The entities that truly make civil aviation come to life and be possibile are the airlines. Every day carriers around the globe carry millions of passengers. The world of airlines is both fascinating and somewhat unknown to many people. Therefore here on we try to make it easier to understand.

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What do Airlines Need In Order to Operate Flights?

Airlines are some of the most complex businesses in the world. So many divisions and components make up every carrier and only if they all work in unison can the business run smoothly. Extremely simplifying, in order to work an airline needs:

  • A Hub
  • Planes
  • Pilots
  • Cabin Crew
  • Ground Staff
  • Maintenance Crew and Infrastructures

What is An Airline Hub?

A hub is an airport from which a given airline runs its operations. Usually all of its maintenance happens here and its crew is based here. Generally most of the carrier's flights will originate or end here.In the United States it is quite common for airlines to have more than one hub. This is due to the size of the country and landscape of the US aviation industry which heavily relies on the Hub and Spoke model.In Europe and Asia on the other hand it's quite common for airlines to have only one hub. There is one major exception in Europe though: Lufthansa. The German flag carriere operates out of 2 major hubs: Munich (MUC) and Frankfurt (FRA).

What Types of Airlines Exist?

Three substantially different types of airlines make up the civil aviation landscape. They operate in very different ways one from the other. The three main groups are:
  • Low Cost Airlines
  • Full Service or Legacy Airlines
  • Charter Carriers
The former 2 operate on regularly scheduled flights to their destinations, while the latter main works as a hired service.Just to give some practical examples of which airlines might fall into each of these 3 categories:
  • United, American and Delta Air Lines fall under the full service, legacy carrier category
  • Southwest, Spirit or Frontier are pure low cost carriers
  • TUI, in Europe, will be your charter airline.
What kind of airlines exist in the world?

What's The Difference Between a Low Cost and Full Service Airline?

Low Cost Carriers (LCC), as the name gives away, reduce their operating costs to the bare minimum to maximise profits. The driving concept of these airlines is to sell the bare fare and charge for any ancillary service.By doing this budget airlines can sell flight tickets at ludicrously low prices and then maximise profit on any extras sold to each passenger. Also these airlines generally operate a one aircraft type fleet. This allows to further lower operational costs by purchasing spare pieces in bulk and reduce the cost of crew training.Lastly low cost carriers save money by operating to cheaper airports or in cheaper landing and departure slots. Airport taxes and costs vary significantly from airport to airport. Larger busier airports, such as London Heathrow (LHR), have costs which are much higher than secondary options, such as London Stansted (STN). This is why low cost airlines will often prefer flying from and to smaller less busy airports.Also choosing departure slots in not so busy times of the day will affect the cost of operations. Therefore many airlines will have flights departing at odd timings, as they can get more favourable conditions with the airport in terms of costs.Full service airlines on the other hand offer a higher level experience, but are also more expensive. These airlines will fly to the biggest, busiest and most in demand airports. They will include some sort of catering in their service and will allow transits, while most LCCs don't.What is the difference between a low cost and a full service airline

Which Are The Largest Worldwide Airline Groups?

In recent years airlines have consolidated more and more into a smaller number of groups that hold greater power. This process was sped up after 9/11. Right now the largest airline groups in the world are:
  • Lufthansa Group
  • IAG
  • Air France-KLM
  • United Airlines Holdings
  • Delta Air Lines
  • American Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Southwest
  • Air China Group
  • China Southern Holdings
  • Ryanair Holdings
  • Hainan Airlines Group
  • China Eastern Holdings
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