Q: Why does it cost so much to operate an airline?
A: Moving hundreds of airplanes, tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of passengers around a vast service network — safely — is one of the world’s most complicated processes.
Think of it as an assembly line in which thousands of pieces must come together at precisely the right time. And each product produced — a trip by an individual — is unique. Altogether, there are about 700 million of those products each year.
The assembly line tools — airplanes, airports and support facilities — are expensive. On top of all that, the assembly line is subject to bad weather, mechanical failures, passenger emergencies in flight, even hijackings, all beyond the operator’s control.
It’s a wonder that fares aren’t far more expensive and that more than 82% of flights operate on time.