GaWC Project 45

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Air Travel Transport as an Example of the Unfolding of the Globalization Process, 1970-2005

Funded by: Servicio de Investigación de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, “Acción Bolsas de Viaje Complutense” and by Project “Globalización y cultura: el proceso de reconstrucción territorial de México y estudios de caso en Yucatán”, director: Juan Córdoba Ordóñez

Grant Holder and Academic Visitor: Cándida Gago García (Departamento de Análisis Geográfico Regional y Geografía Física, Facultad de Geografía e Historia, Universidad Complutense de Madrid) visiting Loughborough University April-June 2005



This project is based on a previous Doctoral Thesis defended in 1996 entitled “Region, Política and Transporte Aereo” (Regions, Politics and Air Transport). In it I showed how the study of the air transport network (connectivity and flights volume) could be very useful for understanding the globalization process. This is especially because the development of transport and communications in the last half of the 20th Century - air transport being one of the main developments - are both cause and consequence of the globalization process. A second reason to use air transport for understanding the globalization process is because the political and economic implications of the global process are shaped by air travel flows between places and these flows can be understood as contacts between countries, nations, cities, cultural identities, political regimens: economic and political powerful people and their ideas, philosophy and intentions travel around the world using air transport.

Project Description

The aim of this project is to illustrate the logics and the patterns in the globalization process in the last ten years, updating the data from 1996 that were previously studied in the Ph.D dissertation mentioned above.

This aim has been divided into the following aspects:

  • Analysis of the connectivity between 69 cities of the world and their evolution from 1970 to 2005.
  • Analysis of the intensity of flights (number) between the cities, but as well between the regions in which these cities are located, shaping pan-regions and North-South dependencies.
  • Study of the Third World Cities connections and flights in 2005 and through the period 1970-2005.
  • Detection for the logic of globalization through time: concentration or spreading of flows?


We use matrices of connectivity and air travel flows of 69 selected cities of the world; all these cities had been previously selected due to their relevance in the world and in their continental context (population, political relevance of the country of the city, economic activity, etc were taken into account). The matrices correspond to different years in the period between 1970 and 2005 and all macro regions of the world are represented with some cities.

Considering these matrices as an image of the space of flows in the world in a precise year, we can depict the interrelations between different cities at various levels, regions and macro-regions, we can see which are the main cities and their importance in the global level, and how the hierarchy of the cities has changed during the period we are studying.

Various statistical techniques and cartographic analysis have been used to determine the hierarchy of the cities and how is the global interrelation level.


The results will be published in several papers which will contain tables and maps to understand how the world has changed in relation to the development of air transport. The topics of the papers will be “The interregional connections of the globalization process and its evolution over time”, “Interregional connections among the Global South cities” and “The plasticity of the globalization process”.

For results of this project, see GaWC Research Bulletin 209.