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Airlines are making more money than ever — but they're facing a mountain of problems

Business Insider Logo By Benjamin Zhang of Business Insider | Slide 1 of 12: These days, airlines are becoming safer, more efficient, and more profitable with savvier management teams.However, the problems that plague the airline industry have not gone away.The global nature of the industry makes it uniquely vulnerable to a multitude of elements ranging from insufficient infrastructure to disease epidemics to politics. The state of the airline industry is strong. Around the world, the number of people flying increased by 6.6% in 2017. In fact, the world's 20 busiest airports, alone, saw roughly 1.5 billion passengers pass through its terminals last year, trade group Airports Council International reported. Consolidation, coupled with relatively affordable fuel prices and increasingly savvy management teams has resulted in record profits for the industry. However, the airline business is not without its problems. Any cursory look at today's new will turn up any number of stories about dissatisfied customers or some facet of the industry under threat. Even as profitability remains solid, the problems that plague airlines have not gone away. In fact, they have actually become more complex. A former airline CEO once jokingly responded to my question about areas of concern in the future with "What aren't we concerned about?" It's a fair response. The airline industry for all of its power and prestige is unique in the sheer number of factors that could negatively affect its business.  Over the past couple of years, airlines have experienced major disruptions caused by everything from electrical fires to catastrophic disease outbreaks.  Then there are also the challenges caused by the world's ever-shifting economic and political climates. And let's not forget about the issues created by changes in our actual climate.  The vulnerability of airlines to this multitude of factors has to do with the global nature of the business. The very things that make airlines so interesting and alluring are also the same things that threaten its well-being.  Here's a closer look a handful of the challenges that plague the airline industry:

  • These days, airlines are becoming safer, more efficient, and more profitable with savvier management teams.
  • However, the problems that plague the airline industry have not gone away.
  • The global nature of the industry makes it uniquely vulnerable to a multitude of elements ranging from insufficient infrastructure to disease epidemics to politics.
  • The state of the airline industry is strong. Around the world, the number of people flying increased by 6.6% in 2017.

    In fact, the world's 20 busiest airports, alone, saw roughly 1.5 billion passengers pass through its terminals last year, trade group Airports Council International reported.

    Consolidation, coupled with relatively affordable fuel prices and increasingly savvy management teams has resulted in record profits for the industry.

    However, the airline business is not without its problems. Any cursory look at today's new will turn up any number of stories about dissatisfied customers or some facet of the industry under threat.

    Even as profitability remains solid, the problems that plague airlines have not gone away. In fact, they have actually become more complex.

    A former airline CEO once jokingly responded to my question about areas of concern in the future with "What aren't we concerned about?"

    It's a fair response. The airline industry for all of its power and prestige is unique in the sheer number of factors that could negatively affect its business.

    Over the past couple of years, airlines have experienced major disruptions caused by everything from electrical fires to catastrophic disease outbreaks.

    Then there are also the challenges caused by the world's ever-shifting economic and political climates. And let's not forget about the issues created by changes in our actual climate.

    The vulnerability of airlines to this multitude of factors has to do with the global nature of the business. The very things that make airlines so interesting and alluring are also the same things that threaten its well-being.

    Here's a closer look a handful of the challenges that plague the airline industry:

    © Branden Camp / AP

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