Virtual airline (economics)

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This article is about the business meaning. For computer gaming groups, see Virtual Airline.

In economics, a virtual airline is an airline that has outsourced as many possible operational and business functions as it can, but still maintains effective control of its core business.[1] Such an airline focuses on operating a network of air services, and outsourcing non-core activities to other organizations.[2] Contracting out services within the aviation industry has reportedly become so common that many carriers could be classed as having features of a virtual airline, although it is arguable whether any current carriers meet a strict definition of the term.[3][4]


Virtual airlines originated following the drastic changes brought about by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. During the hyper-competitive years immediately following deregulation, major airlines found it increasingly unprofitable to compete against up-start carriers on many routes they currently served. Instead of forfeiting the routes entirely, the larger carriers often made marketing arrangements with smaller airlines to fly under the "banner", or aircraft livery, of the larger airline. These regional airlines, mimicking the well known major airlines in adverts and prescribing to make connections as seamless as possible, soon abandoned their own local service routes. In most cases, the regional airlines found it more profitable to serve the mainline hubs as a feeder operation rather than operate on their own.[citation needed]

List of virtual airlines[edit]


North America[edit]

With mainline-type equipment[edit]

With regional-type equipment[edit]