Busted Airlines #1: Adria Airways

"Are you sure that won't be boring?" was the general response to my "let's write about bankrupt airlines!" idea.

That response made me just a little concerned. Could busted airlines actually be boring?

I shouldn't have been concerned. At all. The backstories are *bonkers*.

Theoretically, this series is about Airlines That Went Bust Since 2017.

In reality, it's about Montenegrin banana importers, Turkish truck drivers, false claims about negotiating with Somali pirates(!), Ibiza techno club collabs, the Indian Mafia, and the urgent government rescue of 110,000 sunburned Brits On Tour.

(all of this madness is stuff we stumbled across while updating our tool that tells you carry-on luggage restrictions for every airline in the world).

If there's any airline – or any wild story – we missed, let us know.

So which busted airline is first up – and how did they go bust?

Adria Airways

  • Home Country: Slovenia
  • Launched March 1961 as Adria Aviopromet
  • Flew their first commercial flight with a Dutch crew, since no locals were qualified
  • Had already declared bankruptcy by 1968, but pulled itself together and kept flying
  • Finally kicked the bucket September 2019

Adria survived some uniquely tough times for a commercial airline – for example, after 89% of Slovenians voted for independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, the Yugoslav Federal Air Force decided to launch an air strike on Adria's hangars, causing massive damage to four aircraft, the building, and other vehicles.

But if you exclude the Yugoslav Federal Air Force, Adria were usually their own worst enemy.

They launched a short-lived indirect route primarily serving Turkish truck drivers relocating from Istanbul to Marseille (neither of which is in Slovenia), and at one point announced multiple new routes out of Bern (also not in Slovenia) with only a few days notice – routes which were then cancelled within days, before flying even a single passenger.

They paid to acquire a Swiss airline in July 2017 – which itself went bankrupt within six months. Oh, and after opening a lovely new HQ at Ljubljana Airport in November 2009, they had to abandon it in April 2010 – again, less than six months later – because the Ljubljana airport runway needed renovation.

Which they knew before moving.

You might be thinking: oh yeah, sounds like a government-run airline. How wrong you are! Privatised to encourage operating under "market conditions", Adria eagerly complied by ending 2005 with a loss of around $10M, finishing strong in 2008 with a $3M loss, then really upping their game with a solid $14M loss in 2009.

You thought $14M loss in 2009 was pretty good? Adria then made a total loss of $63,073,630(!) in 2010.

Unsurprisingly, Adria was on borrowed time. But even as news broke that their planes were being repossessed over unpaid debts, they kept on taking bookings. Eventually, so many planes got repossessed that they ran out of planes to fly, closed up shop, and walked away from debts of over $100M.

The kicker?

In January 2020, Adria Airways assets were auctioned. The winner was Izet Rastoder, a Montenegrin businessman known as the largest banana importer in Europe.

His winning bid? $45,000.

1 comment

I have to admit, this was a pretty interesting read! Now I’m ready for more 😅
Minaal replied:
Hey Chad, sorry for the slow reply, this one slipped under our radar. Thanks for the comment – glad you’re enjoying reading the series as much as we’re enjoying putting it together!

Chad July 17, 2022

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