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Global Airline Industry

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Introduction and Overview

Peter P. Belobaba and Amedeo Odoni

This chapter presents an introduction to the global airline industry, its evolution and

current status. The major forces shaping the industry are described, including deregulation

and liberalization worldwide, along with some important recent industry challenges,

such as the severe financial problems that the industry has faced since 2000, which were

followed by restructuring of some of the industry's largest airlines. Looking ahead, the

industry still faces major challenges, including unprecedented fuel price volatility, a global

financial crisis and weakening demand for air travel as economic growth slows. Infrastructure

capacity poses a major constraint worldwide and threatens continued evolution

and long-term profitability. The final section provides a brief overview of each of the

other chapters of this book.

1.1 Introduction: The Global Airline Industry

The global airline industry provides a service to virtually every country in the world,

and has played an integral role in the creation of a global economy. The airline industry

itself is a major economic force, in terms of both its own operations and its impacts on

related industries such as aircraft manufacturing and tourism, to name but two. Few other

industries generate the amount and intensity of attention given to airlines, not only by

those directly engaged in its operations, but also by government policy makers, the news

media, as well as its billions of users, who, almost to a person, have an anecdote to relate

about an unusual, good or bad, air travel experience.

During much of the development of the global airline industry, its growth was enabled

by major technological innovations such as the introduction of jet aircraft for commercial

use in the 1950s, followed by the development of wide-body "jumbo jets" in the

1970s. At the same time, airlines were heavily regulated throughout the world, creating

an environment in which technological advances and government policy

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