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Pop Quiz: Which Countries Still Have Flagship Carriers?

Singapore Plane Shutterstock Travelerpix

Most airlines around the world exist through state or private ownership, or a combination of the two.

In the early days of the airline industry, most countries had a flag carrier, such as Pan American in the United States, but the benefits of privatization, mainly to increase competition, pushed nations to give up full ownership.

Former state-owned airlines, such as British Airways and Qantas, have denationalized. However, there are still some countries that maintain a state-owned (wholly or partially), flag carrier that represents the nation wherever it flies.

We’ve collected the most well-known flag carriers here. Can you name the other airlines with state-owned flag carriers?

Well-Known Flag Carriers

Historically, flag carriers were airlines owned by the government of their home country and represented the nation’s culture and traditions. The following airlines are examples of flag carriers that symbolize their nations through cuisine, colors, and fashion.

Singapore Airlines Flight Attendants

Image Source: Facebook/Singapore Air

Singapore Airlines

The Singaporean government has a 51% ownership of Singapore Airlines. The carrier boasts its nation’s culture through traditional cuisines, such as pak choy and Singapore-style nonya chicken curry, and its sarong kebayas worn by flight attendants (known as Singapore Girls).


Airbus A340-300 South African Airways, Wikimedia, Rafael Luiz

Source: Wikimedia/Rafael Luiz

South African Airways

South African Airways (SAA) is another well-known, state-owned airline that has incorporated its country’s landscapes, traditional textiles, and craft heritage into its aircraft interiors, such as the diamond pattern on the galley curtains and earthy colors on the seats. However, the airline has been struggling financially even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, so there is uncertainty about SAA’s survivability.


Cayman Airways Flagship Carrier

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Nathan Coats

Cayman Airways

Cayman Airways is another popular state-owned airline. The carrier says its inflight experience is “synonymous with the Caymankind approach to life in the Cayman Islands.” Its aircraft liveries sport the country’s flag and coat of arms, which is symbolic of the Cayman people and the three islands that make up the territory. Furthermore, the inflight experience also boasts Cayman culture, from the free seven fathoms rum punch to the ascot worn by the flight attendants.

Although many parts of the world have denationalized their airline industry, there are dozens of wholly or partially state-owned carriers that are still operating today, such as Aeroflot, Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines.


[Image: Shutterstock/Travelerpix]

TigerUppercut April 14, 2020

I know Air India is the flagship airline owned by the Indian government. I hope it can salvage itself from ruins.

April 12, 2020

Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Air Tahiti( local as Tahiti is part of France). Moderator can you put my last few comments together as one. Thanks.

April 12, 2020

Air New Zealand too

April 12, 2020

Austrian Airline, owned by Lufthansa. Nice business class with on board chef. Really good wine selection. Wish I could fly it more.

civilian April 11, 2020

Belavia of Belarus.