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How the 2010's Shaped Aviation

Updated on February 12, 2020
Alexander Pask profile image

Alexander is an av geek through and through, having been interested in it since childhood

Image credit: Christian Junkers via Flickr
Image credit: Christian Junkers via Flickr

Each decade, there is a pivotal point, something that defines it. For the Naughties, it was 9/11, for the '90s it was the consolidation that became present in the industry, so what was it in the 2010's? What pivotal point or points shaped aviation as we know it?

The 2010's saw everything that the aviation industry had to offer. More bankruptcies, more consolidation, bigger and better aircraft, and even policy reforms. Some were good, some were bad, but everything was still nonetheless great!

More Consolidation in the Industry

Each decade, the aviation industry gets smaller in a lot of ways. Not just in terms of how far the aircraft can fly, and for how long, no. But the number of companies in a given part of the industry.

During the 2010's, the airline industry itself became bigger, but also smaller at the same time.

During the 2010's, more people than ever flew for the first time and demand for flights increased. To cope with demand, airlines placed increasingly large orders for aircraft, and even delayed the retirement of some of their oldest aircraft.The airlines also opened up more routes, sometimes to places that had never really had much of an aviation sector until then, just a dirt runway built 100 years ago.

The 2010's also saw a dramatic increase in airline consolidation. If an airline couldn't get new aircraft quickly, they'd merely have to buy out their largest competitor, thus sorting two problems with one move!

At the beginning of 2010, there were eight major US-based airlines, by the end of the 2010's, there were a mere four!

  1. Southwest acquired AirTran Airways in early 2010, taking the number from eight to seven
  2. Delta Air Lines purchased Northwest Airlines in mid 2010, reducing the number from seven to six
  3. United Airlines buys Continental Airlines in 2012, further reducing it to five airlines
  4. American Airlines merge with US Airways in 2015, taking it from five to four

There is also an issue surrounding airline alliances, which has brought into question the legalities of air travel. Should three companies really have this amount of power?

Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy

Some say that the level of bankruptcies in the industry has gotten out of hand, and is a disgrace to the industry.

For some, it seems as though we can't go a week without a previously well-established airline from going bankrupt. In 2019 alone, we saw many carriers from all over the world, file for bankruptcy, including:

  • Thomas Cook Airlines
  • Adria Airways
  • Aigle Azur
  • Wow Air
  • Jet Airways
  • Germania
  • Flybmi
  • Air Philip
  • Insel Air
  • Asian Express Airline
  • Avianca
  • Al Naser Wings Airline
  • XL Airways
  • California Pacific
  • Fly Jamaica Airlines
  • Aerolíneas de Antioquía

Even the unknown airlines have caused untold disruption. It's not necessarily the unemployment that comes as a disruption to the economy (which it does), but the delays, transfers and abandonment.

When an airline goes under, thousands of people get trapped abroad. They are in a sort of limbo. They need to get home, but they can't go home. So, the international aviation community steps in to help, lending aircraft and aircrew to help get people home.

The best example of this would probably be the Malaysian Airlines A380 sent to help people stranded after the collapse of Thomas Cook.

New Aircraft

Throughout the past decade, there has been hundreds of new concepts, ranging from business jets to commercial aircraft to light aircraft. There has also been hundreds of new aircraft released into the market in the past decade, including the G650, 777X and the Eclipse 550.

Aircraft such as the G700, Boom Overture and Aerion AS2 have all been released as concept ideas for the 2020s.

The new aircraft released during the last decade has provided us with one thing that consumers have been asking for: cheaper ticket prices. This is usually done through a small increase in efficiency of each new generation of aircraft. To quote a Boeing executive from a documentary (from about three years ago):

With each year, we [Boeing] are shaving off 1% of the amount of fuel our aircraft consumes each year. That's huge!

And indeed, that is huge, as it will benefit the travelers and the airlines at the same time.


Each decade, there is one major air disaster that is burned into the minds of everyone, no matter if you are young, old, an av geek or not.

For the Naughties, the disaster was obviously 9/11 which was burnt into the psyche of everyone old enough to remember it.

For the 2010s, however, it came rather late. For most era-defining disasters, they happen near the start or near the middle, rarely, if ever in the latter half of the decade. The era-defining disaster for the 2010s was by far the (as yet ongoing) 737 Max incident.

The disaster saw two Boeing 737 Max aircraft crash, claiming all the lives on board, within six months of each other.

This caused most, if not all aviation authorities to unilaterally suspend the 737 Max from their airspace. This has caused hundreds of aircraft to be just sat in hangars all across the world, sat, literally loosing millions each month!

Even in the beginning of 2020, this issue has not been fixed. Hundreds of aircraft are even being parked in mini-aircraft graveyards, as previous generations of 737s were forced into retirement.

It is unlikely however, that a disaster of the scale of the 737 Max, will lead to more instability in the Middle East, as the repercussions were with 9/11.

Policy Reform

No one likes a new policy. They're far too complicated, and often, people don't want to follow them at first. The same is said for aviation policy changes, so governments and aviation authorities across the world have to enforce these incredibly tightly. But which of them came into place during the 2010's?

'Passengers-first' policy

Nicknamed this due to its focus on only saving airlines with a high number of passengers abroad, who'd be stuck for over one month. The policy aims to protect passengers from airline collapses.

In part, the policy states that governments (and the international community at large) will only financially support airlines who will have a detrimental effect on the local community. This is without taking into account things such as ATOL protection.

Passenger Emphasis

We have all noticed this. Aircraft have become like Cattle cars in many respects, we're rammed into them, and crammed with as many more passengers as possible. That's unless you have enough money to buy a better ticket (or your own aircraft entirely!)

International regulators and local regulators (such as the FAA, EASA and CAA) have all come together to decide one thing. That is, to protect passengers. The international airline regulatory committee have decided that it is no longer ethical for airlines to cram more than a certain amount of people per aircraft (depending on the type of aircraft).


There are literally hundreds of thousands of new policies that have been brought in. Most, have gone unnoticed by the general public as it does not affect them (such as ones pertaining to how an aircraft is assembled or inspected etc.). These were merely a few that did get noticed!

What else did the 2010's impact aviation? Tell me in the comments!

© 2020 Alexander Pask


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