The Largest Airlines That Have Come & Gone In The Last 5 Years

In the history of commercial aviation, it is undoubtable that the five-year period between the beginning of 2019 and the end of 2023 will constitute one of the most tumultuous. Throughout this brief stretch, there were multiple major supply shocks and likely the largest demand-influencing event in the market’s history.

Without a doubt, the pandemic permanently changed how airlines operate as businesses and exacerbated industry trends that were years in the making. Just a year later, with the War in Ukraine vastly changing the way airlines are able to fly routes between Europe and Asia, the industry has had to adjust again to differing market conditions.

Nonetheless, there are some startup carriers that have been able to weather the storm and thrive despite the complex environment. On the other hand, some historically successful carriers have failed to adjust and have permanently left the world’s skies. In this article, we’ll take a close look at the most important carriers that have come and gone since 2019.

Biggest airlines that folded

There are some fairly major carriers that have ceased operations since 2019. Considering that some of these airlines carried millions of passengers as recently as 2019, the market has certainly had to adjust to their absence. The table below quantifies this effect:

Just from these statistics, we can get a solid understanding of many of the major issues airlines have faced since 2019. The War in Ukraine is obviously responsible for halting the nation’s flag carrier numbers. Some carriers, such as Jetstar Pacific folded during the pandemic, while others, such as Thomas Cook, actually folded before COVID-19 even emerged.

From just five airlines, we have seen over 30 million annual seats leave the sky, leaving a void that can only be appropriately filled by one of two things. Either, existing carriers have expanded to take over capacity, or startup players have entered the space.

Biggest startup airlines

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, some startup carriers have emerged into the market. One of the largest airlines to enter the space is Italian flag carrier ITA Airways, which replaced the now-defunct Alitalia. Today, the Italian full-service airline is responsible for transporting over 20 million passengers annually with a dynamic fleet.

Wizz Air Malta, a major subsidiary of Hungarian ultra-low-cost carrier Wizz Air, has also made an impact on the market. Since its founding in 2022, the airline has since rapidly expanded and is set to serve over 17 million passengers in 2023 alone.

Beyond these two European launches, startup carriers have emerged across the globe, with a particular emphasis on emerging low-cost carriers. With the demand for air travel so high and business travel demand increasingly thinning out, the budget carrier market certainly demonstrates the strongest potential for expansion.





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