Despite flight simulation games, like Microsoft Flight Simulator and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown, being much more mainstream, airline management games do have their own fan bases too.
Covering numerous aspects of running an airline business, these games are more thought-provoking and data-driven, bearing similarities to popular titles such as Football Manager 2023.
Due to their limited numbers on the market, interested players might have trouble searching for them online. To help with that, I’ve listed five of the best airline management games many of us should consider trying (at least once).
Bear in mind that this list focuses entirely on airline management, which is different than airport sims (e.g. Airport CEO) or flight simulators (e.g. Digital Combat Simulator). Furthermore, we’ll be looking at PC-centric games only, although some of them can still be played on other platforms, such as mobile devices.
With that out of the way, here are five of the best airline management games developed for the PC:
1) Airline Tycoon Deluxe
Developed by: Spellbound Entertainment | Release Date: October 5, 2003
The original Airline Tycoon game released in 1998 was a true classic, and the ‘complete’ version, Airline Tycoon Deluxe, introduces additions that make the game even more fun. Even though the graphics look loony, they bring a level of charm and quirkiness that make it stand out from its competition.
Apart from that, not only do we need to run through reports to gauge how our airline is doing, but in-game rivals might try sabotaging our operations as well, giving it a subtle challenge apart from the administrative stuff. If we’re bored looking at charts and data, we can always explore the airport, talking to NPCs or watching actual characters check in to their flights in real-time.
Airline Tycoon Deluxe was ahead of its time back then, and it still holds its glowing impressions to this very day.
Developed by: AviaDesign | Release Date: January 9, 2009
Created by Finnish aviation tech company, AviaDesign, AirwaySim is an online airline simulation game that lets us play simultaneously with other people all over the world. What’s better is that the game is run through the web browser, meaning we don’t have to own a gaming PC just to play it.
In the beginning, there’ll be a lot of things for us to process, so the game isn’t meant to be played in short sessions. That being said, it’s extremely comprehensive, letting us dive deep into the business side of things, such as projected cash flows, current market share, and many more.
These might sound intimidating, but that’s why there are various game ‘worlds’ – functions just like public servers – that we can join to try out different scenarios while we grasp AirwaySim‘s core mechanics progressively.
Developed by: simulogics | Release Date: 2002
Another web-based airline simulator is AirlineSim, and it comes packaged with clean visuals and a friendly user interface (UI). Although the game looks minimalistic, it actually hides tons of tools and mechanics behind its simple tabs and icons.
As usual, our aim is to run an airline business – or a couple, if successful – while staying afloat in a competitive market filled with other players online. Many real-world instances and rules apply in the game, such as international trade route restrictions, so the game inadvertently teaches us new things that we might not know before.
Still, our early-game growth might be stunted because of our unfamiliarities, and that’s why the developers have created more than twenty game worlds (again, servers) for us to see which fits our level the most. Convenient!
4) Airline Manager 4
Developed by: Trophy Games | Release Date: June 23, 2021
For those of us looking for a more casual, idle gameplay, Airline Manager 4 is our best bet. Developed by Danish game studio, Trophy Games, the game lets us oversee various flight routes and cargo transfers planned around the globe.
The game is easy to navigate and looks beautifully designed. However, be prepared to wait literal minutes (or even hours) for each plane to reach its destination (unless sped via in-game monetization), hence why it’s more fitting to let it play autonomously in the background while we do other things at the same time.
Understandably, Airline Manager 4 might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it does let players immerse themselves as an actual airline manager for those willing to stay for the long haul.
5) Fly Corp
Developed by: KishMish Games | Release Date: May 18, 2023
Fly Corp is the final entry on this list, made by the multi-platform game developer, KishMish Games. It’s super intuitive and colorful, allowing everyone to play the game without the stress and headaches.
Essentially, we’re responsible for opening up new travel routes between different cities worldwide. This will involve basic financial planning and logistics understanding.
Outside of the game’s normal mode, there will be different scenarios for us to accomplish once we’re more knowledgeable about the game’s mechanics. All in all, it’s a wonderful airline sandbox where you’re the one monopolizing the industry!