World's worst airline names: Vanilla Air is latest dud

Barbara Peterson and Clarke Humphrey
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What’s in an airline name? You may have heard this week that AirAsia’s Japanese arm, now wholly owned by ANA, rebranded itself as Vanilla Air. The name was selected from a field of 200 possible titles — because, as the airline’s president explained, "everyone likes vanilla." Maybe, but to many of us, “vanilla” means bland and boring. Who’d want to fly plane vanilla?

Still, it’s not the worst airline name ever. Some truly cringe-worthy monikers have plied the skies:

Lord’s Airline: This one could have used some help from above. The airline, which was trying to get rights to fly from Florida to the Holy Land, never got off the ground.

Happy Air: Based in Thailand, this tiny turboprop operator ran into some unhappy times a few years ago. But it’s still in business.

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Hooters Air: Based in Myrtle Beach, this offshoot of the redneck restaurant chain flew for three years — serving 15 cities at its peak — before folding in 2006. Yes, it featured the same scantily clad women the eateries do, only they were just there for show: A second crew of trained flight attendants worked each flight.

Robin Hood Aviation: This oddly named upstart was based in Austria and flew a tiny fleet of turboprops for just a few years before fading into history.

Click here for more ridiculous airline names.

Hungarian airline Wizz Air’s name generates giggles, but its low fares bring business. (Photo: Chris / Flickr)
Hungarian airline Wizz Air’s name generates giggles, but its low fares bring business. (Photo: Chris / Flickr)

Wizz Air: This Hungarian-based discounter styles itself the Ryanair of Eastern Europe — and while its name is the butt of jokes in some quarters, its low fares and frequent flights out of London Luton Airport have put it on the map.

Bingo Airways: The Polish line started flying charters last year to Mediterranean destinations like Greece, Turkey and Israel (it's not clear whether bingo is part of the inflight entertainment).

Song and Ted: The duo of discount airlines-within-airlines — launched by Delta and United, respectively, to fight back at JetBlue — hit a sour note when the concept failed to catch fire, despite touches like Song’s apple martinis and Kate Spade uniforms (and teddy bears on Ted). Rising costs and a muddled message sent both Song and Ted to the airline dustbin a few years after they debuted.

Gandalf Airlines: Gandalf was a short-lived regional airline based in Italy. It flew to various cities on the continent with a mix of ten prop planes and small jets, but by 2003 it had run out of gas. Clearly it didn’t hang around long enough to get a boost from “Lord of the Rings.”

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