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After running into some old-fashioned, competitive business turbulence in the past year, British Airways (NYSE: BAB) jettisoned its CEO Robert Ayling this morning as the company tries to reorient itself for the realities of a new competitive environment.

Just as deregulation swept through the U.S. airline industry in the 1980s and turned the playing field upside down for the carriers, the air markets in Britain and other areas of Europe are currently undergoing similar realignments. Gone are the days when profits for the major European flag carriers were a sure bet, thanks to what more or less amounted to governmentally backed monopolies. Competition is the new name of the game. Just ask BA, which was hobbled by a a brutal European price war last year and is about to report an annual loss. The last time that happened, British tourists to the U.S. were landing on Plymouth Rock instead of on the runways of JFK. (OK, so it hasn't been that long.)

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