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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 ·  427 ratings  ·  35 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.
Paperback, 624 pages
Published December 24th 1996 by Crown Business (first published January 1st 1995)
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  427 ratings  ·  35 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).

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 ...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.
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).
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.
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
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.

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.
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.
Jul 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very enjoyable history of the airline industry and how it evolved
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.
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.
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
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.
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 ...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 ...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.
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.
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 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
Feb 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
A surprisingly compelling and drama-filled look at the business of the airline business.
Sep 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating and through history of commercial aviation, well written and reads effortlessly.
Jan Senko
Very interesting, but gets repetitive after 1960's. Feel free to stop reading if overwhelmed after a third of the book. I should've done that sooner.
Jun 28, 2009 added it
Shelves: history
A solid history of the growing pains experienced by the major US carriers for a generation following deregulation.
Nov 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating. What a ride. The airline industry is truly the most fascinating industry in the world. And its leaders are such dynamic, interesting, and in some cases, horrible men.
Dustin Curtis
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Long. Good, but focused heavily on business mechanics rather than human-facing effects of the airlines.
Sep 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great book about the major players in the building of the airline industry. The author did extensive research and is clearly passionate about the topic.
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Great book with history of the airline industry. Good mix of pro-labor and anti-labor. As a child who grem up in the eighties, it was interesting to revisit what happened to all those companies.
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“Part of the Growth Plan's genius lay in how diabolical it was. The one controlling obstacle to the plan, of course, were the unions at American [Airlines in the early 1980s]. The very concept of a two-tier wage system ran 180 degrees counter to the fundamental all-for-one, one-for-all principles of unionism. But the Growth Plan was conspicuously structured to benefit _existing_ union members, who in an expanding airline would enjoy vastly greater promotion opportunities, meaning that their salaries would increase even more than otherwise. The incumbent employees would reap this windfall on the backs of future employees, but what did it matter when the winners under this strategy were the only ones able to vote on the proposal?” 0 likes
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