The term legacy air carrier generally refers to American air transport carriers that were operating interstate, international, or both routes prior to the introduction of the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978. Prior to the act, airlines in the United States were bound by the strict regulations of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). For example, CAB regulations included the routes an airline could fly, frequency of service, aircraft types and capacity, and fares.

These airlines were also referred to as network carriers, since their business model was based on a substantial network of air services—in most cases, in form of a hub-and-spoke system. Airlines that operated solely intrastate services were not bound by the CAB regulations and therefore do not fall into the category of legacy carrier. ...

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