Around the world, a number of flag carriers are seeing dire times. On the other hand, a number of others are flourishing beyond belief. However, the rise of other private enterprises also begs the question, are flag carriers relevant in 2019?
The ailing flag carriers
Unfortunately, more flag carriers are known for struggles rather than successes. More recently, South African Airways seems to be inching towards collapse. Despite taking some A350s, a staff strike and subsequent labor deal have left the carrier weakened and profits do not seem to be on the horizon.
In Asia, Thai Airways is a flag carrier that should be immensely successful. Thailand is not only a growing tourist destination but also a hub for businesses. However, intense low-cost competition and increased costs have put the airline on edge as management seeks to find a way for the airline to keep flying.
Nearby, Air India is barely hanging on. And, it appears that if the airline does not sell, the government may consider shutting down the loss-making carrier. A lackluster product, cutthroat environment, and a large, inefficient staff have plagued the carrier’s survival chances.
In Europe, Alitalia has been more successful than Air India when it comes to expressions of interest. However, the sale process has not yet been completed and the airline continues to lose an incredible amount of money each day.
The successful flag carriers
However, there are a number of successful flag carrier airlines. A fantastic example of one is British Airways. The airline operates an impressive long-haul network and hub out of London Heathrow. Financially, the airline has performed well and continues to have a strong reputation with travelers. Not to mention, the recently-debuted Club Suite will keep the airline among the top tier of airlines for premium travelers once it expands across the airline’s fleet.
Also in Europe, Dutch flag carrier KLM has a strong reputation amongst travelers across cabin classes and flies to an impressive number of destinations.
In Africa, Ethiopian Airlines is a well-known giant. Not to mention, the carrier’s successes have drawn the attention of multiple countries who have asked Ethiopian to assist in the creation of new carriers on the continent.
Turkish Airlines is another flag carrier that flies to more countries than any other carrier on the planet. The airline is well-known for offering a fantastic product and still has room to grow with the new Istanbul airport.
Why flag carriers still matter
Flag carriers still have an important part in the world. South Africa, Thailand, and India have kept their respective carriers in the air because flag carriers play an important link to the outside world. The ability, furthermore, to fly a carrier where the flight attendants will likely speak the same language as the country itself does add an extra layer of security in the travel process for those who are a bit wary when it comes to flying.
Important political links also help to sustain a flag carrier. In many cases, a foreign carrier may not seek to operate a flight that local governments and businesses may find to be important. For example, New York is an important business market and the only carrier flying direct between Moscow and New York is Aeroflot, the Russian flag carrier. No American carrier operates this route.
However, in a number of cases, foreign carriers offer better air connectivity than flag carriers. Or, flag carriers just cannot keep up with growing demand. For example, Air Canada operated a number of routes to India, such as from Vancouver and Toronto, while Air India just recently resumed flights to Toronto.
In the United States, however, the “big three” soak up most of the passengers. None can rightly claim the mantle of being the United States’ flag carrier, but, together, they provide impressive global connectivity and give travelers plenty of options.
There are examples of successful and failed flag carriers around the world. Ultimately, every flag carrier faces competition and a number of private carriers have given flag carriers intense competition. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom and the UAE, have flirted with the idea and reality of two flag carriers. Nevertheless, flag carriers still do have an importance in the world, although that importance may be diminishing.
Do you think flag carriers will still stick around? Or, are flag carriers going out of style? Let us know in the comments!