Surprising Startups: Which Airlines Launched During 2021?

Following a significant transformation in the aviation industry amid the global health crisis, there were bound to be new players emerging as existing powerhouses struggled to adapt. As this year comes to an end, we thought we’d look back at which fresh faces have come on the scene.

1st Breeze A220 - MSN55128 - Exiting Paint
Breeze’s first flights may not have been with the Airbus A220, but the type will be a core feature of its fleet this decade. Photo: Airbus

Independent parties and veteran spinoffs have emerged around the world. With there being transitions across all the continents, we have split the list of new airlines by region.

North America

Avelo Airlines

The low-cost carrier kicked off operations at Burbank, California in April. The airline then set up another base in New Haven, Connecticut. Utilizing modern solutions such as data analytics well to boost flight efficiency, the firm has plenty of expansion prospects in 2022.

Breeze Airways

Priding itself as a tech company that flies planes, David Neeleman’s startup commenced operations on May 27th. We can expect swift progress with the company following the arrival of Airbus A220s heading into 2022.

Waltzing Matilda Aviation

Specializing in private air travel and aircraft management for over a decade, the transborder operator announced in April that it is keen to fly commercially from Toronto Billy Bishop City Airport. Under a new brand called Connect Airlines, the company plans to grow with Q400 turboprops.

Global X

Global Crossing Airlines, also known as GlobalX, kicked off passenger revenue flights in August. The Miami-based carrier flies Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft and operates as an ACMI, wet lease, and ad-hoc charter firm operating in the US, Caribbean, and Latin America.


The Nevada outfit began flying from Reno in October. The airline is keen to cover all along the West Coast, with eight destinations in California, Oregon, and Washington part of the package.

Wheels Up: Avelo Airlines Takes Flight
Avelo Airlines is shaking up low-cost operations in the US. Photo: Getty Images

South America

JetSmart Perú

Indigo Partners’ received approval for the creation of JetSMART Airlines Perú S.A.C. this week. Management wants to take advantage of the accelerated growth expected in South America next year.

Itapemirim Transportes Aéreos (ITA)

Brazilian startup ITA operated its first flight at the end of June. However, around half a year later, its country’s aviation authorities suspended the airline’s AOC Air Operator Certificate (AOC), putting the company’s future into doubt.

Ecuatoriana Airlines

It was announced last year that Ecuatoriana de Aviación was coming back to life in the form of Ecuatoriana Airlines. This fall, there was an update that the new outfit will launch flights in 2022 with three Dash 8s.

ITA Brazil
ITA is facing trouble already. Photo: Itapemirim Transportes Aéreos


Air Montenegro

Air Montenegro launched operations this month as the new national carrier of its country. The airline impressively served 100,000 passengers in its first six months.

Air Catalogne

This French firm is a virtual airline that rents planes from another operator to serve the Balearic Islands. The company sorts charters for sports teams and the like, and public expansions are on the cards.

ETF Airways

The Croatian airline was founded last year, and revenue services began in June 2021. The Zagreb-headquartered carrier has flown over 2,000 hours with its pair of Boeing 737-800 jets.


PLAY commenced operations in June 2021. The Icelandic airline has ambitions of swift expansions, with flights to the United States on the cards from Spring 2022.

FLYONE Armenia

The subsidiary of Moldova’s airline FLYONE received its AOC at the end of October this year. Eight destinations are on the cards, with the base being the Armenian city of Yerevan.

BA EuroFlyer

British Airways launched its London Gatwick short-haul subsidiary this month. The branch will notably face competition on nearly 100% of its routes.

ITA Airways

After years of struggle, Alitalia’s role as the flag carrier of Italy came to an end this year. ITA commenced public flights in October to represent its country’s commercial aviation scene.

Fly Lili

The Romanian airline received its AOC and first Airbus A320 in November. The firm is also looking to add an A310 freighter next year. Operations are set to begin in the first half of 2022.

Norse Atlantic Airways

The Norwegian carrier was founded in March 2021 and received its AOC just this week. The plan is to start flying to the United States from Oslo in spring 2022.


Another Norwegian carrier, Flyr was founded in August 2020, looking to give an edge with its low-cost fares. Operations began in June 2021, with the airline flying across Norway, Denmark, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland.

Grecian Air

In April, Grecian Air announced it will commence seaplane flights. The mission is to fly three 19-seat hydroplanes over lakeside areas and islands across Greece.

Sky Alps

Italian regional leisure airline Sky Alps commenced its route to Brussels Airport from Bolzano Airport this month. The carrier specializes in alpine vacation trips.

Bees Airline

The Kyiv, Ukraine-based company was founded in 2019 and commenced operations in March 2021. The low-cost carrier serves several Eurasian destinations with its 737-800 narrowbodies.

ITA SkyTeam
ITA Airways joined the SkyTeam alliance in October. Photo: SkyTeam


United Nigeria Airlines

Founded last year, United Nigeria inaugurated flights in February 2021. The private startup flies to six destinations across Nigeria with its four Embraer ERJ family aircraft.


This summer, Algeria’s WestAf announced that it will fly from Oran to four destinations in Spain and France. The groundwork for this airline has been in place for several years.

Zambia Airways

The latest incarnation of the Zambia Airways brand began flights with a domestic service to Ndola from Lusaka this month. The carrier is backed by Ethiopian Airlines, which took a 45% share three years ago.

Africa Airlines

Republic of Congo’s Africa Airlines commenced scheduled operations in August. The airline performs rotations between the countries’ two key cities of Brazzaville and Pointe Noire.

Green Africa Airways

Nigerian startup airline Green Africa performed its inaugural flight in August. The airline flew from Lagos to Abuja with an ATR-72.

Burundi Airlines

The state-owned national airline of Burundi was founded in its current form of Burundi AIrlines in February this year. The setup followed a merger of ground operations firm SOBUGEA and the long-defunct Air Burundi.

The Middle East & Central Asia

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi

Announced at the end of last year, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi began flying in January 2021. The first flight was from Abu Dhabi to Athens, a service that has helped the subsidiary fly to over 20 destinations from its UAE base.

Uzbekistan Express

In September, Uzbekistan Airways announced the launch of low-cost Uzbekistan Express. The announcement was made in honor of its country’s 30th anniversary of independence.

Qanot Sharq

Uzbekistan-based Qanot Sharq commenced twice-weekly operations from Tashkent to Moscow in October. The Airbus A320 can be found on this route.

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi A321neo
Wizz Air is expanding rapidly across the continents. Photo: Wizz Air


Akasa Air

The Indian low-cost airline was founded in 2021. Former Jet Airways and GoFirst executives will help launch operations in the summer of 2022.

Greater Bay Airlines

Hong Kong’s Greater Bay Airlines was granted an AOC in October. The airline is looking to transport passengers with its Boeing 737-800 next year.

Air Astra

The Bangladeshi startup received its no-objection certificate (NOC) in November. The airline has its eyes on a Q1 2022 commercial launch.

Alvir Airways

Dubbing itself as the first-ever tourism airline of Pakistan, the carrier looks to hit the skies with Embraer E195 and ERJ145 planes. The Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) issued a tourism promotion and regional integration (TPRI) license to the company in July 2021.

Vietravel Airlines

Even though the Vietnamese outfit performed its first flight at the end of 2020, commercial services began this January. The airline flies its three Airbus A321-200s to domestic Vietnamese destinations.

Plenty of opportunities

Taking subsidiaries along with fresh startups into account, there were approximately 30 airlines that either announced a launch, received an operating certificate, were founded, or commenced operations this year. In a challenging economy with a plethora of sensitive factors at play, this is an impressive number. Nonetheless, we can expect the launches to continue as the global health crisis continues to shake up the industry in 2022.

What are your thoughts about this year’s startups? Are you looking to fly with any of these airlines? Let us know what you think of their prospects in the comment section.