Aviation Sri Lanka 



Airlines Serving Bandaranaike International Airport 

Austrian Airlines

Air Europe

China Airline


Cathay Pacific

Thomas Cook

CSA Czech Airline


Pakistan International

El Al - Israel Airlines

Edelweiss Air

Gulf Air

Indian Airline

Mahan Air

Kuwait Airways

Korean Airline

Lauda Air


Malaysia Airline

Oman Airline

Qatar Airways

Royal Jordanian

Singapore Airline

Saudia Airline

Sri Lankan

Thai Airways




Structure of the Airline Industry

    Types of Airline Certification

Airlines are classified as major, national and regional.

All airlines hold two certificates from the federal government: a fitness certificate and an operating certificate. The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) issues fitness certificates - called certificates of public convenience and necessity - under it's statutory authority. Basically, the certificate establishes that the carrier has the financing and the management in place to provide scheduled service. The certificate typically authorizes both passenger and cargo service. Some airlines, however, obtain only cargo-service authority. Commuter airlines that use aircraft with a seating capacity of 60 or fewer seats or a maximum payload capacity of no more than 18,000 pounds can operate under the alternative authority of Part 298 of DOT’s economic regulations.


Operating certificates, on the other hand, are issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under Part 121 of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), which spell out numerous requirements for operating aircraft with 10 or more seats. The requirements cover such things as the training of flight crews and aircraft maintenance programs. All majors, nationals and regionals operate with a Part 121 certificate.


    Line Personnel

These include everyone directly involved in producing or selling an airline’s services - the mechanics, who maintain the planes; the pilots, who fly them; the flight attendants, who serve passengers and perform various inflight safety functions; the reservation clerks, airport check-in and gate personnel, who book and process the passengers; ramp-service agents, security guards, etc. Line personnel generally fall into three broad categories: engineering and maintenance, flight operations, and sales and marketing. These three divisions form the heart of an airline and generally account for 85 percent of an airline’s employees.



This department is responsible for operating an airline’s fleet of aircraft safely and efficiently. It schedules the aircraft and flight crews and it develops and administers all policies and procedures necessary to maintain safety and meet all FAA operating requirements. It is in charge of all flight-crew training, both initial and recurrent training for pilots and flight attendants, and it establishes the procedures crews are to follow before, during and after each flight to ensure safety.

Dispatchers also are part of flight operations. Their job is to release flights for takeoff, following a review of all factors affecting a flight. These include the weather, routes the flight may follow, fuel requirements and both the amount and distribution of weight onboard the aircraft. Weight must be distributed evenly aboard an aircraft for it to fly safely.



Maintenance accounts for approximately 11 percent of an airline’s employees and 10-15 percent of its operating expenses. Maintenance programs keep aircraft in safe, working order; ensure passenger comfort; preserve the airline’s valuable physical assets (its aircraft); and ensure maximum utilization of those assets, by keeping planes in excellent condition. An airplane costs its owner money every minute of every day, but makes money only when it is flying with freight and/or passengers aboard. Therefore, it is vital to an airline’s financial success that aircraft are properly maintained

Airlines typically have one facility for major maintenance work and aircraft modifications, called the maintenance base; larger airlines sometimes have more than one maintenance base. Smaller maintenance facilities are maintained at an airline’s hubs or primary airports, where aircraft are likely to be parked overnight. Called major maintenance stations, these facilities perform routine maintenance and stock a large supply of spare parts.

A third level of inspection and repair capability is maintained at airports, where a carrier has extensive operations, although less than at its hubs. These maintenance facilities generally are called maintenance stations.


    Sales and Marketing

This division encompasses such activities as pricing, scheduling, advertising, ticket and cargo sales, reservations and customer service, including food service. While all of them are important, pricing and scheduling in particular can make or break an airline, and both have become more complicated. As explained in the next chapter, airline prices change frequently in response to supply and demand and to changes in the prices of competitors’ fares. Schedules change less often, but far more often than when the government regulated the industry. Airlines use sophisticated computer reservation systems to advertise their own fares and schedules to travel agents and to keep track of the fares and schedules of competitors. Travel agents, who sell approximately 80 percent of all airline tickets, use the same systems to book reservations and print tickets for travelers. More information about airline pricing and scheduling can be found in


    Reservations and Ticketing

There are major changes in air transportation, which simplify the process for airline passengers to make a reservation and to purchase a ticket. Electronic commerce is playing a significant part in the airline industry. In addition to the paper tickets issued in the past, all of the major airlines are now offering electronic ticketing for domestic and international air travel. Electronic ticketing allows an airline to document the sale and track the usage of transportation. Passengers no longer worry about carrying flight coupons or losing their tickets. Passengers have the ability to shop for the lowest priced transportation, make or change a reservation, request refunds etc., not only from their travel agent but from their own personal home computer or from a telephone, on the way to the airport. A boarding pass is issued at the airport in exchange for proof of a reservation (an airline confirmation number) and payment (cash or a major credit card). The number of air travelers shopping, making reservations and purchasing electronic tickets using the Internet is increasing daily. Self-service automated ticketing machines are also widely available at major airports around the country.

The next step for airlines will be to automate the check-in procedure. Electronic self-service check-in computer kiosks at major airports will soon be available for most passengers using electronic tickets. Self-service machines will enable passengers to verify their itinerary, obtain class of service upgrades, select specific seat assignments, check baggage with bar-coded baggage tags and obtain their own boarding passes.


    Staff Personnel

These include specialists in such fields as law, accounting, finance, employee relations and public relations. Their function is to support the work of the line personnel, so that the airline runs efficiently and earns a profit. For the most part, staff personnel work out of corporate headquarters and fall into seven broad job categories typical of major corporations: finance & property, information services, personnel, medical, legal, public relations and planning.

Finance & property handles company revenues and finances. In addition, it oversees all company property and the purchase of food, fuel, aircraft parts and other supplies needed to run an airline. Information services designs and maintains the company's internal computer systems, used to store and analyze data needed for operations and planning. At an airline, this includes the important function of fleet planning, explained in greater detail in the next chapter.


While major airlines typically do most of their own work, it is common for them to farm out certain tasks to other companies. These tasks could include aircraft cleaning, fueling, airport security, food service and in some instances, maintenance work. Airlines might contract out for all of this work or just a portion of it, keeping the jobs in house at their hubs and other key stations. However, whether an airline does the work itself or relies on outside vendors, the carrier remains responsible for meeting all applicable federal safety standards.


Chief Characteristics of the Airline Business

    Service Industry

Because of all of the equipment and facilities involved in air transportation, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that this is, fundamentally, a service industry. Airlines perform a service for their customers - transporting them and their belongings (or their products, in the case of cargo customers) from one point to another for an agreed price. In that sense, the airline business is similar to other service businesses like banks, insurance companies or even barbershops. There is no physical product given in return for the money paid by the customer, nor inventory created and stored for sale at some later date.

    Capital Intensive

Unlike many service businesses, airlines need more than storefronts and telephones to get started. They need an enormous range of expensive equipment and facilities, from airplanes to flight simulators to maintenance hangars. As a result, the airline industry is a capital-intensive business, requiring large sums of money to operate effectively. Most equipment is financed through loans or the issuance of stock. Increasingly, airlines are also leasing equipment, including equipment they owned previously but sold to someone else and leased back. Whatever arrangements an airline chooses to pursue, its capital needs require consistent profitability.


    High Cash Flow

Because airlines own large fleets of expensive aircraft which depreciate in value over time, they typically generate a substantial positive cash flow (profits plus depreciation). Most airlines use their cash flow to repay debt or acquire new aircraft. When profits and cash flow decline, an airline's ability to repay debt and acquire new aircraft is jeopardized.


    Labor Intensive

Airlines also are labor intensive. Each major airline employs a virtual army of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, baggage handlers, reservation agents, gate agents, security personnel, cooks, cleaners, managers, accountants, lawyers, etc. Computers have enabled airlines to automate many tasks, but there is no changing the fact that they are a service business, where customers require personal attention. More than one-third of the revenue generated each day by the airlines goes to pay its workforce. Labor costs per employee are among the highest of any industry.


    Highly Unionized

In part because of its long history as a regulated industry, the airline industry is highly unionized.


    Thin Profit Margins

The bottom line result of all of this is thin profit margins, even in the best of times. Airlines, through the years, have earned a net profit between one and two percent.



The airline business historically has been very seasonal. The summer months were extremely busy, as many people take vacations at that time of the year. Winter, on the other hand, was slower, with the exception of the holidays. The result of such peaks and valleys in travel patterns was that airline revenues also rose and fell significantly through the course of the year. This pattern continues today, although it is less pronounced than in the past.


    Travel agencies

Travel agencies play an important role in airline ticket sales. Eighty percent of the industry's tickets are sold by agents, most of whom use airline-owned computer reservation systems to keep track of schedules and fares, to book reservations, and to print tickets for customers. Airlines pay travel agents a commission for each ticket sold. There are more than 40,000 travel agents in the United States, providing a vast network of retail outlets for air transportation.

Similarly, freight forwarders book the majority of air-cargo space. Like travel agents, freight forwarders are an independent sales force for airline services, in their case working for shippers.


    Airline Costs

According to reports filed with the Department of Transportation in 1999, airline costs were as follows:



    Flying Operations - essentially any cost associated with the operation of aircraft, such as

              fuel and pilot salaries - 27 percent;  


    Maintenance - both parts and labor - 13 percent


    Aircraft and Traffic Service - basically the cost of handling passengers, cargo and aircraft

             on the ground and including such things as the salaries of baggage handlers, dispatchers

             and airline gate agents - 16 percent;



   Promotion/Sales - including advertising, reservations and travel agent commissions – 13





   Passenger Service - mostly in flight service and including such things as food and flight

             attendant salaries - 9 percent;  


   Transport Related - delivery trucks and inflight sales - 10 percent;  


   Administrative - 6 percent;  


    Depreciation/Amortization - equipment and plants - 6 percent.


Labor costs are common to nearly all of those categories. When looked at as a whole, labor accounts for 35 percent of the airlines' operating expenses and 75 percent of controllable costs. Fuel is the airlines' second largest cost (about 10 to 12 percent of total expenses), and travel-agent commissions is third (about 6 percent). Commission costs, as a percent of total costs, have recently been declining, as more sales are now made directly to the customer through electronic commerce. Another rapidly rising cost has been airport landing fees and terminal rents.


    Break-Even Load Factors

Every airline has what is called a break-even load factor. That is the percentage of the seats the airline has in service that it must sell at a given yield, or price level, to cover its costs.

Since revenue and costs vary from one airline to another, so does the break-even load factor. Escalating costs push up the break-even load factor, while increasing prices for airline services have just the opposite effect, pushing it lower. Overall, the break-even load factor for the industry in recent years has been approximately 66 percent.

Airlines typically operate very close to their break-even load factor. The sale of just one or two more seats on each flight can mean the difference between profit and loss for an airline.


    Seat Configurations

Adding seats to an aircraft increases its revenue-generating power, without adding proportionately to its costs. However, the total number of seats aboard an aircraft depend on the operator's marketing strategy. If low prices are what an airline's customers favor, it will seek to maximize the number of seats to keep prices as low as possible. On the other hand, a carrier with a strong following in the business community may opt for a large business-class section, with fewer, larger seats, because it knows that its business customers are willing to pay premium prices for the added comfort and workspace. The key for most airlines is to strike the right balance to satisfy its mix of customers and thereby maintain profitability.



Airlines occasionally overbook flights, meaning that they book more passengers for a flight than they have seats on the same flight.

The practice is rooted in careful analysis of historic demand for a flight, economics and human behavior. Historically, many travelers, especially business travelers buying unrestricted, full-fare tickets, have not traveled on the flights for which they have a reservation. Changes in their own schedules may have made it necessary for them to take a different flight, maybe with a different airline, or to cancel their travel plans altogether, often with little or no notice to the airline. Some travelers, unfortunately, reserve seats on more than one flight.

Both airlines and customers are advantaged when airlines sell all the seats for which they have received reservations. An airline's inventory is comprised of the seats that it has on each flight. If a customer does not fly on the flight which he or she has a reservation, his or her seat is unused and cannot be returned to inventory for future use as in other industries. This undermines the productivity of an airline's operations; it is increasing productivity, of course, that contributes to lower airfares and expanded service. Consequently, airlines sometimes overbook flights.


Importantly for travelers, airlines do not overbook arbitrarily. They examine the history of particular flights, in the process determining how many no-shows typically occur, and then decide how much to overbook that particular flight. The goal is to have the overbooking match the number of no-shows.

In most cases the practice works effectively. Occasionally, however, when more people show up for a flight than there are seats available, airlines offer incentives to get people to give up their seats. Free tickets are the usual incentive; those volunteering are booked on another flight.

Normally, there are more volunteers than the airlines need, but when there are not enough volunteers, airlines must bump passengers involuntarily. In the rare cases where this occurs, federal regulations require the airlines to compensate passengers for their trouble and help them make alternative travel arrangements. The amount of compensation is determined by government regulation.


Since 1978, airlines have had the same pricing freedom as companies in other industries. They set fares and freight rates in response to both customer demand and the prices of competitors. As a result, fares change much more rapidly than they used to, and passengers sitting in the same section on the same flight often are paying different prices for their seats.

Although this may be difficult to understand for some travelers, it makes perfect sense, considering that a seat on a particular flight is of different value to different people. It is far more valuable, for instance, to a salesperson who suddenly has an opportunity to visit an important client than it is to someone contemplating a visit to a friend. The pleasure traveler likely will make the trip only if the fare is relatively low. The salesperson, on the other hand, likely will pay a higher premium in order to make the appointment.

For the airlines, the chief objective in setting fares is to maximize the revenue from each flight, by offering the right mix of full-fare tickets and various discounted tickets. Too little discounting in the face of weak demand for the flight, and the plane will leave the ground with a large number of empty seats, and revenue-generating opportunities will be lost forever. On the other hand, too much discounting can sell out a flight far in advance and preclude the airline from booking last-minute passengers that might be willing to pay higher fares (another lost-revenue opportunity).

The process of finding the right mix of fares for each flight is called yield, inventory or revenue management. It is a complex process, requiring sophisticated computer software that helps an airline estimate the demand for seats on a particular flight, so it can price the seats accordingly. And, it is an ongoing process, requiring continual adjustments as market conditions change. Unexpected discounting in a particular market by a competitor, for instance, can leave an airline with too many unsold seats if they do not match the discounts.


Since deregulation, airlines have been free to serve whatever domestic markets they feel warrant their service, and they adjust their schedules often, in response to market opportunities and competitive pressures. Along with price, schedule is an important consideration for air travelers. For business travelers, schedule is often more important than price. Business travelers like to see alternative flights they may take on the same airline if, for instance, a meeting runs longer or shorter than they anticipate. A carrier that has several flights a day between two cities has a competitive advantage over carriers that serve the market less frequently, or less directly.

Airlines establish their schedules in accordance with demand for their services and their marketing objectives. Scheduling, however, can be extraordinarily complex and must take into account aircraft and crew availability, maintenance needs and airport operating restrictions.

Contrary to popular myth, airlines do not cancel flights because they have too few passengers for the flight. The nature of scheduled service is such that aircraft move throughout an airline's system during the course of each day. A flight cancellation at one airport, therefore, means the airline will be short an aircraft someplace else later in the day, and another flight will have to be canceled. If an airline must cancel a flight because of a mechanical problem, it may choose to cancel the flight with the fewest number of passengers and utilize that aircraft for a flight with more passengers. While it may appear to be a cancellation for economic reasons, it is not. The substitution was made in order to inconvenience the fewest number of passengers.


    Fleet Planning

Selecting the right aircraft for the markets an airline wants to serve is vitally important to its financial success. As a result, the selection and purchase of new aircraft is usually directed by an airline's top officials, although it involves personnel from many other divisions such as maintenance and engineering, finance, marketing and flight operations.

There are numerous factors to consider when planning new aircraft purchases, beginning with the composition of an airline's existing fleet. Do existing aircraft need to be replaced, what plans does the airline have to expand service, how much fuel do they burn per mile, how much are maintenance costs, and how many people are needed to fly them. These are the type of questions that must be answered.

In general, newer aircraft are more efficient and cost less to operate than older aircraft. A Boeing 727, for example, is less fuel efficient than the 757 that Boeing designed to replace it. In addition, the larger 757 requires only a two-person flight crew, versus three for the 727. As planes get older, maintenance costs can also rise appreciably.

However, such productivity gains must be weighed against the cost of acquiring a new aircraft. Can the airline afford to take on more debt? What does that do to profits? What is the company's credit rating, and what must it pay to borrow money? What are investors willing to pay for stock in the company if additional shares are floated? A company's finances, like those of an individual considering the purchase of a house or new car, play a key role in the aircraft acquisition process.

Marketing strategies are important, too. An airline considering expansion into international markets, for example, typically cannot pursue that goal without long-range, widebody aircraft. If it has been largely a domestic carrier, it may not have that type of aircraft in its fleet. What's more, changes in markets already served may require an airline to reconfigure its fleet. Having the right-sized aircraft for the market is vitally important. Too large an aircraft can mean that a large number of unsold seats will be moved back and forth within a market each day. Too small an aircraft can mean lost revenue opportunities.


Since aircraft purchases take time (often two or three years, if there is a production backlog), airlines also must do some economic forecasting before placing new aircraft orders. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the planning process, because no one knows for certain what economic conditions will be like many months, or even years, into the future. An economic downturn coinciding with the delivery of a large number of expensive new aircraft can cause major financial losses. Conversely, an unanticipated boom in the travel market can mean lost market share for an airline that held back on aircraft purchases while competitors were moving ahead.

Sometimes, airline planners determine their company needs an aircraft that does not yet exist. In such cases, they approach the aircraft manufacturers about developing a new model, if the manufacturers have not already anticipated their needs. Typically, new aircraft reflect the needs of several major airlines, because start-up costs for the production of a new aircraft are enormous, manufacturers must sell substantial numbers of a new model just to break even. They usually will not proceed with a new aircraft unless they have a launch customer, meaning an airline willing to step forward with a large order for the plane, plus smaller purchase commitments from several other airlines.

There have been several important trends in aircraft acquisition since deregulation. One is the increased popularity of leasing versus ownership. Leasing reduces some of the risks involved in purchasing new technology. It also can be a less expensive way to acquire aircraft, since high-income leasing companies can take advantage of tax credits. In such cases, the tax savings to a lessor can be reflected in the lessor's price. Some carriers also use the leasing option to safeguard against hostile takeovers. Leasing leaves a carrier with fewer tangible assets that a corporate raider can sell to reduce debt incurred in the takeover.

A second trend, since 1978, relates to the size of the aircraft ordered. The development of hub-and-spoke networks, as described in Chapter 2, resulted in airlines adding flights to small cities around their hubs. In addition, deregulation has enabled airlines to respond more effectively to consumer demand. In larger markets, this often means more frequent service. These considerations, in turn, increased the demand for small- and medium-sized aircraft to feed the hubs. Larger aircraft remain important for the more heavily traveled routes, but the ordering trend is toward smaller aircraft.

The third trend is toward increased fuel efficiency. As the price of fuel rose rapidly in the 1970s and early 1980s, the airlines gave top priority to increasing the fuel efficiency of their fleets. That led to numerous design innovations on the part of the manufacturers. Airlines, today, average about 40 passenger miles per gallon - a statistic that compares favorably with even the most efficient autos.

Similarly, the fourth trend has been in response to airline and public concerns about aircraft noise and engine emissions. Technological developments have produced quieter and cleaner-burning jets. A ban on the operation of Stage 1 jets, such as the Boeing 707 and DC-8, has been in effect since January 1, 1985. Authorities in some countries dictated that all Stage 2 jets, such as 727s and DC-9s, were to be phased out by the year 2000. Today, Stage 3 jets, taking their place, include the Boeing 757 and the MD-80. Hush kits are also available for older engines, and some airlines have chosen to pursue this option rather than make the much greater financial commitment necessary to buy new airplanes. Others have chosen to re-engine, or replace their older, noisier engines with new ones that meet Stage 3 standards. While more expensive than hush kits, new engines have operating-cost advantages that make them the preferred option for some carriers.