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9 Airlines You Haven’t Heard of Yet

(Photo: Thinkstock/Digital Vision)

The airline business—like show business—somehow keeps attracting would-be operators into what has largely been, over the years, an investor’s black hole. Since deregulation, about 200 new airlines were started in the U.S. and Canada, but only a handful survive: Allegiant, (the new) Frontier, JetBlue, Porter, Spirit, Sun Country, WestJet, and Virgin America. (Some folks also include Southwest, but it actually started several years before deregulation.)

Surviving start-ups focus on some combination of very low costs and low fares, per Frontier, Spirit, and WestJet; superior coach/economy products at competitive fares, per JetBlue, Porter, and Virgin America; a substantial number of seats sold to tour operators, per Sun Country; and unique nowhere-to-somewhere routes, per Allegiant. Only one airline, Midwest Express, survived more than a year with a “first class at coach prices” strategy; a dozen or more others flopped very quickly.

The start-up scene was very quiet following the great recession, but it seems to be heating up again. Here are nine start-up airlines (based in or flying to North America) that have mainline aspirations. Will they survive? You decide.

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