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Who Remembers These Lost Airlines of Asia?

by Matt Falcus
RuthAS, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Asia has always had some of the world’s most important and interesting airlines, and over the years many names have come and gone.

Also, within each airline, there have been many different colour schemes and liveries worn over the course of their history.

How many of these airlines do you remember from Asia?



(c) Martyn Cartledge

The Civil Aviation Administration of China, or CAAC, ran the country’s national airline for nearly 40 years. Starting with just domestic routes, it managed its operations in a similar way to that in which Aeroflot did in the Soviet Union and indeed acquired its aircraft from there until it started to look west following a cooling in Sino−Soviet relations in the early 1960s.

It then went on to operate western airliners from Britain, like the Hawker Siddeley Trident and Vickers Viscount, and the United States like the Boeing 707, 737 and 747.

CAAC always operated in regional bureaus, like Aeroflot in the USSR, and was eventually split up into independent carriers, many of which are still around today, like Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines.



(c) Martyn Cartledge

This Hong Kong carrier was formed in 1985 as a competitor to Cathay Pacific. It flew Boeing 737 routes on short- and medium-haul sectors, but could not compete directly as the Hong Kong government only allowed one operator on each route.

Later Airbus A320 and A330 aircraft became the mainstay of the fleet, and it was eventually bought by Cathay Pacific and rebranded Cathay Dragon. This was disbanded in 2016.


Kingfisher Airlines

VT-VJO - Kingfisher Airlines

Started by the giant Kingfisher organisation in India, this was an airline with big ambitions but poor finances.

Starting out with four Airbus A320s on domestic routes, Kingfisher never made a profit in its entire, and somewhat troubled, existence, despite at one time achieving the second largest share of India’s domestic market.

ATR turboprops, as well as larger Airbus A330s were delivered, and the airline even had plans for A340s and A380s to bolster its long-haul ambitions. But these were never to be and Kingfisher closed in 2012.


Trans Mediterranean Airways (TMA)

OD-AGX Boeing 707-327C Trans Mediterranean Airways LHR Feb 1982

Based in Beirut, Lebanon, at the western edge of Asia, TMA was a cargo carrier that began operations in 1953.

It flew aircraft like the Douglas DC-4, DC-6 and, more famously, the Boeing 707 which sported the all-over green livery with a yellow tail.

Later in its life TMA flew Airbus A300 freighters. But the airline closed down in 2014.


One-Two-Go / Orient Thai Airlines

One-Two-Go was a Thai-based low-cost airline, operating a fleet of red and blue liveried McDonnell Douglas MD82s and Boeing 757s on domestic services, was based at Bangkok’s secondary airport, Don Mueang.

It was merged into parent Orient Thai Airlines in 2010. This carrier operated an eclectic fleet including Lockheed L-1011 TriStars, Boeing 747-100, -200, -300 and -400, Boeing 737-300 and -400, and Boeing 767-300ER. It folded in 2018, but many of its aircraft can still be found scattered around Thailand.


Air Ceylon / AirLanka

Eduard Marmet, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons

JetPix (GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html> or GFDL 1.2 <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html>), via Wikimedia Commons

This is an airline which still exists today, but under the guise of SriLankan Airlines. It also looks very different today.

Air Ceylon was the national carrier of Ceylon and flew types like the Boeing 720, Convair 990, Lockheed Constellation, de Havilland Comet and even a Hawker Siddeley Trident.

In 1979 Ceylon became Sri Lanka, and AirLanka was formed. It flew Boeing 707s, 737s and Lockheed TriStars. It became SriLankan Airlines in 1998.



In his recent book, Lost Airline Colours of Asia, Martyn Cartledge charted the changing face of aviation across this continent.

The book documents the lost airline names and colour schemes by country, with photographs and interesting histories for each airline.

Order Your Copy Here



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1 comment

MERVYN CROWE July 29, 2021 - 1:23 am

CAAC were regulars into Melbourne with the 747-200 and the SP, AIR LANKA still operates in to MEL to this day.
Remember seeing TMA at LHR in the mid 1960s, great memories


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