011 and ceased operations in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. Notably, both Turkish Airlines and Lufthansa face a precarious liquidity scenario as a result of the pandemic.

On June 23, SunExpress announced that SunExpress Deutschland would stop functioning, with its route network to be partially taken over by SunExpress and Eurowings, and its fleet was to be transferred to the SunExpress AOC.