Air Tycoon (AT)

Short game description

In Air Tycoon (AT) the player manages an airline. The main objective is to operate flight connections between cities as profitably as possible, taking numerous aspects into account and optimizing them.

The game principles are relatively quickly understood, so that there are no significant barriers to entry. The subjective evaluation of the gaming fun is medium, while the long-term gaming fun should be calculable for most players due to a lack of variety.

Because of the higher degree of abstraction and complexity, the game is only conditionally suitable for younger children, but should be well applicable from the higher levels of secondary level I and is also quite interesting for adults. AT is also available in a German language version.

Air Tycoon is designed for mobile devices, runs on Android and iOS devices and is available both online and offline. The differences regarding the progress of the game and the pricing are shown in the following section. The following refers primarily to the online version Air Tycoon Online 2.

Game versions

Air Tycoon is available both offline and online. The main advantage of the online version is that many real players compete against each other, which is more motivating and should lead to more interesting game play. Furthermore, the online version can be played for free. However, there are moderate incentives for in-app purchases, as this is the only way to acquire several airports and reduce waiting times for ordered aircraft and slots. A permanent Internet connection is also needed. From a didactic point of view, the main disadvantage of the online version is that the game has a fixed clock - each round lasts two hours - which makes integration into lessons more difficult. In addition, an online game will only end after several weeks. Since the game becomes repetitive after a few rounds and the long-term motivation is manageable, only a few players are likely to 'hold out' to the end.

The offline version costs about 3,50€ and can be played without further in-app purchases. Furthermore, no online connection is required and the degree of complexity and difficulty can be modified. The main advantage is that no waiting times are implemented and the next round starts on the basis of the player's decision. The disadvantage of this is that the game is only played against computer opponents.

Finally, it should be noted that there are three online and three offline versions of Air Tycoon, with Air Tycoon 4 and the corresponding online version Air Tycoon Online 2 particularly appreciated by the players.



Areas of competence


A) Decision and rationality


B) Relationship and interaction


C) Order and system








Efficiency/cost-benefit thinking










Coordination/economic order


Conflict of aims




Reference to other domains:

Geography (++)




+ little ++ medium +++ much

Further contents:

Market mechanisms including the importance of demand, competition and monopolies;

growth strategies;

cost accounting/income calculation

Game description

In Air Tycoon, the player manages an airline. The main objective is to operate flight connections between cities as profitably as possible, taking numerous aspects into account and optimizing them:

  • One challenge is the selection and financing of suitable aircraft, which are different in terms of acquisition costs, range, comfort and fuel consumption. Not all aircraft types were available at the beginning of the game in 1960. Rather, the availability of certain aircraft types and their characteristics are realistically depicted in the game. When financing the purchase of an aircraft, a decision must be made between buying and leasing.
  • When choosing and designing individual flight routes, factors such as city size, proportion of business customers and tourists, distance and, above all, the presence of other airlines or competitors must be taken into account. In addition, decisions must be made with regard to prices, comfort features (e.g. food on board or seat spacing) and service quality on the ground. Air traffic slots must also be available at the airports.
  • In addition to passenger routes, cargo routes can also be set up, for which specific aircraft are required. Although their profit potential is somewhat lower than that of passenger routes, demand fluctuation is lower, they are less susceptible to cyclical downturns and competition is generally less intense.
  • Beyond decisions at the route level, there are design options that affect the airline as a whole. For example, marketing measures can be financed, customer service improved or employee satisfaction increased through appropriate expenditure.
  • Later in the game, alliances can be formed with other airlines and airports can be operated.

Each game round, which in the online version takes two real hours, lasts two months. In principle, the following activities can be run in each round:

  • If there is sufficient capital available, mainly from the winnings of the previous rounds, new aircraft can be purchased and additional routes opened.
  • The existing routes must be optimised or adapted to changed conditions. This applies above all to pricing, which should be geared to demand and flight load factors. In the case of routes with low profitability, e.g. due to high competition or sharply increased fuel costs, the closure of such routes should also be considered.
  • Occasionally, general cost structures (e.g. for advertising or staff) should also be adjusted and obsolete aircraft renovated or sold.

In every round of the game, the framework conditions will change, as both fuel prices and demand are subject to random fluctuations, and players will set up new routes, which may increase competition. There will also be other game options later in the game: Airports can be acquired and operated, new types of aircraft are launched and alliances between airlines are possible from 1970 onwards. A major challenge is the steep rise in fuel costs from the 1970s onwards, which will reduce profits and make it difficult to use fuel-inefficient aircraft profitably. One particular challenge is the economic crises that will occur three times in the course of the game[1], during which demand collapses considerably. In these periods, it is particularly important to keep a close eye on costs and to close unprofitable routes at least temporarily. Financial reserves are also helpful in surviving these phases.


Brief description of a possible game strategy:

First buy as many TU-104s as possible and use them on short-haul routes with high passenger volumes. This way you will quickly achieve the bonuses for high passenger numbers that can be used to buy more aircraft. Subsequently, as many B707s as possible (possibly also as freight versions) should be leased and used. The DC-8 is suitable for longer distances. If you have reached 1970, replace your TU-104 by Boeing 737, since these are much better in many aspects. This may take some time as the Boeing 737 is about $30,000 more expensive than the TU-104.

At the same time, you can also set up freight lines.

Use the credits sparingly and don't advocate shortening waiting times, but for fuel tanks and airports.

[1] The first economic crisis occurred in 1978 or 1979, the two later in 1987-2000 and 2007-2020.

ato-beschreibung (PDF, 568,28 KB)
Learning potential

1 Life situations

From the spectrum of economically shaped life situations, Air Tycoon primarily addresses the employed, as the player deals with business issues from the entrepreneurial perspective.

2 Areas of Competence

A - Decision and rationality

The players have to make permanent decisions about business problems. For example, it has to be clarified which routes are to be operated with which aircraft at which comfort level and at which prices. In addition, the question remains whether aircrafts should be bought or leased. Decisions must also be made about marketing or employee remuneration.

The aspect of rationality is particularly important in competitive situations when a new competitor "attacks" on an existing monopoly route. Thus it may be emotionally obvious not to be driven out and to undercut the competitors in terms of price. However, it is often more rational to close the route and use the aircraft on a potentially more lucrative route.

B - Relationship and Interaction

The relationship to others in the game is primarily determined by competitive situations. This makes it clear that foreign interests conflict with the own ones. It can be attempted to accept competition, to avoid competition as far as possible or to seek cooperation with competitors, for example in the form of agreements, which are also possible in the game. Furthermore, players can cooperate with each other in the form of alliances, thereby reducing competition and increasing passenger numbers.

C - Order and System

Air Tycoon makes it particularly clear how market processes work. This is generally true with regard to pricing based on supply and demand as well as the importance of competition in particular.

3 Thinking schemes/categories

Need: In order to achieve a high utilisation of the flight routes, the needs of the customers should be satisfied as well as possible. In the game, the general comfort of an aircraft type, the seat spacing, the quality of in-flight catering and ground service, among other things, can influence this.

Efficiency: In order to use existing resources as efficiently as possible, it is important, for example, to ensure that only as many employees and airport slots as necessary are available. In addition, it would be a good idea to network the targeted airports so that the existing infrastructure can be used for several flight routes simultaneously.

Scarcity: In addition to money, airport usage rights and slots can also become scarce in the course of the game. In some situations it might be advisable to keep slots in stock, even if the unused slots cause costs.

Cost-benefit thinking: In all decisions, the question arises as to whether the associated costs are sufficiently profitable. This applies above all to the establishment or maintenance of flight routes, but also to investments in advertising. Another important question is whether an aircraft should be bought or rented. In the case of rent, the total costs are significantly higher, but several routes can be operated in this way.

Rationality: Rational action is particularly important in the context of competition; players should not necessarily get involved in irrational price wars.

Risk/uncertainty: Both passenger trends and kerosene prices fluctuate constantly, which usually has little impact. But there are periods of strong increases in kerosene prices, which can pose major problems for airlines with inefficient aircraft. The same applies to economic crises in which demand falls sharply and can lead to insolvencies of many airlines with poor management, inefficient aircraft and low financial reserves. Such economic crises are easier to survive if sufficient funds are withheld. Another risk factor are new competitors on their own routes, whose market entry can lead to falling profits or losses.

Growth: Especially at the start of a game, rapid growth is helpful in order to occupy promising routes. Rapid growth at the beginning also helps to differentiate oneself from the other players and to generate ever higher profits, since with each additional route the potential profit increases and thus exponential growth opportunities arise. For this reason, it can also make sense to lease aircraft instead of buying them, despite significantly higher overall costs.

Economic order: The importance of competition or lack of competition due to monopolies and agreements becomes just as clear as other pricing factors.

Conflict of objectives: The game deals with several conflicts of objectives, for example

  • Growth vs. cost minimisation on whether aircraft should be purchased (lower total cost) or leased (faster growth).
  • Growth vs. security: By creating a capital reserve for economic crises, the risk of insolvency is reduced, but the capital then cannot be invested in aircraft.
  • Comfort vs. number of seats: The number of seats and thus the sales potential of an aircraft can be increased by reducing legroom, but this reduces comfort and thus demand.

4 Technical errors

Essentially, the facts and relationships in the game are plausibly depicted. Only the terms used in cost accounting are sometimes imprecise or misleading. For example, success or profit is referred to as 'net sales'.

5 Relation to other domains

By planning routes between cities, players also get a good impression of the location and approximate size of many cities, which is important for (anthropo-)geography.

Teaching assignment

The use of Air Tycoon in economics lessons is justifiable in view of its economic learning potential, whereby cooperation with the geography teacher should be considered. The offline version is generally recommended for this and the use of tablets is recommended for a better overview due to the larger displays.

The process could be designed as described below:

  1. A short introduction to the game, how it works and how to coordinate orders and goals with a lecture. The main objectives of the game are to increase the value of the company or the winnings per game round. Students should also be asked to take notes on strategies and possible problems.
  2. Students should then be given the opportunity to play Air Tycoon. It is a good idea to play together in pairs or groups of three so that the students can help each other and exchange strategies.
  3. Depending on the learning group and the course of the game, an intermediate discussion may be useful. In this context, problems, questions of understanding and strategies can be discussed. On this basis, the further course of the game may be more targeted and successful.
  4. After the playing phase a reflection should take place in which the learning experiences are discussed and linked with the previous knowledge of the pupils. Successful strategies can also be identified, concepts (e.g. cost accounting) clarified and comparisons made between the game and reality.

If Air Tycoon is used online in voluntary work groups, the online version could also be used. In this case, all members of the voluntary work group could play together or against each other, which would be done out of the work group in view of the rigid time schedule. The time in the work group would be to be used rather for the clarifying of the basic conditions and the reflection.

Independently of the question of the employment in instruction or in a work group should not be striven in view of the expenditure of time and the comparatively small long-term motivation of Air Tycoon as a rule to play a game up to its end, particularly since this is also dispensable for the learning process.

Further links

Discussion forum for: Air Tycoon

13.09.2019 18:22:45, Holger Arndt

test dfsaf


13.09.2019 18:22:13, Thomas Sommerfeld



04.09.2019 14:07:15, Jörg Altegoer

AT is a very cool game!

Yes, that's true!

4 answers
04.09.2019 14:07:39, Jörg Altegoer

No, it's not cool at all!

Because of blablabla...

04.09.2019 14:08:59, Jörg Altegoer

Re: No, it's not cool at all!

That's not true - it IS cool!

05.09.2019 08:56:59, Holger Arndt

Re: Re: No, it's not cool at all!

Sorry, but in my opinion, AT is a cool game as well.