As it happens, I wrote about this in "The Long Term Starts Tomorrow" under the heading "Blowing with the winds of corporate destiny".
Excerpt from The Long Term Starts Tomorrow (p141 & ff)
"How many organisations have inherited a legacy of market position, business model and strategy which is an accident of the past? Think about airlines for a moment. The world's great airlines of the post war era were located at the end of the world's major air routes, many of which emanated from the UK in the dying days of the British Empire. British Overseas Airways Corporation and British Caledonian operated romantic long distance routes in the 1950s and 1960s that stopped in locations now hardly visited at all by long haul travellers. As a child, I lived in Bahrain, once one of three or four stops on the all-important long distance journey to Australia. Bahrain was then a vibrant meeting point, visited by travellers from many nations travelling East and West.
Then, in 1970, the 747 was born. This was the world's first wide body jet, and has remained in service ever since. At the time, Boeing thought that only around 400 would be sold before the aircraft was made obsolete by the advent of wide-spread supersonic travel. In practice, over 1,400 have been built, and the "jumbo jet" has been in commercial production for over 40 years.
The first variant, the 747-100, had a range of 9,800 kilometres, just long enough to fly from London directly to Bangkok. In 1975, the 747 SP was introduced, with a range extended to 10,840 kilometres with a full load of 331 passengers, and significantly more with lighter payloads. This allowed non-stop flights between London and Hong Kong (remembering that in those days Russian airspace was closed, necessitating much longer routes over India and the Middle East).
Bahrain's role in long haul international travel ended almost overnight – it was no longer needed as a staging post on the way to Asia. Ironically, in the modern world, jets with ranges of 15 flying hours or more now mean that you can fly direct from the Middle East to nearly everywhere, and airlines such as Emirates have capitalised on their location as a global hub, opening up direct routes from Dubai to places as far away as San Francisco and Sydney. But Bahrain has never recovered its place as one of the world’s major air hubs.
Australia's own national champion, Qantas, was once at the terminus for one of the world's key air journeys, the Kangaroo route from Sydney to London. But in an environment where the winners are located at the hubs of long distance travel, Qantas now suffers from being at the end of a long spoke that leads to nowhere but regional Australia and New Zealand.
How can Qantas ever build a successful long haul airline, when it only naturally serves a local customer base of some 25 million people, compared to the 6 billion reached by Emirates or Etihad? By its own admission, it needs to start from somewhere else and is exploring new hubs in Asia. But then what does it bring to those hubs and consumers in those countries? It has to pack its corporate bags, get on its own long haul flight, and set up in an entirely new market, serving entirely new customers, armed only with its experiences and impeccable safety record. Make no mistake, Qantas may achieve this, but to embark on this journey requires a level of corporate bravery rarely seen in today's global leaders. Meanwhile, it has partnered with Emirates from Dubai, effectively exiting from the routes to Europe, opening up the possibility to focus more on a more diverse Asian route network and leaving behind nearly a century of corporate history."