I titled my first blog here for this semester’s independent research on the commercial aviation industry “the stories behind the metal birds.” The past few months were a blink. Now, at the end of May, I am sitting in front of my laptop composing my last blog entry. But before I revisit the “stories” I have looked over the course of my work, I want to first share a story about how I personally came to be fascinated by the airline industry.
Afternoon view of the Hollywood Hills (picture taken by myself in January 2017)
I loved going to airports before I knew much about flying. For me as a ten-year-old child who was yet to finish grade school, I got to fly only about three or four times a year, mostly for family vacations on holidays. Strangely, I was often more excited about taking planes than visiting the actual destination, whether it be another city or a beach resort. It did not matter if I was waiting in a long line to get my boarding pass or if I was crawling on my little seat for hours; I simply savored the atmosphere both at airports and onboard. While my parents usually took this as a immature peculiarity and most often chose to ignore my unmeasured excitement, I knew that there had to be some more explanations to these heart-felt evocations. While, in retrospect, I was able to rationalize my attraction to air travel by attributing it to the philosophy behind rapid transportation from one point to another, for the unique power it possesses to connect places and people together, I had not been able to make sense of my obsession back then. All I remembered was that I started to maintain air travel blogs/reports from sixth grade, collecting many photos I took from ground to the air on every flight I took and writing detailed explanations under each of them, in hope that I could preserve these good, exciting memories. In addition, I started surfing through a variety of aviation forums to learn more about the latest trends in the industry. In the short span of my growing up, I witnessed the huge growth of premium economy class in the international long-haul air travel market, the consolidation of airline alliances (Star Alliance, OneWorld and SkyTeam,) the increasing reliance on mobile apps to create smart travel experience, and many campaigns that bear a similar focus: the building of distinct corporate cultures.
I only spent more spare time reading random materials about air travel and planning future trips well ahead of time in my middle school and high school years. Finally, with a reservoir of basic knowledge in mind, I started the independent research on the airline industry this semester, hoping that I could probe into its intriguingly different dimensions. Over the past few months, I have looked at the histories of airplane seats and frequent flyer programs, how airlines could serve as carriers and bridges of different cultures, concerns over aviation security measures, and a recent news about the forceful removal of a passenger on a United flight. While the focuses of these weekly or biweekly topics seem to scatter in different disciplines including history, economics, sociology, and law/ethics, the combination of these viewpoints did give me a sense of how my passion about commercial aviation could extend into different realms.
In fact, the more I used different angles to approach commercial aviation, the more I was affirmed to view it as a unique industry in each and every way. Besides the aspects I have mentioned in my previous blogs, I have increasingly noticed an almost paradoxical nature: I often marvel at the degree of standardization that I see within the airline industry. Things like similar safety protocols, reservation systems, open sky agreements, etc. all exemplify the amount of corporation both on international and corporate levels. Yet still, despite the existing homogeneity, different carriers have not lost their ability to differentiate their products (both practically and culturally) to gain a solid base of loyal customers. This paradox adds another layer of mystery to this already multifaceted industry, pushing me to, at the end of my study, consider it as a powerful, systematic human experience uniquely defined and expressed.
Now, as I start to prepare my final product, I am confident to say that academically, this semester’s independent research has triggered my interests in many areas related to commercial aviation and powered me to potentially look deeper into one or a few of them in college. Personally, I am also grateful that I got a chance to do more in-depth reading and analysis of my deeply-rooted hobby/passion since childhood. Going to a school on the other side of the hemisphere, I have been able to fly a lot more in the past few years. While I no longer feel as pumped for flying per se as I was before, I do still see it as a routinely delightful experience that often invites me to think and reflect.
Many thanks to those who have supported me during this semester’s research and those who have been reading my blog posts!
The final link: click here for “10 reasons why airline industry is unique.”