Airline Mergers, Acquisitions and Consolidations - International - April 2012
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This report provides an overview of recent consolidation in the worldwide airline industry. Progressive deregulation of the air-transport sector, which dates from the late 1970s in the US and the mid-1990s in Europe, and has since spread to much of the rest of the world, has raised the level of competitiveness, particularly as a result of the growth of budget airlines. Indeed, it would not be an exaggeration to state that most growth in air-transport capacity for the last decade has been driven by low-cost carriers (LCCs). Meanwhile, the so-called legacy carriers have been forced into a cost-cutting and restructuring mode, which has led to a spate of mergers over the past four years.
Mergers have also occurred between LCCs – the Southwest Airlines/AirTran Airways tie-up (2011) being the most significant recent example. Major airline mergers have been concentrated in the low-growth US market where the competition is the fiercest, as well as in Europe, where budget airlines have grown at a rapid pace over the past decade and a half. The Indian market has also become increasingly competitive with the rise of LCCs, such as IndiGo, now the country’s largest domestic airline. Brazil is also increasingly dominated by budget carriers. However, China, as a rapidly growing and still regulated market, has experienced relatively limited consolidation. Although Russia, like China, has yet to develop a significant LCC sector, Aeroflot, the country’s flag-carrier going back to the Soviet era, is consolidating its position as the leading carrier in the market through the integration of half a dozen smaller airlines.
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