Edited by Iain Hay and Jonathan V. Beaverstock
Chapter 15: Flights of indulgence (or how the very wealthy fly): the aeromobile patterns and practices of the super-rich
Following the first heavier-than-air powered human flight in December 1903, aircraft have been important symbols of socioeconomic progress and technological modernity. In a little over a century, civil aviation has evolved from being an elite and elitist mode of mobility, utilized only by a very small minority of society’s most affluent members, into a multibillion-dollar commercial enterprise that facilitates the routine global mobility of over 3 billion passengers and 50 million tonnes of airfreight every year (ATAG, 2012). During the latter half of the twentieth century, progressive regulatory reform of the global air transport industry, combined with the introduction of more fuel-efficient aircraft and the formation of new airline business models, has reduced the financial cost of flying and enabled more people to fly to more places more frequently than ever before. However, the emergence and subsequent rapid expansion of low-cost carriers in the deregulated and liberalized markets of North America, Europe and parts of Asia, the Middle East, Australasia, Africa and Latin America, and the swift response of extant full-service operators to this new competitive threat, has led to growing social segregation and stratification in the skies as airlines seek ever more elaborate ways to differentiate their in-flight products and service offerings in what has become a highly contestable and price-sensitive market.
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