NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Tracing the Woes: An Empirical Analysis of the Airline Industry

Steven Berry, Panle Jia

NBER Working Paper No. 14503
Issued in November 2008
NBER Program(s):   IO

The U.S. airline industry went through tremendous turmoil in the early 2000's. There were four major bankruptcies and two major mergers, with all legacy carriers reporting a large profit reduction. This paper presents a structural model of the airline industry, and estimates the impact of demand and supply changes on profitability. We find that, compared with the late 1990s, in 2006, a) air-travel demand was 8% more price sensitive; b) passengers displayed a strong preference for direct flights, and the connection semi-elasticity was 17% higher; c) the changes of marginal cost significantly favored direct flights. These findings are present in all the specifications we estimated. Together with the expansion of low cost carriers, they explained more than 80% of the decrease in legacy carriers' variable profits.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14503

Published: Steven Berry & Panle Jia, 2010. "Tracing the Woes: An Empirical Analysis of the Airline Industry," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 1-43, August.

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