There are many reasons to strive to improve the efficiency of transport networks. While economic reasons used to dominate the debate, environmental reasons are gaining importance but not, for now, social reasons although increasingly equity is seen as another dimension of efficiency. Air transport networks are a special and important case to examine network efficiency. Demand for air transport is steadily growing over time, on average over 4-5% per annum and this has been taking place for several decades and is predicted to continue in the near future. This is fuelled by economic growth and is seen as an important contributor to growth, but air transport requires heavy investment and is costly to operate.
Despite unprecedented advances in technology, air transport’s adverse effect on the environment is only growing with communities around airports burdened by noise and air pollution, and air transport increasingly is recognised as a growing contributor to anthropogenic climate change. Although prices of air transport have been declining, with the phenomenon of Low Cost Carriers contributing to this trend in recent years, much of the world’s population cannot afford to fly and have yet to board a plane. In whatever way efficiency is defined, air transport can and should be more efficient. Air transport is not unique in this respect and lessons to improve the efficiency of air transport networks can be relevant to the rest of the transport system, as much as other transport networks (road and rail for example) can serve as an example for air transport.
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