The Strangest Names in the Airline Graveyard

Who wouldn't want to fly an airline called Gandalf? Or how about Snowflake?

March 22, 2014— -- I've written about legendary airlines that now reside in the Great Tarmac in the Sky, epic names from the past like Pan Am and TWA. But what about now-defunct airlines you never heard of?

Now it's their turn. And they deserve to be remembered if only for their colorful names.

Who wouldn't want to fly an airline called Gandalf? Or how about Snowflake? But it's too late now; some of these names disappeared into mergers or bankruptcies or continue to fly but under a new logo and livery. Whatever the case, the original, fanciful names have vanished but they're still worth a look.

Defining Names

Sometimes, it's obvious which country an airline calls home and the USA's American Airlines is a perfect example. There were a lot more among the airlines of the past, including:

• China: Air Great Wall• France: Champagne Airlines• Ireland: JetGreen Airways• Netherlands: DutchBird• Sweden: Viking Airlines• United Kingdom: Excalibur Airlines

Greece once had a quartet of airlines that dovetailed nicely with its ancient heritage including carriers called Cronus (father of Zeus); Electra (one of the Pleiades); Apollo (god of the sun); and Venus (actually, that's the name of a Roman goddess, but maybe the Greek counterpart Aphrodite was too long to paint on a plane).

Some names, on the other hand, can be misleading. Elk Airways never flew anywhere near Montana or Wyoming but did see a good bit of the airspace over Estonia. And if Dandy Air evokes images of runway models in Milan or Paris, forget it; that was a Bulgarian airline.

All that Glitters Names

Maybe geologists had a hand in naming some of these: Air Turquoise (France), Amber Air (Lithuania), Chrome Air (Nigeria), Jade Air (Thailand), Golden Air (Slovenia), Jade (China) and the all-business class Silverjet (United Kingdom).

Strange Names

So many odd ones to choose from.

• 1time (South Africa): The name supposedly means either "for real!" or "quick and easy".• Albatros Air (Albania): As I recall, this bird didn't do the Ancient Mariner any good.• FlyMe (Sweden): Anyone else reminded of old airline ads like, "I'm Debbie, fly me"? • Gandalf (Italy): Imagine Ian McKellan in a Middle-earth cockpit.• One-Two-GO Airlines (Thailand): Sounds like this one was always ready for take-off. • SAT Airlines (Russia): Can't imagine high school kids liking this.

Vanity Names

A couple of once popular brands that immediately come to mind are old U.S. carriers: MGM Grand Air, named for the Vegas hotel and casino, and the Trump Shuttle named for, uh, let me think, the "Apprentice" guy.

Cute Names

Belgium's Birdy Airlines may be long gone but the name alone can still raise a smile. Yet cute names seemed to be a largely Scandinavian specialty; Nordic skies were once filled with planes bearing lighthearted monikers like Busy Bee, Flying Finn, Snowflake, Polar Air and Teddy Air. Wonder if the defunct Norway carrier Teddy was a relative of United's long-gone Ted?

Cool Names

When it comes to entertainingly hip names, it's hard to beat the old Egyptian carrier Flash Airlines or Nepal's Cosmic Air, but the United Kingdom came close with the incomparable Buzz.

My favorite among all the defunct carriers? Maybe a one-time Sri Lanka outfit called Peace Air because that's what I hope for on every flight: A serene and safe experience with no crazy seatmates. No lost bags, either.