Over the last three years the aviation industry has experienced unprecedented turmoil, with Covid-19 and subsequent travel restrictions grounding airlines’ fleets worldwide, and leading to huge bailouts and several carriers going out of business.
Pent-up demand and gaps in the market resulted in opportunities for new airlines to emerge, only for the war in Ukraine, the closure of Russian airspace and soaring fuel costs to put several spanners in the works.
Nonetheless the list of potential start-up carriers continues to grow – here we round-up some of the contenders and their inaugural operations. As we have learnt with the airline industry, nothing is ever certain and some of these carriers may never see the light of day. We will keep this feature up to date to reflect the situation.
Plans for Australia’s newest airline were unveiled in February 2022, with Bonza targeting an initial route network of 27 domestic routes across 16 destinations – operating from two bases at Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast airports.
Bonza said that 93 per cent of its planned routes are currently unserved, and that 96 per cent are not currently served by a low-cost carrier. Customers can only book flights via the app, with 100,000 sold by late March.
The start-up carrier has taken delivery of its first B737 Max 8 aircraft (named Shazza), with five more on order. The airline launched flights from the Sunshine Coast to Whitsunday Coast at the end of January, and will have rolled out all 27 routes by the end of May.
Canada Jetlines launched last year, nearly a decade after plans for the low-cost airline were first unveiled.
The Canada Jetlines brand was first launched as far back as 2013, and Business Traveller reported on the start-up carrier in 2019, when it billed itself as “Canada’s first true Ultra-Low Cost Carrier”, with plans to offer flights to Canadian, US, Mexican, and the Caribbean destinations.
In June 2019 Jetlines unveiled what it called a “cheeky, rebellious identity system”, and the carrier recently received its air operating certificate from Transport Canada.
The airline launched A320 flights from Toronto to Las Vegas last February, and has since started routes to Melbourne Orlando International in Florida and Cancun in Mexico.
Business Traveller first reported on plans for start-up carrier Pop Airline back in 2016, but it took until 2021 for “Flypop” to sign a lease agreement for A330-300 aircraft, and announce London Stansted as its launch base. It has since unveiled its livery featuring multi-coloured dots on the tailfin.
The low-cost airline had targeted the launch of passenger services late last year, with potential destinations including Amritsar, Hyderabad, Goa, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Kochi and Chandigarh. But delays have led to Flypop beginning life as a cargo operator, and its website still details passenger flights as “coming soon”.
Greater Bay Airlines
Plans for a new Hong Kong-based airline were announced in 2020, with the owner of Shenzhen’s Donghai Airlines looking to compete with Hong Kong Express on key domestic and regional routes.
In February 2022 Greater Bay Airlines was granted a licence by the Air Transport Licensing Authority to operate over 100 routes from Hong Kong, and launched flights between Hong Kong and Bangkok in July 2022.
Greater Bay Airlines is an all-Boeing carrier, currently operating a fleet of three leased Boeing 737-800 aircraft with flights to Bangkok, Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul. The airline also confirmed an order for five 787-9 widebodies and 15 Boeing 737 Max 9 aircraft in March 2023.
The new Hong Kong-based carrier said the Max 9 will form the backbone of its future fleet as it seeks to operate more flights between Hong Kong and major cities in Asia and Mainland China. The airline also plans to bring in several additional 737-800s to meet its expansion needs before the arrival of the Max 9s.
UK start-up carrier Hans Airways was unveiled in the summer of 2021, with plans to fly between the UK and secondary Indian cities.
In September 2022 the airline moved a step closer to the launch of flights, with the completion of route proving and familiarisation flights, and was awaiting the granting of its UK Air Operator’s Certificate.
It hoped to launch flights between Birmingham and Amritsar in northern India last October using a two-cabin (premium economy and economy) A330-200, but reports pointed to fresh delays as the firm sought further investment.
In a statement at the end of February 2023, the carrier said:
“Fulfilling the rightly stringent financial criteria required by the UK CAA to commence scheduled operations continues to hinder our launch plans. This is despite satisfying all technical (AOC) aspects of long-haul airline operations and maintaining a solvent start up business since our inception in 2019. In light of this we are pursuing a number of options. This includes the relinquishing of our first aircraft and stepped up dialogue with prospective new investors and lessors. We maintain close and cordial dialogue with the CAA.”
Plans for a new airline linking the UK and Pakistan were unveiled in 2021, with IPS Airways targeting a launch date of summer 2022.
However it was reported that an inaugural service between Leeds Bradford and Islamabad was cancelled with just a few days notice, and it’s not clear when a revised launch date will be announced.
The carrier’s website continues to promote potential routes from East Midlands, Manchester and Leeds Bradford airports to destinations including Lahore and Islamabad.
IPS Airways told Business Traveller:
“Our start-up is still in progress and we will soon announce our launch date and the type of aircraft we will be flying”, though the website mentions the use of A330 aircraft, with “flatbed luxury” in business class – no images of the aircraft or a livery have so far been published.
Northern Pacific Airways
This long-haul start-up airline was first announced in summer 2021, and has plans to offer flights between “a range of points in the United States and select cities in East Asia through Anchorage”.
However Northern Pacific has run up against difficulties including the war in Ukraine, which has led to airspace closures and airlines having to take longer routes to Asian destinations.
The airline is therefore putting its trans-Pacific flights on hold, launching a shorter inaugural route from Ontario International airport (ONT) in California to Las Vegas (LAS) on June 2, 2023, with one-way fares starting from US$69.
The airline will operate a fleet of B757-200 aircraft in a two-class configuration (business and economy), with interiors featuring a smart monochrome design.
Northern Pacific also made a filing with the US Department for Transportation last year to fly from the United States to Mexico. Northern Pacific is a subsidiary of Float Alaska, which also owns regional carrier Ravn Alaska.
Norse Atlantic Airways
Plans for transatlantic start-up Norse Atlantic Airways were unveiled in March 2021, following Norwegian’s decision to abandon its long-haul network.
The airline launched its first route between Oslo and New York JFK in June 2022, and has since begun flights from Gatwick to JFK, Orlando International and Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
The airline is set to increase this to seven US destinations this summer, with flights launching to Boston (September 2), Los Angeles (June 30), San Francisco (July 1) and Washington DC (June 1) from the south London airport.
Norse has also partnered with Easyjet, Norwegian and Spirit airlines to provide over 600 weekly connections across European and US hubs.
The launch of flights was initially targeted for just a few months later in June 2021, but to date the carrier has yet to open its website for bookings – though you can sign up to alerts for each destination.
The carrier’s website depicts a route map, showing future planned destinations from both Dubrovnik and Prague to destinations including Beijing, Tokyo, Chengdu, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Johannesburg, Los Angeles and New York.
The airline plans to operate a fleet of A350 aircraft, configured with 228 business and premium economy seats.
Really Cool Airlines
Bangkok-based Really Cool Airlines was announced in March 2023 and hopes to launch A350 flights between Thailand and Australia, Europe, as well as services between popular Asian destinations.
The start-up is the brainchild of Patee Sarasin, a previous chief executive officer of Thailand-based low-cost carrier Nok Air.
On its webpage, Really Cool Airlines says: “Yesterday, our future was uncertain. Our economy, in turmoil. Today, the dark clouds have passed. And we can take back to the skies. We were not ready for the turbulence that came before. Never again.”
The start-up hopes to take delivery of A350 aircraft by the end of the year and promises to announce its first routes by June.
Sentra Airways announced plans to launch long-haul routes out of Manchester airport in April 2022.
At the time the paper airline said that it was targeting destinations in both Africa and the US, and had agreed lease terms on a used A330-200 aircraft, configured with 36 business class seats and 209 economy seats.
The carrier’s website currently states that bookings are “coming soon”, with the launch route being between Manchester and Ghana’s capital Accra. The website also states that more direct connections are being planned from Accra to locations such as Toronto and New York. Flights are not yet on sale, but readers can register their interest online.
Which airlines have we left off this list? Let us know in the comments section below.