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On the Persistent Financial Losses of U.S. Airlines: A Preliminary Exploration

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  • Severin Borenstein

Abstract

U.S. airlines have lost nearly $60 billion (2009 dollars) in domestic markets since deregulation, most of it in the last decade. More than 30 years after domestic airline markets were deregulated, the dismal financial record is a puzzle that challenges the economics of deregulation. I examine some of the most common explanations among industry participants, analysts, and researchers -- including high taxes and fuel costs, weak demand, and competition from lower-cost airlines. Descriptive statistics suggest that high taxes have been at most a minor factor and fuel costs shocks played a role only in the last few years. Major drivers seem to be the severe demand downturn after 9/11 -- demand remained much weaker in 2009 than it was in 2000 -- and the large cost differential between legacy airlines and the low-cost carriers, which has persisted even as their price differentials have greatly declined.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16744.

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Date of creation: Jan 2011
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Publication status: published as “Why Can’t U.S. Airlines Make Money?” American Economic Review Papers and Proceedings , 101 (May 2011). (A longer version is available as NBER Working Pa per #16744)
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16744

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Cited by:
  1. Hüschelrath, Kai & Müller, Kathrin, 2011. "Low cost carriers and the evolution of the US airline industry," ZEW Discussion Papers 11-051, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.

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