This chapter examines the global air transport industry in the 1998–2010 period. The air transport industry grew very rapidly during the second half of the twentieth century, with the US market being the dominant regional market. High overall growth levels in the twenty-first century have been sustained, accompanying the rapid economic growth and policy liberalization processes in the European and Asian markets in the 2000s. The air transport industry is a technology-rich sector with a heavy dependence on non-renewable fuel. The Boeing Airplane Company and Airbus industries’ long-term forecasts both estimate that worldwide air traffic will continue its long-run growth rate of 5 per cent per annum to 2030 (Airbus, 2011; Boeing, 2011), despite the global economic downturn and sustained upward trend in fuel prices. The chapter will present a comparative analysis of air transport trends in major global markets, focusing on recent network developments in the passenger air transport industry in these markets. Using a comprehensive and consistent global database, the network structures of the 10 largest carriers in each of seven global regions were examined in detail. Three main network structures are identified. The constraints associated with operational models found in the US market are discussed in relation to possible future scenarios for the growth of Chinese, other Asian and Latin American carriers.
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