American Airlines' filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization is the latest after-shock to hit the industry in the decades following deregulation. American will continue to operate, but I can tick off a long list of airlines that have disappeared in my time as a flyer: Mohawk, Piedmont, Allegheny, Eastern, People's Express, Pan Am, etcetera, etcetra. The rapid growth of discounter Southwest (soon to merge with AirTran) continues to put pressure on the giants of the industry, and there are plenty of books that provide a primer on the turmoil.

To get a feel for deregulation and its aftermath, try Rapid Descent: Deregulation and the Shakeout in the Airlines by Barbara Sturken Peterson and James Glab. Ironically, it portrays United, American and Delta as deregulation winners. How times change. Another look at the industry is Hard Landing: The Epic Contest for Power and Profits That Plunged the Airlines into Chaos by Thomas Petzinger Jr.

But both of those pre-date the rise of Southwest. Several books have been written about the free-wheeling philosophy that drives the company, including Nuts! Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success by Kevin Freiberg and Jackie Freiberg; The Southwest Airlines Way by Jody Hoffer Gittell; and Lead with LUV: A Different Way to Create Real Success by Ken Blanchard and Colleen Barrett.