An update on the progress of planned airline start-ups and on those airlines that have suspended or ceased operations in recent months


JetBlue and Azul founder David Neeleman cemented his plans for a new US start-up by striking a tentative deal at July's Farnborough air show for 60 Airbus A220-300s.

With his launching of JetBlue in 2002, Neeleman was responsible for one of the last major new US entrants, and his plans for a new carrier dominated headlines when they first emerged in June.

"After years of US airline consolidation, the conditions are improving for a new generation of US airlines to emerge, focused on passenger service and satisfaction," says Neeleman.

While initial reports suggested that the airline would be called Moxy, Neeleman – in publicly disclosing a deal for A220s at Farnborough – said this was just a working name. The carrier is eyeing launch in 2021.

He says the A220 will allow the new carrier to operate thin routes, offering passenger comfort without compromising costs – particularly on longer-range sectors.

Neeleman adds that the planned US start-up will eventually partner with Brazil's Azul and TAP Air Portugal for transatlantic flying, with the Airbus A220-300's range central to that long-term strategy. "We can fly across the North Atlantic, down into the Caribbean and into Brazil," he says.

Elsewhere in the region, WestJet's ultra-discount unit Swoop began operations on 20 June and is already expanding into cross-border flights. Swoop launched with services with a handful of domestic Canadian routes but will in October launch flights to Las Vegas, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and the Phoenix suburb of Mesa.

A number of new players have emerged in the Canadian low-cost market. Flair Airlines launched last summer, while EnerJet and Jetlines continue to target launch. In May, Jetlines recruited former Allegiant executive Lukas Johnson as its new chief executive.


Vietnamese start-up Bamboo Airways expects to begin operations on 10 October. The carrier made the launch date public on its Facebook page, after receiving government approval for its establishment, on 9 July.

Local media reports quote Bamboo's director Dang Tat Thang as saying that the airline will begin ticket sales on 2 September, although it did not specify the destinations or routes it would operate. However, it is likely to operate flights to destinations where Bamboo's parent company FLC Group has resorts and tourism investments.

Despite the carrier's revealing of its start date, Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) director general Dinh Viet Thang says his administration is still considering Bamboo's application for an air operator's certificate.

Bamboo in June committed to an order for 20 Boeing 787-9s, and plans to deploy the aircraft on international routes to Europe and the USA. The aircraft are tentatively scheduled to be delivered from April 2020 through 2021, says Boeing. The airline had previously signed a memorandum of understanding for 24 Airbus A321neos, which remains in place, says the carrier.

Planned start-up Starlux Airlines in May received a permit from Taiwanese regulators for its establishment, marking the first step towards getting its AOC. The target is to complete all necessary requirements by the end of 2019, before launching operations in early 2020.

Starlux is in advanced talks to take 10 A321neos from lessors, with a decision to be finalised in the first half of 2018. It also disclosed plans at Farnborough to take up to 17 A350s to support its launch of long-haul operations.

Cambodian start-up KC International Airlines received its first aircraft at the end of June, an Airbus A320. The carrier was established in Phnom Penh with $100 million in launch capital as a joint venture between Cambodian and Chinese investors.

Indian carrier Star Air is now targeting launching operations in September. The carrier's chief executive Simran Singh Tiwana expects two Embraer ERJ-145s to arrive by September, and says that the carrier is still in the process of acquiring an air operator's certificate.

Its network will focus on domestic routes operating under India's regional connectivity scheme from its base at Bengaluru's Kempegowda International airport.

Regional carrier JetGo Australia suspended its scheduled services after entering voluntary administration on 1 June. Administrators say the carrier will continue to operate limited charter services, while scheduled services will remain suspended "for the duration of the administration period".


European attention continues to focus on Vienna and the former Niki operation, Laudamotion. Formed out of the assets of the Austrian carrier by its founder Niki Lauda, Laudamotion launched in March and has since added operations at Berlin Tegel.

Ryanair, which in July secured clearance to raise its stake in the carrier from 25% to 75%, is expecting Laudamotion to lose around €150 million ($176 million) in its first year. But it is forecasting breakeven by the third year of operations.

IAG, which had also been in the running to acquire Niki, in July established a new Austrian-based low-cost carrier under its Level brand. The new unit has four Airbus A321 narrowbodies sourced from now-defunct Air Berlin.

Air Belgium launched flights in June after securing permission to overfly Siberia. The airline is operating Airbus A340 services from Brussels Charleroi to Asia, beginning with Hong Kong.

Airline start ups Aug 18

Air Nostrum's owners are creating a new carrier in Ireland called Hibernian Airlines, which will specialise in European wet-lease operations. The Spanish carrier, which in July announced a tie-up with CityJet, plans to have the new carrier operating by the end of this year.

Ukrainian budget carrier SkyUp began operations on 21 May with services to resorts in Egypt. SkyUp has introduced a pair of five-year-old Boeing 737-800s and has also reached a deal with Boeing to take up to 10 737 Max jets. It has since secured rights to 55 routes, including 20 international scheduled routes from five cities.

Romanian operator Just Us Air added an A321 shortly after launching in April with an A319.

Russian entrepreneur Arkady Evstafiev has already begun work on a successor carrier to the collapsed Saratov Airlines, in which he was a shareholder.

Saratov Airlines was grounded at the end of May, just months before a newly developed airport for its home city was due to open. That came less than four months after a fatal accident involving one of its Antonov An-148s. This new carrier would aim to retain employees of the grounded airline.

Swedish regional carrier Nextjet cancelled all flights and disclosed plans to file for bankruptcy in May.


Nigeria’s transport minister Hadi Sirika unveiled Nigeria Air as the chosen name for the African state's new national carrier, which hopes to commence operations this year and build a fleet of 30 aircraft by 2023.

Sirika says the airline will be based on a public-private partnership model. But while the government would offer support and backing to the airline, it would hold only a minimal share, around 5%, of the carrier.

Detailing the plans at the Farnborough air show in July, Sirika said the airline would start services in December with a small number of aircraft – the type of which has yet to be disclosed, though negotiations are taking place with Boeing and Airbus.

South African regulators in July reinstated SA Express's AOC after the carrier was temporarily grounded. The airline suspended flights on 24 May when its operating licences and the certificates of airworthiness for nine of its 21 aircraft were suspended following a safety audit.

The airline was initially limited to operating only those two aircraft for which certificates of airworthiness have been secured. Former chief Siza Mzimela has returned to manage the airline on an acting basis. She has been part of a "ministerial intervention team" that was appointed in May to stabilise the airline's operations. The carrier is aiming to restore flights shortly.

Air Senegal began its first flights after securing its air operator's certificate at the end of April, launching with a domestic service between Dakar and Ziguinchor. Flight Fleets Analyzer data indicates that Air Senegal has a fleet of two ATR 72-600s in service and a pair of Airbus A330neos on order.


Argentina has awarded permits to San Luis-based airline Polar Lineas Aereas to operate commercial passenger and cargo charter flights. The airline is the creation of Daniel Barbosa, a former Aerolineas Argentinas pilot and former chief executive of bankrupt Cata. According to Barbosa, Polar will operate Boeing 737 aircraft.

In April, a Buenos Aires court removed all operational restrictions from the city's new El Palomar low-cost airport, allowing Argentina's first low-cost airline Flybondi to resume its original expansion plan. The carrier, which launched flights in January, had been forced to switch some of its flights to Aeroparque after local residents obtained a court injunction limiting daily take-offs and landings.

Grounded Venezuelan carrier Aserca Airlines at the end of May acknowledged that it was unable to resume operations and requested that Venezuela's civil aviation authority INAC cancel its air operator's certificate.

Valencia-based Aserca stopped flying in February after having to ground gradually all of its nine Boeing MD-80s as the company was unable to obtain state-assigned foreign currencies to import spare parts and pay for insurance policies.

Aserca is the third and last of the airlines owned by Venezuelan businessman Simeon Garcia that have gone out of business in months. His Dominican Republic-based PAWA and Caracas-based Santa Barbara Airlines also went into liquidation earlier this year.

Airline failures Aug 18

Source: Cirium Dashboard