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Flag carrier

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,


A flag carrier refers to a transportation company, such as an airline or shipping company, that is locally registered in a given country. They may be state-run, state-owned or state-designated companies or organisations with preferential rights or privileges accorded by the government. 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.

A flag carrier (if it is an airline) may also be known as a national airline or a national carrier, although this can have different legal meanings in some countries. In the United States for example, a national carrier (or airline) must have an annual operating revenue between $100 million and $1 billion.


In the USA, laws require all US flag carrying ships to have US crews. Also, for trade between US ports, the Jones Act requires the ship to be US-built. The effect of these regulations has been to make US flag carriers uncompetitive and they have declined from a dominant position after WWII to insignificance now, when only 3% of US trade is carried by US flag carriers.


The term "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. The heavily regulated aviation industry also meant aviation rights are often negotiated between governments, denying airlines the right to an open market. These bilateral aviation agreements may 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 for nationalist reasons, or to aid the country's economy, particularly in the area of tourism.

An Airbus A330-200 of the Lebanese flag carrier Middle East Airlines.

An Airbus A330-200 of the Lebanese flag carrier Middle East Airlines.

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. 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. In the United States, for example, funding for international travel is restricted to "US flag air carriers" under the Fly America Act.

In recent decades, however, many of these airlines have since been corporatised as a public company or a state-owned enterprise, or completely privatised. The aviation industry has also been gradually deregulated, particularly in the United States and in the European Union. This has rendered the designation of "flag carriers" less important than it was in the past.

The legacy of flag carriers can still be seen by the restrictions in international air travel such as the bilateral Bermuda II agreement. The mass media may also routinely use the term to loosely refer to any dominant airline in a country, or in reference to legacy state carriers even long after their privatisation.

List of flag-carrying airlines

The chart below lists airlines considered to be a "flag carrier", either by designation as a national airlines either officially or based on history and whether it is state-owned.

Country Airline Designated State-owned
 Afghanistan Ariana Afghan Airlines Yes Majority
 Albania Albanian Airlines Yes Joint-Venture
 Andorra AeroKing Andorra Yes Joint-Venture between Eagle Aviation España and TAP Portugal
 Algeria Air Algérie Yes Majority (By opening its capital)
 Angola TAAG Angola Airlines Yes Full
 Åland Islands Air Åland
 Argentina Aerolíneas Argentinas Yes Full
 Armenia Armavia Yes No
 Australia Qantas Yes No
 Austria Austrian Airlines Yes Minority (42.75%)
 Azerbaijan Azerbaijan Airlines Yes Full
 Bahamas Bahamasair Yes Full
 Bahrain Gulf Air Yes Full
 Bangladesh Biman Bangladesh Airlines Yes Full
 Barbados LIAT No No
 Belarus Belavia Yes Full
 Belgium Brussels Airlines Yes No
 Belize Maya Island Air No No
 Benin Benin Golf Air Yes No
 Bhutan Drukair Yes Full
 Bolivia AeroSur Yes Minority (48%)
 Bosnia and Herzegovina B&H Airlines Yes Majority (51%)
 Botswana Air Botswana Yes Full
 Brazil TAM Airlines Yes No
 Brunei Royal Brunei Airlines Yes Full
 Bulgaria Bulgaria Air Yes No
Hemus Air Yes No
 Burkina Faso Air Burkina Yes Majority
 Burundi Air Burundi Yes Full
 Cambodia Royal Khmer Airlines Yes Full
 Cameroon Cameroon Airlines Yes
 Canada Air Canada Yes No (privatised in 1988)
 Cape Verde TACV Cabo Verde Airlines Yes Full
 Cayman Islands Cayman Airways Yes
 Chad Toumaï Air Tchad
 Chile LAN Airlines No
 China Air China Yes Majority
 Colombia Avianca Yes No
 Comoros Air Comores International
 Republic of the Congo Trans Air Congo
 Democratic Republic of the Congo Hewa Bora Airways
 Costa Rica Lacsa (now part of TACA)
 Côte d'Ivoire Air Ivoire
 Croatia Croatia Airlines Yes Majority
 Cuba Cubana de Aviación Yes Full
 Cyprus Cyprus Airways Yes Majority
 Northern Cyprus Cyprus Turkish Airlines
 Czech Republic Czech Airlines Yes Full
 Denmark Scandinavian Airlines System Yes Joint-Venture
 Djibouti Air Djibouti
 Dominican Republic Air Dominicana Yes Minority (33%)
 Ecuador TAME
 Egypt EgyptAir Yes Full
 El Salvador TACA
 Equatorial Guinea Ecuato Guineana
 Eritrea Eritrean Airlines Yes Full
 Estonia Estonian Air Yes Minority
 Ethiopia Ethiopian Airlines Yes Full
 Faroe Islands Atlantic Airways
 Fiji Air Pacific
 Finland Finnair Yes Majority
 France Air France No Minority
 French Guiana Air Guyane Yes
 French Polynesia Air Tahiti Nui Yes
 Gabon Gabon Airlines
 Gambia Gambia International Airlines Yes
 Georgia Georgian Airways Yes
 Guernsey Aurigny Air Services Yes Full
 Germany Lufthansa Yes No
 Ghana Ghana International Airlines Yes
 Greece Olympic Airlines Yes Majority
 Greenland Air Greenland Yes
 Guadeloupe Air Caraïbes
 Guam Continental Micronesia
 Guatemala Aviateca (now part of TACA) / Tikal Jets Airlines (now defunct)
 Guinea Air Guinee Express Yes
 Guyana Caribbean Airlines No
 Haiti Tortug' Air
 Honduras TACA
 Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Yes No
 Hungary Malév Yes No
 Iceland Icelandair Yes No
 Indonesia Garuda Indonesia Yes Full
 India Air India Yes Full
Indian Yes Full
 Iran Iran Air Yes Full
 Iraq Iraqi Airways Yes Full
 Ireland Aer Lingus Yes Minority (28%)
 Israel El Al Yes Minority (30%)
 Italy Alitalia Yes No (Privatised in 2009)
 Jamaica Air Jamaica Yes
 Japan Japan Airlines Yes No
 Jordan Royal Jordanian Airlines Yes
 Kazakhstan Air Astana Yes 51%
 Kenya Kenya Airways Yes
 Kiribati Air Kiribati Yes
 North Korea Air Koryo Yes Full
 South Korea Korean Air Yes No
Asiana Airlines No No
 Kuwait Kuwait Airways Yes Full
 Kyrgyzstan Kyrgyzstan Airlines Yes Majority
 Laos Lao Airlines Yes Full
 Latvia Air Baltic Yes Majority
 Lebanon Middle East Airlines Full
 Liberia Air Liberia Yes
 Libya Libyan Arab Airlines Yes
 Luxembourg Luxair Yes Minority
 Macau Air Macau Yes No
 Macedonia MAT Macedonian Airlines Yes No
 Madagascar Air Madagascar Yes Majority
 Malawi Air Malawi Yes Full
 Malaysia Malaysia Airlines Yes Minority
 Maldives Maldivian Yes Full
 Mali Air Mali International Yes No
 Malta Air Malta Yes Majority
 Marshall Islands Air Marshall Islands Yes Full
 Martinique Air Caraïbes Yes No
 Mauritania Mauritania Airways Minority
 Mauritius Air Mauritius Yes Minority
 Mexico Aeromexico
Mexicana Yes
 Federated States of Micronesia Continental Micronesia
 Moldova Air Moldova Yes
 Mongolia MIAT Mongolian Airlines Yes
 Montenegro Montenegro Airlines Yes
 Montserrat Air Montserrat
 Morocco Royal Air Maroc Yes
 Mozambique Linhas Aéreas de Moçambique Yes
 Myanmar Myanma Airways Yes Yes
 Namibia Air Namibia Yes
 Nauru Our Airline Yes
 Nepal Nepal Airlines Yes
 Netherlands KLM Yes No
 Netherlands Antilles Dutch Antilles Express
 New Caledonia Aircalin
 New Zealand Air New Zealand Yes Majority
 Nicaragua NICA (now part of TACA) Yes
 Nigeria Virgin Nigeria Airways Yes No
 Norway Scandinavian Airlines System Yes Minority[5]
 Oman Oman Air Yes Majority (82.4%)
 Pakistan Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) Yes Majority (87%)
 Palestinian Authority Palestinian Airlines Full
 Panama Copa Airlines Yes No
 Papua New Guinea Air Niugini
 Paraguay Regional Paraguaya Yes No
 Peru Air Perú
 Philippines Philippine Airlines Yes Joint-Venture
 Poland LOT Polish Airlines Yes Majority (67.97%)[6]
 Portugal TAP Portugal Yes Full [7]
 Qatar Qatar Airways Yes
 Republic of China China Airlines[8] No Majority (54%)
 Réunion Air Austral
 Romania TAROM Yes Majority (95%)
 Russia Rossiya Yes Full
Aeroflot Yes 51.17%
 Rwanda Rwandair Express Yes
 Samoa Polynesian Blue
 São Tomé and Príncipe STP Airways
 Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabian Airlines Yes Full
 Senegal Air Sénégal International Yes
 Serbia Jat Airways Yes Full[9]
 Seychelles Air Seychelles Yes
 Sierra Leone Sierra National Airlines Yes
 Singapore Singapore Airlines Yes Majority (54%)
 Slovakia Air Slovakia
 Slovenia Adria Airways
 Solomon Islands Solomon Airlines Yes
 Somalia Somali Airlines[10] Yes
 South Africa South African Airways Yes
 Spain Iberia Yes Minority (5%)[11]
 Sri Lanka SriLankan Airlines Yes
 Sudan Sudan Airways Yes
 Suriname Surinam Airways Yes
 Sweden Scandinavian Airlines System Yes[5] Joint-Venture[5]
 Swaziland Royal Swazi National Airways
 Switzerland Swiss International Air Lines [12] Yes No
 Syria Syrian Air Yes Full
 Tajikistan Tajik Air Yes
 Tanzania Air Tanzania Yes
 Thailand Thai Airways International Yes Majority (53%)
 Togo Air Togo Yes
 Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean Airlines Yes Full
 Tunisia Tunisair Yes
 Turkey Turkish Airlines Yes Majority
 Turkmenistan Turkmenistan Airlines Yes
 Turks and Caicos Islands Air Turks and Caicos Yes
 Uganda Air Uganda Yes
 Ukraine Ukraine International Airlines Yes Majority
 United Arab Emirates Etihad Airways Yes Yes[13]
Emirates Yes Yes[14]
 United Kingdom British Airways Yes No (Privatised in 1987)
 United States None N/A N/A
 Uruguay PLUNA Yes Minority (25%)
 Uzbekistan Uzbekistan Airways Yes Majority
 Vanuatu Air Vanuatu Yes
 Venezuela Conviasa Yes Full
 Vietnam Vietnam Airlines Yes Full
 Yemen Yemenia Yes
 Zambia Zambian Airways Yes
 Zimbabwe Air Zimbabwe Yes


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Published in July 2009.

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