Not only are the skies over the US congested with air traffic, the airports from which the planes operate are also bursting at the seams.
The increase in the number flyers along with the airlines' strategic shift towards increasing the frequency of flights, means more planes and more passengers.
This results in crowded airport terminals and an increase in the number of delays.
"At no time is the peril of this strategy more exposed than when the weather goes bad," author and commercial airline pilot Patrick Smithwrote in a blog post. "In years past, snow or thunderstorms meant moderate delays and perhaps a cancellation or two. These days, a half inch of powder or a line of cumulonimbus brings the entire system to its knees."
Even though the frequency of terrorist acts targeted at airliners has gone down, incidents like the shoe bombers and the tragic events of 9/11 serve as a reminder they remain a substantial and persistent threat.
As a result, airlines and security services around the world have to remain vigilant. Over the past 15 years, security screening procedures have become increasingly stringent. This has resulted in longer checkpoint wait times and complaints from the traveling public.
In many respects, the industry's search for greater profitability has been to the detriment of passenger comfort.
For investors, the lower the unit costs the better. For airlines, an effective way to reach that target is to stuff more seats into each plane. In addition, airlines have become much more disciplined when it comes to flooding the market with additional flights. The capacity discipline along with a greater number of seats per plane has resulted in full planes with less room for individual passengers.
Since airlines serve as a bridge between nations or even as a flying ambassador for its homeland, it is all but inevitable that they wind up in the middle of political scuffles.
Recent examples include the Trump administration's ban on travelers from certain Muslim majority nations and its ban on laptops in the cabins of flights from selected airports in the Middle East and North Africa.
There's also Qatar's dispute with its Persian Gulf neighbors that saw its national airline banned from a couple of its most lucrative markets.
Strife between nations usually results in a hit to the operations and profitability of airlines.
Technology has been great for airlines. Biometrics is going to be a changer for airport experience. While hybridization is expected to usher in a new age of flight. Technology has already helped revolutionize everything from in-flight entertainment to freeing flights crews from their cumbersome flight manuals.
However, as the airline industry and the infrastructure that serves it becomes increasingly dependent on technology, it's also going be even more vulnerable. Insufficient investment in technology infrastructure over the past decade has resulted in a spate of computer outages that can cripple an airline's operations for days on end. With the growing threat of cybercrime, the airline industry will have to work much harder to stay ahead of the curve.
Every airline executive will tell the most important part of his or her company are the people. It's true, an airline's employees are its lifeblood. Which is why poor labor relations can cripple an airline both financially and operationally.
With the proliferation of smartphones and social media, the actions of airline employees are under the microscope more than ever. Thus the actions of a few employees can have a major effect on the airline.
However, as the airline industry learns to run leaner, its business and labor model is evolving as well. As a result, employees at major airlines in the UK, France, and Germany have gone on strike in recent years.
As airlines around the world expanding their fleets, everyone is looking for people to do the flying. But there doesn't seem to be enough people around to fill those jobs. After all, it takes a tremendous amount of time and money to train a pilot.
Thus, the pilot shortage is real and some airlines are beginning to feel the pinch. According to Patrick Smith, it is regional carriers that are bearing the brunt of the shortage. However, if this trend continues, it may one day affect mainlines carriers as well.
One airline executive clarified the situation by saying there isn't a shortage of pilots, there's a shortage of good, qualified pilots.
Fume events occur when toxic smoke or odors from the plane's engines find their way into the cabin. "A toxic fume event can result in immediate incapacitation and have a long-term adverse impact, and it can affect everyone on board," Allied Pilots Association president Captain Dan Carey said in a statement.
Fuel is an airline's greatest cost. The industry's new-found profitability has certainly been helped by a sharp decline in oil prices in 2014. However, crude prices are rebounding. Even though it may not reach its previous heights, airlines will have to learn how to survive in a higher cost environment.
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. Stuck in the middle of the storm was United Airline's mega hub in Houston and roughly 10,000 of its employees. Fortunately, the airline and its employees were able to get back on their feet. But as our climate changes, the number of extreme weather events has increased dramatically.
Event like Hurrican Harvey or Super Storm Sandy that hit New York/New Jersey in 2012 will no longer be the exception, but the norm.