13 airlines which went off radar due to failures and bankruptcy

Many airlines, which were once very popular with fliers, have disappeared from the skies. In most cases, financial problems led to the closures, the latest being Jet Airways which is still looking for a possible solution to its financial crisis. According to an analysis by UK website protectmyholiday.com, a whopping 254 global airlines seized to exist (mid-2017) in the last two decades.

Norway Airways

The Norwegian airline, which operated between 1988 and 1992, flew on a single scheduled route between Oslo Airport, Fornebu and London Gatwick on a contract with Air Europe. The airline, which operated only two Boeing 737-300 aircraft, went solo in its last year of operations (1991-1992). Subsequently, it ran up to losses of $12 million, before shutting shop.

Laker Airways

British entrepreneur Sir Freddie Laker pioneered cheap air travel with his Skytrain to the US in 1977. His first London-New York flight was a favourite among the British public, who were keen to enjoy package holidays abroad. In February 1982, Laker Airways and Skytrain collapsed with debts of $337.93 million. At its peak Laker Airways had 20 aircraft.

Trump Shuttle

Trump Shuttle, Inc. was owned by Donald Trump between 1989 and 1992. The fleet had 17 ageing Boeing 727s, which were bought from a struggling Eastern Air Lines. Trump Shuttle launched flights between New York, Boston and Washington DC.
Lack of customers' interest, high pre-Gulf War fuel prices never gave it a chance to turn profitable. The high debt forced Trump to default on his loans, and ownership of the company was turned over to creditors. The airline ceased to exist in 1992 when it was merged into a new corporation, Shuttle Inc.

Monarch Airlines

Monarch, Britain's longest-surviving airline brand, went bankrupt in 2017. Britain's aviation regulator termed the closure as the "biggest ever UK airline failure". Monarch was founded in 1968 and operated flights to 40 destinations, besides providing tour packages. It employed about 2,750 people. The company fell victim to a price war over flights to the Mediterranean. Mounting costs saw it suffer a period of sustained losses leading to bankruptcy.

Kingfisher Airlines

Owned by fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines, which was set up in 2003, had the second largest share in India's domestic air travel market. By 2009, the airlines showed a downward spiral, and laid off around 100 pilots. After several rounds of fundraising and large loans, the airline's debt stood at over Rs 6,000 crore ($858 million).
In 2011, Mallya decided to exit the business, leading to layoffs, delayed salaries, protests and cancelled flights. After failing to repay the debt, the DGCA revoked the airlines licence in 2013. Mallya's loan default of Rs 9,000 crore includes the debt of Kingfisher Airlines.

Trans World Airlines

TWA was founded in 1925, but became a major international air carrier after billionaire Howard Hughes acquired it in 1939. It was a luxury carrier and considered to be at the cutting edge of technological innovation in air travel.
However, the airline had difficulty borrowing money with Hughes at the head of the company, and it nearly went bankrupt in the early 1960s. In 1970s, it was hit by deregulation and the fuel cost crises. During the following decade, TWA experienced more financial problems, which eventually resulted in the airline declaring bankruptcy in 1992, and then again in 1995. It was once again forced into bankruptcy in 2001 and was acquired by American Airlines.


Founded in 1923, the Societé Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aérienne, also known as Sabena, was the national airline of Belgium. In 1995, Swissair purchased a 49% stake in the company and pledged to invest millions.
But due to its own financial troubles, it could not follow up on the plan. Sabena could not stand the impact of 9/11 attacks on transatlantic airlines business. It filed for bankruptcy in October 2001 and was liquidated in the following month.
Air Berlin

It was the fourth-largest airline in Europe and had the best safety records. A "semi low-cost carrier" - not quite a budget fleet, but neither a full-service airline- Air Berlin flew to destinations across Europe, North America, Asia and North Africa. In January 2018, it went bankrupt and creditors moved in, selling its entire inventory.
The airline was suffering for years and had accumulated losses of $1.83 billion by the end of 2016. With Etihad on board, which was its biggest shareholder, the carrier could revive itself. But things changed for worse after the UAE-based airline pulled out in August 2017.

Pan American World Airways

Pan American World Airways, or Pan Am, was one of the most recognised and luxurious airlines during the 1950s and 1960s. Its fortunes started declining in the 1970s when deregulation led to increased competition from other carriers, accompanied by a rise in fuel prices and declining international travel. The airline was permanently grounded by the infamous 1988 Lockerbie crash, the result of a terrorist bombing that resulted in the deaths of all 243 passengers on board. The airline struggled for three more years, mostly by selling off assets and was financially defunct by 1991.


The Roman airline filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, which led to a buyout. The Italian government tried its best to bail it out by pumping in $5.71 billion since 1998, but it was a short-term measure to protect the airlines from creditors. After its liquidation, some of its assets and liabilities were bought by Compagnia Aerea Italiana. It closed its operations in 2009.

United Airlines

In 2006, America's second biggest airline posted nearly $4 billion in losses despite operating about 1,700 flights a day. The airline wanted federal backing to fight bad loans and other liabilities. After the 9/11 attack, the government rejected United's request for funds. Within two years, the company declared bankruptcy.

Continental Airlines

Continental Airlines was founded in 1932 as Varney Speed Lines. Continental expanded operations significantly in the 1950s following its acquisition of Pioneer Airlines. It established a Los Angeles hub in the 1960s and pioneered economy fares between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Continental was hurt by deregulation and labour troubles, and eventually had to declare bankruptcy in 1983. It emerged from bankruptcy with increased profit margins by cutting labour costs, and established a Newark hub for flights to Europe. After adding service to other international destinations in the 1990s and 2000s, Continental merged with United Airlines through a stock swap in 2010.

US Airways

US Airways was a major American airline founded in 1939 under the All American Aviation Inc. The airline had an extensive international and domestic network, covering 193 destinations across 24 countries in North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East. The airline was notorious for high fares, and its primary goal was to expand market share rather than establish financially viable routes.
After the 9/11 attack, US Airways was hit particularly hard, because it depended on national routes, which was closed for several weeks. It was losing $3 million a day and was inching towards bankruptcy.
The airline officially faded away with Flight 1939 in October 2015.