Jet fuel prices have a critical influence on airline and route decisions. Historic high prices during 2008 and over 2011-14 impacted on airline costs and profitability. Crude oil prices (Brent) peaked at almost USD133 a barrel in July 2008 and after a period of falling prices again edged higher to reach USD125 a barrel in March 2012. Prices fell from late-2014 to average USD52 throughout 2015, the lowest level seen since 2005. The EIA is forecasting lower prices for 2016 before expected inventory draws contribute to a return to a USD52 average price in 2017.
Airline mergers, consolidations, bilateral agreements and alliances continue to grow as airlines attempt to cut costs, extend networks and improve competitiveness. Membership of the three global airline alliances now numbers 62 (up from 29 in 2003); growth has recently slowed with only three new airline members during 2014 and one during 2015. All three alliances have been focusing on extending member benefits by creating value from existing networks. In the Asia Pacific region eight low cost carriers combined in May 2016 to form a group known as the Value Alliance.