U S Airline Industry Airline Industry Structure of Term Paper

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U.S. Airline Industry


Structure of the Industry

Deregulation Act of 1978

US Airline Industry During the 1980s

US Airline Industry During the 1990s

The Next Decade for the U.S. Airline Industry

Post 9/11


Issue of Fuel

Hurricane Katrina

Future for the Global Airline Industry

Airline Industry worldwide in general and United States in particular has played a central role in stirring the growth of the world economy. With USA appearing on the world map as one of the most developed nations in the world, it's Airline Industry and its growth and now its current travails provide us with interesting insights and a case study as to how an industry can grow tremendously supported by government actions as well as market forces and then major external factors mainly political and economic can affect the progress of overall industry.


The research is conducted mainly from the websites.


The U.S. Airline Industry initially thrived with Government backing and later on with deregulations in place; market forces stirred its growth. Furthermore, world events like 9/11, terrorism, security concerns, and even natural disasters like latest hurricanes Katrina and Rita have put the industry in trouble but in the current scenario the major concern for the industry comes from the rising jet fuel prices which do not show any sign of decline and the surge is further being accelerated by the natural disasters. In such difficult times a number of airlines are filing for bankruptcy. Operational efficiency, better management, mergers along with luck are some of the options that industry is looking up to but whether the future is bright for the U.S. Airline Industry is dependent ultimately and heavily on fuel prices in the future.


Economic growth, world trade, international investment and tourism are some of the main benefits of the airline industry. In today's globalized world, Airline industry plays a crucial role in bringing the world together. In fact, the fast growth of the Airline Industry has spurred the process of globalization. Traveling for business and leisure provide the fuel for this industry to flourish. As companies get more involved in business internationally when it comes to investments, supply and production chains and customers, the need for business travel arises more often resulting in demand for Airline industry. Tourism has also evolved over the years all over the world particularly in the developing countries as they concentrated on developing resorts and sights to attract wealthy tourists from the developed world. Thailand, Malaysia, Mauritius etc. could be the prime examples as they have been able to capture the attention of tourists worldwide resulting in a surge in regular air travel for leisure. Some of the recent events like Tsunami and terrorism have created a short-term dent in air travel for leisure but the industry pundits predict that the tourist travel will resume in the future.

3.1 History of U.S. Airline Industry

The U.S. Airline Industry has a history that dates back to 1903 when the Wright brothers made their first successful flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Initially the public did not take the idea of the airplane travel favorably. But this event marked the beginning of the Airline Industry as more and more inputs were given by people such as Charles Lindbergh who successfully completed a solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927 and created massive interest in flying with the general public.

The introduction and success of Air transport companies made the real progress with the passage of time. This process was started with a grant of 100,000 dollars. The Airmail system was then expanded to carry cargo and then finally passengers. The Aviation Industry backed by the Government started thriving even though Govt. spending on research and development was not sufficient. Govt. completely backed the industry by regulations such as The Air Commerce Act. However, as the time passed, Air traffic became more and more disorganized and the need for more regulation became apparent. With World War 2, Govt. spending increased on R& D. paving the way for innovation and introduction of modernized planes as jet service was introduced in 1959, enabling even faster cross-country service.

1950s was the decade when Airline industry bloomed and thus need for more regulations arose. There was a need to develop air traffic control system and for this Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was created. The Federal Aviation Act was also passed in 1958. 1960s was the period of growth whereas 70s was marked by increases in costs, particularly increases in fuel prices.

3.1.1 Structure of the Industry

US Airline are classified as major, national and regional on the basis of operating revenues. Major airlines like America West, Delta, U.S. Airways etc. "generate operating revenues of more than $1 billion annually while National carriers generate annual operating revenues between $100 million and $1 billion" (Airlines.org). Regional operating airlines function in the particular regions of the country. They are further classified as large, medium and small. "This has been one of the fastest growing and most profitable segments of the industry since deregulation" ("Airline Handbook, 2001).

3.2 The U.S. Deregulation Act of 1978

An authority called Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) controlled all the areas of commercial aviation such as fares, routes, and schedules. The main objectives of the CAB were to control, promote and develop the Air transport industry. The main function that the board performed was that of regulation and control. It controlled issues such as entry into and exit from individual markets (by dictating the route patterns between cities and the frequency of flights), fares for passengers and cargo, safety, financing, subsidies to carriers flying on less profitable routes, mergers and acquisitions, inter-carrier agreements, and the quality of service. CAB exercised its authority to decide routes for airlines rather than letting the market forces decide it.

There were many problems and hassles that were affecting the industry. Entry and survival into the industry was difficult. Fair setting was a long process. Disparity of fares within the states and between the states was there. There was dissatisfaction regarding the laws of civil aviation. There was a need for low-cost domestic flights. All these events paved the way for reforms and eventually deregulation.

In 1978, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 and later in1984, the CAB was abolished. Some of the important consequences of the deregulation were that the entry of new Airlines was facilitated and Airlines got the freedom to set the routes and fairs. This resulted in a competitive environment, fares dropped; revenues rose to a high in 1979 and so did the no of passengers.

The deregulation was supposed to revive the industry and develop it into a giant. The regulation affected the industry both positively and negatively. The giants suffered most as the number of major carriers in the United States fell from six in 1978 -- United, American, Delta, Eastern, TWA, and Pan Am -- to three by 1991 -- United, American, and Delta. This happened because they had to compete with start-ups in the face of economic recession and increasing fuel costs. The major beneficiaries were the passengers as the airfares dropped. New entrants and small airlines also thrived as result of deregulation.

The deregulation of the U.S. Airline Industry also paved the way for deregulation in Europe. "The EU's final stage of deregulation took effect in April 1997, allowing an airline from one member state to fly passengers within another member's domestic market" ("The Airline Industry," 2000). Not just Europe and North America, the industry all over the world has grown considerably after the deregulation took place. The alliances and partnerships between airlines and establishment of agreements regarding routes were also seen in the global and U.S. Airline Industry.

3.3 U.S. Airline Industry During the 1980s

This decade saw two major events taking place in the U.S. Airline industry. Firstly, there was a mushrooming and growth of startups and eventual collapse of some of them. Secondly, the bigger airlines also suffered due to various reasons.

Airlines started functioning in the late 70s and major airlines kept on working despite increasing problems like industry consolidation, rapid increases in multi-type aircraft fleets, increases in labor costs and development of the "hub and spoke" system. With the hub system airlines operate at a limited number of hub cities, serving most other destinations in the system by providing one-stop or connecting service through the hub.

All the major airlines suffered some kind of problems in the 80s. Most of the airlines witnessed less financial growth than expected while some went on the verge of bankruptcy, for instance, Continental, Eastern and pan America suffered very badly during the decade. The unstable climate and the growth of small carriers also resulted in the mergers of major airlines.

Low fare airlines worked with the help of unconventional management and development of low cost or cost effective ways. Deregulation allowed competition on many routes putting low fare airlines to an advantage. Southwest Airlines, the largest low-fare, major U.S.…[continue]

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