» Every day thousands of flights operated by numerous commercial airlines speed millions of tourists across the world.
Area of commerce in which aircraft are employed to carry passengers, freight, and mail. Air transport companies operate scheduled airlines and nonscheduled services over local, regional, national, and international routes. The aircraft operated by these companies range from small single-engine planes to large multiengine jet transports . In Europe many governments developed an extensive airline system. Although early airmail routes there compared unfavorably with American round-the-clock deliveries, European passenger operations became much more sophisticated. By 1929 Britain was operating a commercial air route to India , and within a few years other nations began combined mail, freight, and passenger service to distant countries and dependencies. The era between 1919 and the outbreak of World War II in 1939 included significant advances in weather forecasting, navigation equipment, aerodynamics, and innovative management. Symbolizing these trends were airline specifications for modern equipment such as the DC-3 of the 1930s, a monoplane constructed of metal, carefully streamlined, with reliable and efficient radial engines, retractable landing gear, variable-pitch propellers, and many other refinements. Big flying boats began to link Europe and Asia with the U.S. During World War II intercontinental air transport became firmly established. After the war the new long-range four-engine transports with fully pressurized cabins and advanced instrumentation were increasingly able to avoid storms and turbulent winds, enhancing passenger comfort and making operations more economical and consistent. These new planes and the jet airliners introduced in 1958 replaced railroad trains and ocean liners as the primary mode of long-distance travel. A new generation of wide-bodied, or “jumbo-jet,” transports began operations in 1970, and the Anglo-French Concorde, a supersonic transport, entered passenger service in 1976.
» Business aircraft consequently have remarkable flexibility in expediting the schedules of executives, permitting visits throughout a sales territory that would take far too long by car or that would be inconvenient because of airline schedules. Many large corporations operate their own regular air shuttle services between major plants and urban markets for their salespeople, engineers, and prospective customers. Using general aviation planes, some commercial operators contract to fly mail from smaller cities to major airline hub cities for redistribution. Other commercial operators make regular pickup and delivery of checks and securities for corresponding banks and Federal Reserve System institutions. During the 1980s the number of domestic passengers on U.S. airlines increased about 58%. In 1990 there were 423.7 million domestic passengers and 41.8 million international passengers; the latter figure was a 75% increase over 1980. The total amount of freight and express cargo flown by U.S. airlines almost doubled during the 1980s, from 5.7 billion to 10.6 billion ( U.S. ) ton-miles in 1990. Total airline profits were down, however; the industry lost a record $3.9 billion in 1990; employment also increased, however, from 355,000 in 1985 to 546,000 in 1990. Both employment and losses decreased in succeeding years, as the industry stabilized and attempted to recover from the turbulent 1980s.