Virtual airline (economics)
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. Such an airline focuses on operating a network of air services, and outsourcing non-core activities to other organizations. 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.
The term is also used to describe travel companies and ticket agencies that market themselves as airlines, but are unlicensed and with flights undertaken by licenced operators often in the livery of the virtual airline.
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.
List of virtual airlines
- Air Croatia
- Air Norway
- Color Air
- Krohn Air
- Snowbird Airlines (planning own flights)
- Trawel Fly
- Vildanden (named after the play "The Wild Duck" by Henrik Ibsen
With mainline-type equipment
- Cal Jet Air
- Continental Jet Express 
- Delta Express
- Continental's Houston Proud Express
- Direct Air
- Hooters Air
- Midwest (ops by Republic Airlines Embraer 190s even after Midwest Airlines is shuttered)
- Pan Am Express
- Song (airline)
- Tahoe Air
With regional-type equipment
- Air Canada Express
- American Eagle
- Branson Air Express
- Chalk's Ocean Airways (Post Flight 101)
- Delta Connection
- Delta Shuttle
- Ravn Alaska
- Ravn Connect
- Southern Skyways
- United Express
- US Airways Express
- Flouris, Triant (2006). Designing and Executing Strategy in Aviation Management. Ashgate Publishing. p. 91. ISBN 0-7546-3618-6.
- Doganis, Rigas (2005). The Airline Business. Routledge. p. 283. ISBN 0-415-34615-0.
- Ioannides, Dimitri (1998). The Economic Geography of the Tourist Industry: A Supply-side Analysis. Routledge. p. 118. ISBN 0-415-16411-7.
- Domberger, Simon (1998). The Contracting Organization: A Strategic Guide to Outsourcing. Oxford University Press. p. 146. ISBN 0-19-877458-3.
British Airways [has] lean[ed] towards becoming the first of the new general of Virtual Airlines
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