Airline's choice of aircraft size - Explanations and implications

Moshe Givoni*, Piet Rietveld

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


When facing a growth in demand, airlines tend to respond more by means of increasing frequencies than by increasing aircraft size. At many of the world's largest airports there are fewer than 100 passengers per air transport movement, although congestion and delays are growing. Furthermore, demand for air transport is predicted to continue growing but aircraft size is not. This paper aims to investigate and explain this phenomenon, the choice of relatively small aircraft. It seems that this choice is associated mainly with the benefits of high frequency service, the competitive environment in which airlines operate and the way airport capacity is allocated and priced. Regression analysis of over 500 routes in the US, Europe and Asia provides empirical evidence that the choice of aircraft size is mainly influenced by route characteristics (e.g. distance, level of demand and level of competition) and almost not at all by airport characteristics (e.g. number of runways and whether the airport is a hub or slot coordinated). We discuss the implications of this choice of aircraft size and suggest that some market imperfections exist in the airline industry leading airlines to offer excessive frequency on some routes and too low frequency on others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)500-510
Number of pages11
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Air transport
  • Aircraft size
  • Airline competition
  • Service frequency


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