The airline business for many is still an attractive and lucrative industry to venture into. Owning a carrier for some is a romantic investment – for others, an airline is a way to flex one’s political muscles, showcasing the capabilities of a nation in developing a flag carrier.

Yet at the same time, the aviation industry is one of the most competitive and difficult areas to become successful in. It seems paradoxical – as more people fly around the world, there are seemingly fewer options to choose from – consolidation is becoming a worrying trend.

Especially when the air gets colder and colder outside, the seasonality of cash flow strikes out those who are the least prepared. And 2019 was no exception to the rule – the year, notably in fall, saw several high-profile bankruptcies, some surprising, while others were a long time coming.

These are some of the biggest airline bankruptcies in 2019:

5) Adria Airways – bankrupt on September 30, 2019

The Slovenian airline abruptly stopped operations on September 30, 2019, after temporarily suspending flights twice the week before. But Adria was already in dire straits for quite some time – its most recent profitable year in 2014 was due to the fact that the Slovenian government privatized the airline and sold its brand name to an investment group called 4K Invest.

The move, heavily scrutinized by current Slovenian politicians, was just the tip of the iceberg for the flag carrier. It had multiple issues, including an aging fleet, a relatively small market and strong competition from the bigger birds in the sky.

Adria’s fall was initially seen as a disaster for the small European country, as the seat capacity at Ljubljana Airport (LJU) was significantly reduced before Lufthansa stepped in to save the day. The German Group’s airlines, namely Austrian, Lufthansa and Swiss have announced that they will replace former Adria frequencies, ensuring connectivity from the Slovenian capital.

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UPDATE: Adria Airways have announced that they are declaring bankruptcy, ending a week-long period of uncertainty: 
 

4) Aigle Azur – bankrupt on September 27, 2019

One out of two French airlines that have collapsed this fall, Aigle Azur left many frustrated. The second-biggest airline in the country ceased operations due to “great economic difficulty”.

The sudden stop of operations affected up to 50,000 travelers, including passengers stranded at various airports. Aigle Azur was hopeful that a buyout would save the airline – it even had 14 takeover offers at one point in time, as its slots at Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) was hot property.

After various airlines, including Air France, had their initial takeover bids rejected, hopes diminished for Aigle Azur. Commercial Court of Evry finally put the final nail in the airlines’ coffin, when on September 27, 2019, it announced that all takeover offers are rejected. Aigle Azur officially stopped trading activities on the same day at midnight.

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The Commercial Court of Evry has rejected all takeover offers for Aigle Azur. The activity of the second biggest French airline stops from September 27, 2019.
 

3) WOW Air – bankrupt on March 28, 2019

The provocative and ambitious long-haul low-cost airline was all about expansion – from its home base in Iceland, WOW Air offered flights to European airports like Copenhagen (CPH) or London-Gatwick (LGW). However, as its appetite grew, WOW Air bit off more than it can chew.