The first successful low-cost carrier is generally acknowledged to be Southwest Airlines in the United States, which pioneered the concept when founded in 1971 and has been profitable every year since 1973. With the advent of aviation deregulation the model spread to Europe as well, the most notable success being the Irish Ryanair, founded in 1985. As of 2004, low cost carriers are now edging into Asia, lead by operators such as Malaysia's Air Asia.
Low-cost carriers pose a serious threat to traditional 'full service' airlines, since full-service carriers cannot compete on price and, when given a choice, most consumers will opt for low price over other amenities. From 2001 to 2003, when the aviation industry was rocked by terrorism, war and SARS, the large majority of traditional airlines suffered heavy losses while low-cost carriers generally stayed profitable.
In Canada, Air Canada has found it difficult to compete with new low-cost rivals such as Westjet and Canjet despite their previously dominant position in the Canadian market: Air Canada declared bankruptcy in 2003.
See also: List of airlines