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Where to start your airline?

This question comes up again and again. Players most of the time want to play in their home country or in one of the big markets (USA, China, Europe), as they believe they can grow best in such a place. While that is not completely wrong, it is in most cases wise to pick a medium sized country to make the first steps and learn. As a beginner, you will most likely reset your companies a few times before you get one worth playing long term.

Medium sized markets

The competition in those markets is considerably lower and you have much higher chances to get your airline going to a reasonable size. You can experiment with some different strategies to see what works best (and what not) without having to worry that a big competitor is snatching all your remaining slots in a few days.

You also get to know a new region and learn something about its geography. And you most likely have much higher chances to get into an alliance to make some friends and get support. If you are in the same market that is much more difficult, as most alliances don’t like internal competitors.

Which world?

As of the writing of this guide, there are 15 long-term game worlds and three temporary to choose from.

Temporary Worlds

The three temporary worlds Otto, Quimby and Yeager are worlds that get reset every 9 months or so. So they are ideal for testing purposes and especially if you fancy the founding and growing part. These worlds feature the latest software version and include the dynamic turnaround feature as well, so that’s an added bonus. On the downside some don't allow IPO's.

These worlds though are usually very crowded and competition is quite fierce, especially after a reset. Expect many different airlines in almost all markets competing for passengers and slots getting filled very quickly.

The temporary worlds sometimes also feature some specialties like no nighttime bans, double slots, no IPOs, etc. Check the description to find out about the current features of those worlds.

Long-term game worlds

Besides the temporary worlds, there are also many long-term game worlds that date back to (almost) the beginning of AirlineSim. Some worlds have specific features:

World Features Standard Price
Overview Get an overview of all game worlds on this page  
Idlewild Only modern aircraft Easy for Pax
(Difficult Cargo)
Devau Maximum transfer duration extended to 15h, no ground networks Easy
(Difficult Cargo)
Meigs Only one holding per account Easy
(Difficult Cargo)
Aspern Only current types available, and only one holding per account allowed Easy
(Difficult Cargo)
Riem Advanced Game World, as it has permanently reduced traffic demand and only current types available Medium for Pax
(Easy Cargo)
Ellinikon Has different standard price calculation together with Riem Medium
(Easy Cargo)
Hoover / Yeager The latest game worlds that features the new dynamic turnaround. One holding per account only and has a higher credits consumption (at 6 per day). The list of unrestricted markets is different and no IPOs are possible Hard(er) for Pax
(Medium Cargo)

While on these long-term worlds your planning security is a bit higher, the entry might be a bit more difficult. There are many established players occupying the big (and many small) markets and sit on billions of cash. If they see a new entrant that they don’t like, they can easily flood your selected hub and snatch away any chance to even grow to a decent size.

On the other hand, there are always markets freeing up when existing players reset their airlines. There are on almost all worlds medium markets to enter. And in many cases those established players also welcome new entrants and offer support with cheap leases, mentoring or both. It is worthwhile to check out the forum for such offers and get in contact with those players. Or simply drop a friendly email to one of the big players (you can find them via Database - Statistics) and ask them directly.

How to find those hidden pearls?

As just mentioned, browse the forum to find some hints for underserved markets. There is also a specific thread that announces empty spots on a more or less regular basis. While that is certainly a good source of information, you’re not the only one reading that. Attractive spots then usually get quickly crowded. So it is important to act quickly, or be prepared for competition.

There’s also my tool AS Route Map that has some features on how to find a perfect spot to start your new airline. Let’s have a look at these.

AS Route Map Start

On the Start page you will find three search options. Two of them are just lists, while the third one is a heat map of a world to highlight empty spots.

Find a place to start

Find places to start

This query is coming up with worlds and countries that offer the best places to start. Simply select the minimum airport size and the minimum amount of free slots and you will get the list of countries. Click on the title row to sort the list (for example country, to check if your preferred country is available on a world).

Find a country

The list is ranked by available free slots in percent in a given country. The idea behind it is that your domestic market is always your best friend. If you have little slots left in your home country, you will have a hard time building up a decent hub and therefore struggle to grow.

Find possible airports

This search will show you a heat map of areas that still have free areas to start. The darker the spot, the better. Obviously you have to select a world for this view first. You also have to select the minimum airport size and percentage of free slots that you want to have.

Show or hide airports (it only shows airports that allow transfers) to check which airports could be easily flown from/to.

ASRM Heatmap

If you find dark spots in the middle of your selected country, the better. The center is always the best area to start a hub.

Let’s assume, you found a country of your choice and now want to find the best place to start your hub.

Find the best hub

Finding the best hub is not as simple as it seems. Often players flock to the big, huge airports and choose those mega airports to start up their airline. While that is not completely wrong, your chances for success might be much better at smaller, less obvious airports. While bigger airports have more O/D demand, these airports have longer turnaround times and since everybody wants to fly there, will fill much quicker. Small(er) airports have shorter turnaround times making it more attractive to fly through there (shorter overall trip time gives you a higher ORS rating) and you can get a higher utilization of your fleet.

And if you enter an established long-term game world, these might be the only real choices you have. Luckily, the tool will point you in the right direction. Pick your world and country and the main parameters.

Search the best hub

What is that speed about? This is important to calculate the distance your aircraft can cover in a given time. Most regional jets (Bombardier CRJs and Embraer) fly at 830 km/h, while the common single-aisle aircraft (A320, 737) fly slightly faster at 840 km/h in average. I’d go for the slower speed as you’ll be on the safe(r) side.

Now comes the more tricky question. How many waves should you establish in your hub during a day? There’s no right or wrong, it really depends on the airport and the location. I’d suggest to both check 8 and 6 hours, which results in 3 or 4 waves per day. Obviously, with 3 waves you cover a larger area, but you might have a lower utilization of your aircraft. Nighttime bans (mostly important in Europe and Japan) and the geographic location will help you determining the best concept.

What I like about four waves is that you can include more distant locations twice a day (every 12 hours), while covering the closer airports four times a day. With three waves that works as well, but then you can cover the further distances only once a day.

The minimum airport size simple is the threshold to be included in the scoring of the hub suggestions.

Find the best hub

You will get a list with airports that could serve as a hub in that country. It is ranked by best to worst. It uses a sum of scores that is based on the absolute number of free slots and the geographic location. The more airports that can be covered in the time given, the better.

In the above list, Nashville is the best choice to start a new hub although the top 3-5 airports are very close in the ranking. It probably doesn’t make a big difference which one you would choose here.

Click on the link to see a geographic view of how your hub looks like.

The Waveplanner Map

The circle with the various wedges represent the number of possible airports, weighted for their size. The darker a wedge, the better and more destinations you can find. Ideally, the color is the same in all wedges, or at least has some strong left/right or top/bottom picture where you can ideally connect two areas together.

In this example, the East part is more dominant, but you can connect the northern part with the southern area. As this graph shows four waves a day, you can only cover roughly the area from Philadelphia to Houston and Miami. For further distances, you don’t have enough time to get back in time for the next wave. The blue circle covers the area where you can come back in time and should still have a two hour time window to perform some maintenance on the aircraft. This is interesting to maximize the utilization of the aircraft later on.

The Waveplanner Map

If we look at the same hub but only plan for three waves a day, then the area that we can cover is suddenly much larger. We can almost reach Mexico City, could cover all of Cuba (not that this actually matters as flights to Cuba are not allowed) up to Nova Scotia in Canada.

Also check the distances in the left window. With three waves we cover a distance of 2,144km, while at four waves this is reduced to 1,314km. This will help us in choosing the right aircraft type a bit later. Obviously, if you select a higher speed you could cover a few kilometres more (2,170 km @ 840 km/h instead of 2,144 at 830 km/h for the three waves). Using the slower value puts you on the safer side. You can might still be able to squeeze in a certain destination that is just on the edge, if you use the speed override and get slots at the edge of your wave.

Once you are happy with the right hub we can go to the next step.