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Member Since 27 Oct 2015
Offline Last Active Mar 18 2020 06:18 AM

Running a big US-based airline

18 March 2016 - 03:52 PM

Hi all,

I am narrating my Airline Empires experience and so far, it has been a blast. I am currently number 1 in valuation in S3-B. The airline’s name is HAir and is based in the United States. Here’s how I ran the airline successfully. Please note that the round is not yet finished and I started at the very beginning of the round. Whatever you may read in this article is not statistically nor scientifically tested and applying it to your game may yield different results. Also, this is S3-B so there is a limited number of competitors as well as political restrictions.


and sorry if it was written as boring as watching paint dry

I. Picking a starting location

start with airports with less competition with decent demands
start with airports that has no other airline HQ

starting with ATL LAX ORD DFW DEN SFO LAS CLT JFK will expose you to early competition


II. Aircraft

pick a starting aircraft with highest capacity and decent range (for S3-B, MD-83 or 737-300)

for the first 6-12 months, stick with 3-5 aircraft families to avoid heavy maintenance costs

order MD-83 737-300 DC-10-30 DC-8-73 at first, then expand to 757-200 747-300 747-400 Tu-154M, 737-200Adv when finances became stable

Planes to order:
A300-600 — operate for 15-20y, replace with A330-300
A300-600R — operate for 15-20y, replace with A330-300
A310-300 — use for thin transatlantic routes 4800-5700 miles
A320-200 — short-to-medium haul aircraft
A340-200 — use for 8100-8500 mi routes
A340-300 — use for 7000-8100 mi routes
A340-300E — use for 8100-8400 mi routes
A350-900 — planned
717-200 use as regional aircraft
737-200Adv — use for early domestic expansion
737-400 — domestic or medium haul routes
737-600 — US-carribean or US-KEF
737-700ER — US to small airports in Europe, Africa, South America, HNL to Asia-Pacific
737-800 — complement A320-200, has a bit longer range
747-8i — planned
757-200 — thin atlantic routes 3500-4800 miles
767-200ER — thin long haul, up to 8000 mi, med to long haul from MDW (use GE CF6-80C2B4)
777-200 — use for 5500-7000 mi routes
777-200ER — use for 8500-9600 mi routes
777-200LR — planned, use for 9600+ mi routes
787-8 — planned, replacement for DC-10-30, use for long thin routes
DC-8-73 — early long haul
DC-10-30 — early long haul
MD-11 — not very fuel efficient, long haul expansion
MD-83 — pick as starting aircraft
Tu-154M — short-to-medium haul

Planes to lease/buy from the Used Aircraft Market:
A310-200 A330-200 737-200 747-100 747-200B 747SP 757-300 767-200 767-300 767-400ER MD-8x
use for a more rapid expansion

check often in the used aircraft market for good aircraft

buy leased aircraft whenever possible to minimise costs
however in doing this, try to retain 500M to be able to lease aircrafts that appear in the used aircraft market

Planes not to buy:
Il-96-400 — poor efficiency, use A330-300 instead
Tu-204-100 — poor efficiency, use 757-200 instead
MD-11ER — poor efficiency, needs a long runway, use 777-200 or A340-300 instead
helicopters — waste of slots
turbo props — waste of slots (disputed - many find these good and profitable)

III. Planning routes

to be able to maximise profits, avoid expanding to competitive routes at the beginning of the round
starting MCO-ATL will expose you to early domestic competition with ATL airlines
start with a destination that has no airline HQ.
MCO-PHX or even MCO-CLE or MCO-CUN will give you lots of time before competition starts
(my first route was MCO-EWR fortunately, competition came after more than a game year)

expand rapidly to airports that have good demand but few gates.
these airports frequently run out of gates.
if they do, check them once in a while a gate becomes vacant
if you have the opportunity, max out the gates you need or can use
example — if you are able to use 10 gates from BOG, that leaves 32 to be shared by all other airlines not based in Colombia, giving you a better chance at monopolising routes to that city, unless a Colombian airline competes against you. (USA-Bogota routes yield big)
prioritising routes to these kinds of airports helps a lot in avoiding competition
an airline that prioritised United States to LHR AMS CDG GRU and other big airports may lose the opportunity to fly to some airports with few gates. in contrast, if you prioritise major airports last, you may have monopoly of the other airports and compete on the big airports later in the game when more aircraft become available at your disposal
earn extra when monopolising some routes like USA to BGY BKI HKT SHJ CEB SGN HAN MCT SSH HRG. demand is not very high but having them without competition helps a lot in earning. their gates run out quickly

focus on international routes and treat domestic traffic as “feed” to your hubs. the US domestic market is a blood bath and profitability is better maintained on international routes

US-bases airlines can launch routes from Puerto Rico and Guam
from Guam and Puerto Rico you can launch routes to Syria, Iran, North Korea, Libya and Cuba
airports with short runways like MDW & HOU are good bases for monopoly of international routes.
they both have decent passenger demand but restrictive for many long haul aircraft.
for MDW, only 777-200, 767-300, 767-200 and 767-200ER with specific engines can be used for long haul. this advantage, of course does not apply to domestic or regional competition
LIN serves the same for Italy-based airlines

build terminals when possible, as this gives a significant reduction in gate lease prices

when starting routes, offer 10-40% more than the researched demand when possible

try to note routes that are underserved due to the lack of aircraft. example, serving MCO-SFO with one 737-800 will definitely not fill the demand. try to keep a separate note that MCO-SFO needs more aircraft, so when more planes are delivered, you can remember to add more frequencies to that route.

IV. Competing

when flying a monopolised route, avoid increasing prices as entry of a competitor that satisfies the current demand will take almost all the passengers of that route using default prices. increase the price only if you can be vigilant about monitoring for the entry of competition

generally, start routes from your hubs where there is no competition. when a competitor starts flying your routes, try to test if lowering your prices to get the demand back is necessary. sometimes “sharing” the route may result in better outcomes as prices stops to fall, until another competitor arrives or the competition increases their frequency.

example: MCO-MTY using a 24x weekly 737-400 3F/14C/151Y yields 220,000 daily profit
if your competitor brings down your profit to 170-190k, with the stolen demand being filled by connecting passengers, its probably better to leave it that way.however, if profit goes below 150k, and load factors goes yellow or red, lower prices to take back passengers. however, prepare for retaliation as soon as they realised your move. prepare for a price war.

taking back or stealing O/D passengers (green) from competitors does not have a consistent rate. lowering your prices 100-300 for F, 50-200 for C, 5-100 for Y lower than the competitor with the lowest price usually does the trick. note that connecting passengers (blue) only pay half the price

if the fare is already less than half the default due to a price war, try to reset your prices. your load factor may go back to 100% at the same time get a more decent profit than others. if it does not, undercut some more, and after they retaliate, try resetting the price to default again. of course the profit will be a bit less than if it were a monopoly

monitor the competition. click routes then sort load factors ascending. the lowest ones will show on top. you can now identify which routes to adjust against the competition. do this for each class (Y C and F)

monitoring load factors may not be useful sometimes, especially when your route is undercut by a competitor. when your route is undercut, and the lost demand is filled by connecting passengers, therefore load factor monitoring is rendered useless. here are some ways to deal with this

check all of your routes - most accurate but not feasible especially with big airlines
check the “routes” page and sort them by profits. check weirdly low ones — best used for international routes at a specific destination. hard to use on domestic routes or ‘all’ routes
check the “aircraft” page and pick any sort them by profit (ascending)
check your aircraft with poor profits and adjust accordingly

when undercutting your opponents, try not to take all the passengers away. this will keep the route at 100% LF from your competitors point of view and thus, silently taking O/D passengers away from him.

during the tiring process of replacing old aircraft with new ones you might stumble upon an aircraft that serves a route that has been undercut.

V. Analyse your opponents

know if they are still active, you can know if they are inactive if (1) they do not respond to the competition (2) their aircraft list is not updated - delivered aircrafts not used, no new aircraft (3) their aircraft appears at the used aircraft market and has a history of “lease expired”

know their hubs, you might want to bring the war to his backyard. just make sure you have enough aircraft to start your price war. if you have heavy competition against a player that has quit the race for whatever reason, view all the routes on all his known hubs and try to reset the prices to increase profits. also check the used aircraft market to salvage the planes of the bankrupt airline

know the countries of big airlines. check countries with no big active airline and establish routes to their airports. try to capitalise on these unserved airports.

in a world that is more than halfway through, it is difficult to find a hub with decent demand that has virtually no competition. some new airlines might start and compete with your routes and undercut your fare. as cruel as it may sound, check his airline page kill all his routes. if these airlines prosper, there is no more stopping them from competing with most of your routes.
if you are a new airline, and is forced to compete right away due to the lack of unserved routes, try not to undercut the current players and take all the passengers away. instead, try to undercut them but allow connecting traffic to fill up the passengers you ‘stole’. this way you stay out of their radar until you are ready to compete with them head on

VI. Other Tips

since this is S3-B, players with airlines in this world cannot have another airline in S3-A and S3-C. check the S3-A and S3-C reset date as some frustrated players may bankrupt their airline to restart in another small world. this gives you an opportunity to buy more used aircraft

use of turboprops and other regional aircraft are debated. for me, the closest thing i have to a regional aircraft is the 717-200 and it works fine and serves the purpose. helicopters are quite useless.

no need to scam IFS (i have no IFS at all), no need to overprice monopolised routes, no need to underpay staff (attrition increases costs of training new staff), IFE is “state of the art” and free to use