Flag carrier

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"National airline" redirects here. For a list of airline companies named National Airlines, see National Airlines (disambiguation).
This article is about transportation companies having flag carrier status. For a naval ship which carries the flag, see flagship. For a person who carries the flag, see Flag bearer. For other uses, see flag carrier (disambiguation).

A flag carrier is a transportation company, such as an airline or shipping company, that, being locally registered in a given state, enjoys preferential rights or privileges accorded by the government for international operations. The term also refers to any carrier that is or was owned by a government, even long after their privatization when preferential rights or privileges continue.[1][disputed ]

Flag carriers may be known as such due to maritime law requiring all aircraft or ships to display the state flag of the country of their registry.[2]

A flag carrier (if it is a certificated airline rather than a holding company, conglomerate, or multinational private equity firm) may also be known as a national airline or a national carrier, although this can have different legal meanings in some countries.

Background[edit]

The first definition is rooted in the fact that pursuant to Article 17 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation aircraft have the nationality of the state in which they are registered.[3] U.S. law (14 CFR § 121.153 (a) (1)) requires American air carriers to operate aircraft registered in the United States and most countries have similar laws.[4] Thus when an airline operates an international route, between two countries, having been designated[5] pursuant to a Bilateral Air Transport Agreement any crime that would be committed on board would be prosecuted under the laws of the airline's state. Article 3 (1) of Tokyo Convention declares that "The State of registration [of the aircraft] is competent to exercise jurisdiction over “offenses and acts committed on board.”" Therefore the aircraft is truly carrying the flag of its country.[6] The American definition of "U.S.-flag air carrier service" contained in 48 CFR 47.403-1.[7] is based on this first definition. The U.S. requirements under the Fly America Act,[8] are consistent with requiring that Title 18 of the United States Code (U.S. Criminal Law) would protect U.S. government employees on flights to foreign countries.

A Boeing 747-400 of UK flag carrier British Airways departs London Heathrow Airport (2015)

The second and more broadly used definition of "flag carrier" is a legacy of the time when countries established state-owned airline companies. Governments then took the lead due to the high capital costs of establishing and running airlines. However, not all such airlines were government-owned; Pan Am, TWA, Cathay Pacific, Union de Transports Aériens, Canadian Pacific Air Lines and Olympic Airlines were all privately owned. Most of these were considered to be flag carriers[9] as they were the "main national airline"[10] and often a sign of their country's presence abroad.[11][12]

The heavily regulated aviation industry also meant aviation rights are often negotiated between governments, denying airlines the right to an open market. These Bilateral Air Transport Agreements similar to the Bermuda I and Bermuda II agreements specify rights awardable only to locally registered airlines, forcing some governments to jump-start airlines to avoid being disadvantaged in the face of foreign competition. Some countries also establish flag carriers such as Israel's El Al[13] or Lebanon's Middle East Airlines[14] for nationalist reasons, or to aid the country's economy, particularly in the area of tourism.[15]

In many cases, governments would directly assist in the growth of their flag carriers typically through subsidies and other fiscal incentives. The establishment of competitors in the form of other locally registered airlines may be prohibited, or heavily regulated to avoid direct competition.[16] Even where privately run airlines may be allowed to be established, the flag carriers may still be accorded priority, especially in the apportionment of aviation rights to local or international markets.[17]

In the last two decades, however, many of these airlines have since been corporatized as a public company or a state-owned enterprise, or completely privatized.[18] The aviation industry has also been gradually deregulated and liberalized,[19] permitting greater freedoms of the air particularly in the United States and in the European Union with the signing of the Open Skies agreement.[20] One of the features of such agreements is the right of a country to designate multiple airlines to serve international routes with the result that there is no single "flag carrier".[21]

List of flag-carrying airlines[edit]

The chart below lists airlines considered to be a "flag carrier", based on current or former state ownership, or other verifiable designation as a national airline.

Country/Region Airline Details of current state ownership Details of former state ownership
 Afghanistan Ariana Afghan Airlines[22] Majority[23]
 Algeria Air Algérie[24] State-owned[25]
 Angola TAAG Angola Airlines[26] Majority[27]
 Argentina Aerolíneas Argentinas[28] State-owned[28]
 Australia Qantas[29] None State-owned until 1992.[30]
 Austria Austrian Airlines[31] None – owned by Lufthansa[32] State-owned until 5 December 2008.[33]
 Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Airlines[34]
 Bahamas Bahamasair[35] State-owned
 Bahrain Gulf Air[36]
 Bangladesh Biman Bangladesh Airlines[37] Public-limited company State-owned until 23 July 2007.
 Belarus Belavia[38] State-owned[39]
 Belgium Brussels Airlines[40] None – owned by SN Airholding, which biggest share holder (45%) is Lufthansa[32][41]
 Bhutan Druk Air[42] None
 Bolivia Boliviana de Aviación[43] State-owned[44]
 Botswana Air Botswana State-owned
 Brunei Royal Brunei Airlines[45] State-owned[45]
 Bulgaria Bulgaria Air[46] Ownership – Balkan Hemus Group EAD 99.99%, State (0.01%)[47]
 Burkina Faso Air Burkina
 Burundi Air Burundi State-owned
 Cambodia Cambodia Angkor Air[48] Majority (51%)[49]
 Cameroon Camair-Co[50]
 Canada Air Canada[51] None State-owned until 1989.[52]
 Cape Verde TACV[53]
 Cayman Islands Cayman Airways State-owned (100%)[54]
 Chad Toumaï Air Tchad
 Chile LATAM Chile[55][56] None State-owned until September 1989.[57]
 China Air China[58] Majority (51.8%)[59] State-owned until 2004, and indirectly control through parent company until now.[60]
 Colombia Avianca[61] None
 DR of the Congo Congo Airways[62] Majority[citation needed]
 Republic of the Congo Equatorial Congo Airlines[63] Majority (70%)[citation needed]
 Croatia Croatia Airlines[64] Majority (98%)[65]
 Cuba Cubana de Aviación[66]
 Czech Republic Czech Airlines[67] Majority (56%)[68]
 Denmark Scandinavian Airlines[69] Joint-Venture[nb 1]  
 Norway
 Sweden
 Djibouti Air Djibouti[71] Joint venture
 Ecuador TAME[72] State-owned[73]
 Egypt EgyptAir[74] State-owned[75]
 Equatorial Guinea Ecuato Guineana
 Eritrea Eritrean Airlines State-owned
 Estonia Nordica[76] State-owned[76]
 Ethiopia Ethiopian Airlines[77] State-owned
 Fiji Fiji Airways[78] Majority (51%)[79]
 Faroe Islands Atlantic Airways[80]
 Finland Finnair[81] Majority (55.8%)[82]
 France Air France[83] 18% share[84]
 French Polynesia Air Tahiti Nui[85] Majority[86]
 Georgia Georgian Airways None
 Germany Lufthansa[87] None State-owned until 1994;[88] remaining government shares were sold in 1997.[89]
 Greece Aegean Airlines[90]
 Greenland Air Greenland[91]
 Guernsey Aurigny Air Services[92] State-owned[93]
 Guyana Caribbean Airlines[94] None
 Hong Kong Cathay Pacific[95] Cross Holding with Air China (29.9%)[96][additional citation needed]
 Iceland Icelandair[97]
 India Air India[98] State-owned[98]
 Indonesia Garuda Indonesia[99] Majority
 Ireland Aer Lingus[100] None- owned by International Airlines group, the parent company of British Airway and Iberia [101] State-owned until September 2006.[102][103]
 Iran Iran Air 100% state-owned[104]
 Iraq Iraqi Airways[105]
 Israel El Al[106] Minority (~1.1%)[107] State-owned until June 2004.
 Italy Alitalia[108] Minority (19.48%)[109] State-owned until 2008, and indirectly control through a state-owned company since 2013.[110][111]
 Ivory Coast Air Côte d'Ivoire[112] Minority (49%)
 Jamaica Caribbean Airlines[113] Minority (16%)
 Japan Japan Airlines[114] None State-owned until 1987.
 Jordan Royal Jordanian[115]
 Kazakhstan Air Astana[116] Majority (51%)[117]
 Kenya Kenya Airways[118] Minority (29.8%)[119]
 Kiribati Air Kiribati
 Kuwait Kuwait Airways[120] State-owned[121]
 Laos Lao Airlines[122] State-owned[123]
 Latvia Air Baltic[124] Majority (99.8%)[125]
 Lebanon Middle East Airlines[126]
 Libya Afriqiyah Airways[127] State-owned[128]
Libyan Airlines[129] State-owned[129]
 Luxembourg Luxair[130] Majority (73.86%) [131]
 Macau Air Macau[132] Minority (5%)
 Madagascar Air Madagascar[133] Majority
 Malawi Malawian Airlines[134] Majority (51%)[134]
 Malaysia Malaysia Airlines[135]
 Maldives Maldivian
 Malta Air Malta[136] Majority[137]
 Mauritania Mauritania Airlines[138]
 Mauritius Air Mauritius[139]  
 Mexico Aeroméxico None State-owned until 2007.
 Moldova Air Moldova
 Mongolia MIAT Mongolian Airlines[140] State-owned[141]
 Montenegro Montenegro Airlines[142]
 Morocco Royal Air Maroc[143] State-owned
 Mozambique LAM Mozambique Airlines[144] State-owned
 Myanmar Myanmar National Airlines[145] State-owned[146]
 Namibia Air Namibia[147] State-owned (100%)[148]
 Nauru Nauru Airlines[149] State-owned[149]
   Nepal Nepal Airlines[150] State-owned
 Netherlands KLM[151] Minority (6%)[152][needs update]
 New Zealand Air New Zealand[153] Majority (53%)[154] State-owned until 1989, partially re-nationalized in 2001.
 North Korea Air Koryo[155] State-owned[156]
 Oman Oman Air[157] Majority[158]
 Pakistan Pakistan International Airlines[159] State-owned[160]
 Panama Copa Airlines None
 Papua New Guinea Air Niugini[161]
 Philippines Philippine Airlines[162]
 Poland LOT Polish Airlines[163] Majority (93%)[164]
 Portugal TAP Portugal[165] State-owned[165]
 Qatar Qatar Airways State-owned
 Réunion Air Austral[166]
 Romania TAROM[167] Majority (95%)[168]
 Russia Aeroflot[169] Majority (51%)[170]
 Rwanda RwandAir[171] State-owned[171]
 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines SVG Air
 Samoa Virgin Samoa[172] Joint-venture, minority (49%)[173]
 São Tomé and Príncipe STP Airways None
 Saudi Arabia Saudia[174] Majority
 Serbia Air Serbia[175] Majority (51%)[176]
 Seychelles Air Seychelles[177] None
 Solomon Islands Solomon Airlines[178] State-owned (100%)[179]
 Sierra Leone Arik Air None
 Singapore Singapore Airlines[180] 54.5% through Temasek Holdings[181]
 Slovenia Adria Airways[182] None[182]  
 South Africa South African Airways[183] State-owned[184]
 South Korea Korean Air[185] None[186]
 Spain Iberia[187] Minority (5%)[188]
 Sri Lanka SriLankan Airlines[189] State-owned[190]
 Sudan Sudan Airways State-owned[191]
 Suriname Surinam Airways[192] State-owned[193]
 Swaziland Swaziland Airlink Joint venture
  Switzerland Swiss International Air Lines[194] None – owned by Lufthansa[32]
 Syria Syrian Air[195] State-owned
 Taiwan China Airlines[196] None State-owned until 1991. 51.28% held by non-profit Civic Aviation Development Foundation.[197]
 Tajikistan Tajik Air State-owned
 Tanzania Air Tanzania State-owned
 Thailand Thai Airways International[198] Majority (51%)
 Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean Airlines[199] Majority (84%)[200]
 Tunisia Tunisair[201] Majority[201]
 Turkey Turkish Airlines[202] Minority (49%)
 Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Airlines[203] State-owned
 Ukraine Ukraine International Airlines[204]  
 United Arab Emirates Etihad Airways[205] State-owned[206]
Emirates[207] State-owned
 United Kingdom British Airways[208] None Privatised in 1987.[209]
 Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Airways Majority
 Venezuela Conviasa[citation needed] State-owned
 Vietnam Vietnam Airlines[210] State-owned[210]
 Vanuatu Air Vanuatu[211]
 Yemen Yemenia[212] Majority
 Zimbabwe Air Zimbabwe[213] State-owned[213]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ SAS is partly owned by the governments of Denmark (14.3%), Norway (14.3%) and Sweden (21.4%), and is the flag carrier for all three nations.[70]

References[edit]

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  34. ^ "Azerbaijan Airlines expands network as Azerbaijan aims to raise tourism profile". Centre for Aviation. 15 June 2012. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 June 2012. The flag carrier accounts for 46% of international capacity (seats) at Baku, according to Innovata data. 
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  37. ^ "Biman Bangladesh nears completion of dramatic fleet renewal, but its outlook remains challenging". Centre for Aviation. 3 July 2014. Archived from the original on 4 July 2014. Biman is one of Asia’s smallest flag carriers, operating only 10 aircraft on a network of 22 destinations, including 19 international and three within Bangladesh. 
  38. ^ Borodina, Polina (26 June 2014). "Belavia orders three Boeing 737-800s". Air Transport World. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. This is the first direct purchase of Boeing aircraft for the Belarus flag carrier. 
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External links[edit]