Although the number of directions which geographical research on transport is taking has recently increased, the extent to which transport geography capitalises on theoretical advancements made in other sub-disciplines of human geography is still fairly limited. This especially pertains to economic geography which, in contrast to the predominantly positivist and quantitative transport geography, has developed over the last few decades a more post-positivist and qualitative profile. By means of focusing on passenger air transport – one of the most neglected industries in economic geography – this paper aims to help bridge this gap. Three under-researched aspects of air transport are identified and a combination of two economic-geographical approaches – global production networks (GPN) and evolutionary economic geography (EEG) – is advocated as a useful conceptual basis for further, more qualitative and more critical research on this dynamic sector. The paper argues that GPN and EEG would help research on air transport to (1) employ network thinking beyond the infrastructural understanding of networks of air connections and thus better explain the multi-actor nature of the aviation sector, (2) complement the research on supra-national and national regulatory frameworks with more attention to the array of sub-national environments that shape the aviation industry ‘from below’, and (3) explore how the relations between aviation and economic development are moulded by different place-specific institutional factors. To lay foundations under further research the paper conceptualises the aviation industry as a global production network and uses the example of Polish passenger air transport to highlight the paper’s key empirical implications.
- The passenger aviation industry
- global production networks (GPN)
- evolutionary economic geography (EEG)
- economic development