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Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos
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Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  518 ratings  ·  44 reviews
In this updated paperback edition of a "rich, readable, and authoritative" Fortune) book, Wall Street Journal reporter Petzinger tells the dramatic story of how a dozen men, including Robert Crandall of American Airlines, Frank Borman of Eastern, and Richard Ferris of United, battled for control of the world's airlines. 416 pp. Radio drive-time pubilcity. 20,000 print. ...more
Paperback, 616 pages
Published December 24th 1996 by Three Rivers Press (first published January 1st 1995)
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  518 ratings  ·  44 reviews

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Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Probably the single best book about game theory applied to business. Collectively, airlines benefit from high prices and low wages. Individually, they benefit from competing on price and keeping employees happy. And their costs are largely either fixed (planes) or totally out of their control (fuel).

You can guess what happens next, but it's fun to watch.

The book has brief capsule summaries of airline personalities, both well-known (Herb Kelleher, Richard Branson) and obscure (to me).

The after
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a great book. It's a history of American commercial aviation and its international development up untill 1995. It starts out a bit hectic, the early years, but settles in a fascinating story about the few airlines ceos and their blunders and victories. It covers organized labor, corporate strategy, operations, marketing in such a way that you can't help but enjoy it. I think this is a fantastic business book and history book in one. It will surely teach you a different way to look at the ai ...more
Abhishek Kona
Feb 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
The airline industry is run by macho men. This is sort of the founding history of the industry in the United states. The book is a history based on the men and not focussed on the innovations - like Sabre the computer system / the jets / the financing. A lot of the meaty technical stuff is left out to make some people heroes and villians. Its a decent history and covers a lot of ground. But it covers a lot of ground very lightly.
Todd Gower
Apr 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting, in-depth review of airlines from the 1930s up until the end of the 20th century. Covers many important changes in the industry, the most notable being deregulation and the ensuing consolidation. An interesting read in general but I would probably have preferred more detail on the changes in aircraft technology, route planning and the mechanics of air transportation itself. Instead, so much of the book is dedicated to labor disputes and strike breaking (a big part of the history, no ...more
Oct 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aviation
This long read (416 pages) contains a very detailed explanation of the challenges involved in managing a major airline. In the years following deregulation of the industry, CEOs faced an extremely challenging environment to stay afloat. IN an often cuthroat marketplace they were forced to pare back costs in all ways imagineable. I was previously unaware of the importance of online fare structues and the involvement of travel agencies to attract customers.
Mrs. Palmer
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2012
I learned so much about the airline industry. I wouldn't recommend this to everyone, but for someone like me, who has an interest in aviation and airlines, it was a wonderful read. Actually, I think anyone who has an interest in business and larger than life evil CEO characters might enjoy this. It appears to be very well sourced, if a bit out of date. (It was last updated in the late 90s). ...more
Hella Comat
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Very (too much for me) detailed account of deregulation of the airlines in the US. The story of the CEOs and presidents who ran the airlines and the anecdotes about their lives and personalities interested me more, as well as the creativity and ruthlessness it took to evolve the industry and keep trying to make a profit.
Tom Mehaffy
Sep 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An excellent introduction to the growth of commercial aviation. This book provides a great examination of the various personalities shaping deregulation, as well as a primer on airlines economics. Petzinger is an excellent story-teller and offers a “fly-on-the-wall” look at key moments in aviation history. While meticulously researched and well-sourced, this book is highly accessible and readable. The personalities come to life: the mercurial Frank Lorenzo; the failed visionary, Dick Ferris; the ...more
Jan 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Interesting read about the development of the airline industry; certainly one of the more engaging business history books I've ever read. Petzinger takes a special interest in labor negotiations, I think. This book is particularly useful for learning the "origins" of different realities of travel, like "Where did the online reservation systems come from?" and "Whatever happened to Pan Am?" and "Why does Southwest fly out of Dallas Love?"

It's long, though, and chock full of anecdotes moreso than
ōē ā
Mar 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a great book of US airline histories.

Whenever I travel in the future, it will definitely remind me of vivid history of the airline depicted in this book.

Lots of airline names vanished as ashes in the long river of history, what remains live carry all the legacies.

The book is finished in one of the bigger crisis of the travel industry ever in history. We will all conquer Covid-19 for sure. Cannot wait for the next round of facilitating business stories and miracles in modern airline indust
Daniel Frank
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a disappointing read (based on how great the reviews are and how interesting the subject matter is).

This book failed to highlight many fascinating components of the airline industry (and great stories from the past); the stories selected to be discussed in great detail seemed arbitrary, there is way too large of a focus on labour disputes, and the book lacks a meaningful discussion on the economics of the industry.

Arun Philips
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an EXQUISITELY written book. Must read for any aviation enthusiast. A thorough and enrapturing story of the birth of airline industry, from the point of view of the Executives and Presidents playing the game of musical chairs with airlines in America.

Learnt so much about the amazing stories behind the invention of yield management, reservation systems like Sabre and the evolution of the airline industry.
Alex Rhee
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Really in-depth book about how the airline industry came to be. A lot of it starts off at the advent of deregulation.

Fascinating if you're into business history and why there are only a handful of major airlines right now. Really brings out the personalities in the story.

Might be boring if you don't care for business history.
Sahil Nair
Mar 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Petzinger weaves the history of a complex industry into a compelling narrative that seemed truly surreal in many moments. I appreciated the attention given to the contentious relationships between labor and management, and the focus on how deregulation played out as well. This book earned a place on my shelf as valuable context on the aviation industry's 20th century. ...more
Valentin Vișan
Apr 04, 2021 rated it it was ok
Well, I found out some interesting stuff (for example, how fierce competition brought about change in how airlines packaged their services). Ugh, but to find it out through a soap opera or rich and ambitious men who easily emptied their employees' pockets insted of their own... :facepalm: ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: business
Excellent history of commercial aviation. I knew about some of the messups having worked in aviation after the fallout of deregulation.
Charles E.
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really good book on the growth of the US commercial aviation market, including the colorful characters who made it happen. Brutally competitive, capital intensive business
May 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Airline employees or airline afficionados will enjoy this romp through airline history. I acually read it years ago and didn't realize I had not rated it. ...more
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very enjoyable history of the airline industry and how it evolved
David Kaplan
Dec 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the best business books I’ve read in years. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the US airline industry.
Andrew Loder
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a fantastic overview of the history of airlines from the viewpoint of the labor groups. A must-read for any current or aspiring pilots.
Bruce Talbot
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must be on every professional airline pilot's required-reading list. Those who fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it!
There are relatively few books on the recent history of the airline industry. This is odd considering how key the industry is, on the other hand, I haven't seen a history of Greyhound Bus Lines for sale recently either.

This book contains a great amount of fascinating detail, but it could have used a great deal of editorial assistance. Not for the writing itself, but for the organization. The history is presented in a maddeningly scatter-shot way, with great gaps in continuity. I would like very
Nov 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hard Landing by Thomas Petzinger is one of the most comprehensive overviews of the airline industry and its subsets. This book not only covers the major players and looks at the personal lives of the titans who built the industry but also the rise and fall of companies such as Pan Am, Eastern and TWA. It focuses mostly on United and American but also looks at groups like Southwest, Frontier and Barniff. From the struggles of deregulation to the price wars of the 1980's this is one of the most co ...more
Sep 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hard Landing is a wonderfully written and well researched book about the chaos of the post deregulation era of the airline industry. The book reads less like a history book and more like a fiction novel, but truth (in this case) is much stranger than fiction. If you would like to know more about the airlines, and the travel industry as well, Hard Landing covers everything from the uniqueness of business practices in an oligopolistic industry to the reason why you pay so much for everything if yo ...more
Jerry Smith
Nov 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
In depth review of the de-regulation of the aviation industry in the US in the 80s and 90s that resulted in the demise of Eastern, Pan Am and others and saw the rise of American, Southwest etc.

Told in terms of the companies themsleves but more specifically the CEOs who took them through deregulation. Fascinating.
Sep 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone in the aviation industry
Amazing research and material used to uncover the aviation industry at its best - and worst. Judging from the numberous direct quotes the author had in the book, I must conclude that he was literally a fly on the wall in many a meeting room.
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
Very interesting look at the airline industry from the end of regulation and the beginning of deregulation. Moral of the story: the airline industry has been messed up from the very beginning and that labor and contract issues have been running this industry from the very beginning.
Nov 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: airline workers
Deregulation and the airline industry...esp good read now that the "free market" excesses have run their inevitable course ...more
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