The rise in numbers of air passengers in the last sixty years has been matched by a rise in the number of airlines. According to the International Air Transport Agency, the number of airlines in the world has risen from fifty-seven in 1945 to 230 in 2010. Increasingly, consumers are being given a range of airline options, all of which have pros and cons. The major shift since the beginning of the twenty-first century has been the rise of low-cost airlines. Declining prices have democratised air travel, although there remains a desire for high-end airlines. The range of airlines means that there are far more advantages and disadvantages to consider than was once the case.
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Low-cost airlines have been criticised for charging "hidden" fees in their prices. Charges include those for excess baggage, seat reservation and the use of credit cards. In 2010 the Irish Airline Ryanair, for example, charges £35 charge for checking in a bag at the airport. There can also be a high price for food and drink on board the plane. A "Which?" report found that food and drink on airlines is as much as 635% the price found at a supermarket.
Regional airlines often require staff to work harder for less pay. This can have a major impact on safety, due to tiredness and cost-cutting. Seven out of the last eight airline crashes in the United States involved regional airlines, and in many of those the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited tiredness and fatigue as being central to the crash. Regional airlines also have environmental disadvantages, as railways can often provide an environmentally-friendly alternative. For example, travel between the centres of London and Paris is now faster with the Eurostar than by plane.
Major airlines tend to have higher ticket prices than their smaller rivals. Most major airlines have accepted this, and focused on providing high-quality service rather than competing on price. Many continue to make high profits without charging lower prices, and as those such as British Airways who have an established brand-name, continue to charge higher prices for their services.
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