In the 1990s, "open skies" agreements became more common. These agreements take many of these regulatory powers from state governments and open up international routes to further competition. Open skies agreements have met some criticism, particularly within the European Union, whose airlines would be at a comparative disadvantage with the United States' because of cabotage restrictions.
A second financial issue is that of hedging oil and fuel purchases, which are usually second only to labor in its relative cost to the company. However, with the current high fuel prices it has become the largest cost to an airline. Legacy airlines, compared with new entrants, have been hit harder by rising fuel prices partly due to the running of older, less fuel efficient aircraft. While hedging instruments can be expensive, they can easily pay for themselves many times over in periods of increasing fuel costs, such as in the 2000–2005 period.
Following the 1978 deregulation, U.S. carriers did not manage to make an aggregate profit for 12 years in 31, including four years where combined losses amounted to $10 billion, but rebounded with eight consecutive years of profits since 2010, including its four with over $10 billion profits. They drop loss-making routes, avoid fare wars and market share battles, limit capacity growth, add hub feed with regional jets to increase their profitability. They change schedules to create more connections, buy used aircraft, reduce international frequencies and leverage partnerships to optimise capacities and benefit from overseas connectivity.
Often the companies combine IT operations, or purchase fuel and aircraft as a bloc to achieve higher bargaining power. However, the alliances have been most successful at purchasing invisible supplies and services, such as fuel. Airlines usually prefer to purchase items visible to their passengers to differentiate themselves from local competitors. If an airline's main domestic competitor flies Boeing airliners, then the airline may prefer to use Airbus aircraft regardless of what the rest of the alliance chooses.