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REVIEW: Cleared for Take-Off: Structure and strategy in the low fare airline business.


There is no doubt that the proliferation of low-cost airlines has changed the face of the consumer aviation business forever. However the battle between the low-costs and the flag carriers is by no means over and many experts believe that the two quite different beasts will be able to coexist for quite some time to come.

The structure and strategies behind low-cost carriers is examined in this book. This is a book written for the industry in a language that the industry will understand - yet it provides a fascinating insight into the history, structures and future threats that the low-cost carriers can face. Industry participants and more market-interested passengers alike may find this book to be quite a good read. It doesn't claim to offer any special "keys to instant success or riches" yet it does an excellent job of consolidating quality information into a reasonably small space (222 pages) with additional reading suggestions, numerous footnotes and an extensive bibliography to provide for further additional research as required.

Written with a European-bias, the book begins by setting the scene and explaining about the liberalised European aviation market before examining the growing emergence and possibly eventual dominance of low-cost carriers within Europe. Ryanair, Go, Easyjet and Buzz are perhaps the best known faces in this market - by virtue of their size, reach and marketing budget - yet there are many other 'niche' low-cost carriers serving domestic and regional markets in Europe.

Of course, as each low-cost carrier gets bigger it will inevitably compete with fellow low-cost carriers as well as the multitude of flag carriers and other traditional airlines. An interesting examination of the competition between low-cost carriers - where product differentiation is by definition going to be less - follows, which was quite gripping and thought-provoking.

Yet low-cost carriers aren't a European invention. For that we need to look over the Atlantic and the book looks at the likes of Southwest Airlines as well as the more latter-day comealongs such as JetBlue. There is also a look at the US marketplace for inspiration and comparison.

This book is written in a reasonably dry, academic style and requires a little more effort but this 'investment' is quite worthwhile to take advantage of the range of interesting information that is presented to the reader. Navigational aids such as tables and graphs are used sparingly but to great effect along with a great index and the previously-applauded footnotes and additional reading suggestions.

The book provides a very good reminder in that many companies set out to try and become low-cost carriers, not so many actually begin operations and even fewer go on to actually survive in this cut-throat market. Once the enemy was the 'bloated' big fish such as British Airways and their ilk, yet the big fish are doing battle with the little, more aggressive and responsive fish to survive whilst the little fish are all snapping at each other to try and survive. Maybe these little fish will eventually turn into very big fish, eating a few bigger fish on the way as well. Already there are signs that the bigger fish are trying to fight back.

CONCLUSION: An interesting read if you are an industry participant or just a very-curious passenger or person with aviation interests generally. Not a book for the casual reader but for those who read it you shouldn't be disappointed.

Title: Cleared for Take-Off: Structure and strategy in the low fare airline businessAuthor: Thomas C LawtonPublished by: Ashgate Publishing LtdISBN: 0-7546-1269-4Price: GBP45Reviewer: Darren Ingram

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Publication:Airline Industry Information
Date:Jan 13, 2003
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