Airline industry is one of the biggest industry in the tourism sector. It plays a very significant role in the success of tourism, and contributes immensely to the success of the other sectors of the industry. This sector merges transportation and comfort; it unites austerity with a feeling of luxury accommodating all sorts of customers, from the filthy rich to the very poor. Moreover, it has created many employment opportunities and contributed to the overall growth of the tourism sector, as well as economies of many countries. This paper explores the airline industry as one of the largest industries in tourism sector. It provides a brief background of the industry, discusses the economic, social, and environmental impacts of this industry, and explores various sustainable management initiatives being undertaken by companies in this sector of the industry.
A brief background of airline industry
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Notably, the airline industry began after the invention of the first plane and the kite in China during 400 B. C. These kites were used to test weather, and for fun; later on, these invention contributed to the discovery and development of gliders and balloons. The first ever recorded flight was in the year 1783, which involved two French inventors and the world’s first hot air balloon. The first plane was flown in 1903 following the hard work of the Wright brothers. From this time till nowadays, air travel has come to be a very fundamental means of transportation for both products and people (Song et al., 2012). It has revolutionized the way people travel, they transport their belongings and the boundaries that they have to transcend.
Flying was a very risky endeavor in the early 20th century. It was until 1925 when it became well-known; in the same year the Air Mail Act played a key role in the airline industry development. This Air Mail Act of 1925 permitted the postmaster to procure services from the private airlines in the delivery of mail. Thereafter, Air Commerce Act accorded the Secretary of Commerce the power to establish airways, license pilots, certify aircraft, issue and enforce air traffic regulations. This marked the formal inception of the commercial aviation industry. Premier commercial airlines included the likes of Pan American, Ford Transport Service and Western Express. In approximately ten years, there were many modern-day airlines that had sprung up, including United and American (American Airlines, 2011).
The airline industry is structured into three main components, that is, general, military and commercial. General aviation has business or executive flights under it, personal flights, and flight instructions. Commercial aviation involves national carriers that include American and Delta, as well are regional carriers (Delta Air Lines, Inc., n.d.). This sector also takes on crop dusting, rescue operations and fighting forest fires (Southwest Airlines Co., n.d.). The subsectors of the airlines industry are maintenance, finance divisions, and marketing. The airline industry and the aviation industry at large cannot do without these subsectors, which make them very crucial.
Economic, social, and environmental impacts of the sector
The airline sector contributes immensely to the economic growth of countries. It facilitates the entire tourism industry, and its economic impact can be felt worldwide. It also helps in world trade and contributes immensely on international investments. This goes to show that it lies at the center of globalization and dictates how close to all the industries in the world perform. This industry has been in existence for a considerable period, and it is this that has enabled it to prove itself. It has been able to stand out and be the leader and the pioneer when it comes to breaking boundaries, clearing paths, globalization and invention (Ramón-Rodríguez, Moreno-Izquierdo and Perles-Ribes, 2011). Furthermore, the aviation industry has aided travel and it has contributed to globalization in a way that no other industry can. It has revolutionized the systems that existed back in the day. It challenged these systems and revolutionized them altogether, shading a new light on the people, bringing them closer than they were before.
Many people who are opting for air transport as opposed to the other modes of transport, especially when it comes to long distance travel. As days progress, there is so much revenue that is collected from these travels, and there is a lot that the government garners in the form of taxes and other deductions. This money helps in building the country and creating employment opportunities for the nationals and improving the infrastructure of the country. Therefore, airline industry contributes to the progression of the country economically, which is good for the people. However, the industry takes up many resources that could benefit other sectors and contribute on a much bigger scale, to the economy of a country. Should there be a fatality, a ripple effect is created. This eats up on a country’s economy as well as its workforce. Many people lose their lives in these events, which leads to people opting for other means of transportation as opposed to air transport. The airline companies fail to rake in revenues; tourism is affected and close to every other sector is affected (Vespermann and Wald, 2011).
Socially, the airline industry has also played a significant role. For instance, no longer do people have to take months traveling just to see their loved ones. Now, continents are closer than they were back in the day. Air travel has revolutionized everything, and its contribution socially is incalculable. However, it has contributed negatively to the social ties that people had some time back. The bond that people had has been broken, with people turning to long distance relationships and using technology to maintain the same relationships. This is a contribution of this industry since it facilitates people to move far away from their loved ones, with the notion that it would only take a few hours to get to them and see them.
When it comes to the environment, the airline industry has come under heavy criticism in the recent past, over its contribution towards environmental degradation as well as noise pollution in the areas surrounding airports. For the longest time, aircrafts were designed with the idea of capacity in mind, that is, airline companies went for size, and fuel consumption or carbon emissions were the least of their worries. This went on for a long time, aircrafts releasing loads of carbon into the atmosphere and little was done about it. Some may argue that this industry has played a huge part in the current global warming. Others may argue that what this industry has contributed to is negligible compared to the various production and manufacturing industries scattered all over the globe. In a bid to curb this, this airline industry is taking a green approach to aircraft design (Evans, Campbell and Stonehouse, 2003).
Sustainable management practices in the sector
There are a number of sustainable practices that this industry wishes to employ in order to run their operations effectively and efficiently. Service delivery is paramount when it comes to the airline industry, which makes it of utmost importance to ensure that airline services are of is in the best quality at all times. There is also a huge environment concern in regard to this sector, taking cognizance of the possible effects of this industry’s operations. It is a big initiative, one that requires players and collaboration from different stakeholders including the aerospace manufacturers, air traffic management providers, airlines and the public. The industry is also working towards reducing noise pollution, especially for the people residing around these airports. In this regard, it is working with noise experts from different parts of the globe to develop a community friendly noise measure that would ease noise pollution in these areas and one that the residents can engage with and live with harmoniously.
In addition, various players who benefit from the airline industry are also preferring to go green. Often, areas around the airport are heavily affected by noise and air pollution from the aircrafts and vehicles. In case all the players in this sector come together and opt to reduce carbon emissions, they would impact on the community positively; currently, this is the industry’s main objective (Evans, Campbell and Stonehouse, 2003). This would in turn foster the peaceful coexistence between the establishment and the individuals who happen to be the immediate neighbors to these structures.
Waste management is also another sustainable management practice that the airline industry is seeking to employ. It has been noted that airports and related establishments generates a significant amount of waste. 75% of the waste produced in this industry is recyclable, but only 20% is usually recycled. Environmental and recycling programs in the airline industry involve various teams and partners such as airports, municipalities, airlines, Federal Security, and the private waste companies. Therefore, it would be prudent for them to manage their waste by recycling. In doing this, they could create a hospitable and green environment within these establishments; and in turn, they would also get an increase in revenues as a result of proper waste management by reselling recyclable waste.
Different airline companies such as American airline, Delta airline and Southwest airlines have developed ways to ensure that their operations do not contribute to environmental degradation. Firstly, the American airline is committed to enhancing environmental wellbeing, as such it has recently focused on increasing its fuel efficiency by at least 30 percent as a way of reducing environmental pollution. Moreover, it is committed to developing alternative and renewable aviation fuels to reduce the emission of toxic gases (American Airlines, 2011). In addition, Delta airline has also expressed its commitment to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions. Further, the southwest airline perceives environmental stewardship as their responsibility; this airline focuses on protecting the environment and it tops in emissions reductions through fuel efficiency (Southwest Airlines Co., 2015).
The airline industry has significantly contributed to making our lives today more efficient though still with some detrimental consequences in regard to its social, economical and environmental impacts. Tourism has been the biggest benefactor of developments in this industry; as it relies heavily on airline sector for its success, such that should anything go wrong, tourism is negatively affected. The airline industry employs many people and it contributes immensely to the economy of countries around the world. Therefore, it is an industry whose contribution is incalculable as it contributes to society and the environment accordingly. It is bound to grow even further, especially with the advancement in technology and implementation of sustainable strategies. Therefore, its dependence will continue to soar, making it part and parcel of people’s lives and tourism as well.
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