An airliner is a large fixed-wing aircraft (an aeroplane/airplane) initially designed for the transport of paying passengers, and usually operated by an airline company (which owns or leases the aircraft). There may be variants developed for freight or (luxury) corporate use.

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An Airbus A340 airliner operated by Air Jamaica.

The definition of an airliner can vary from country to country, but typically, 20 or more passenger seats or an empty weight above 50,000 lb (22,680 kg) qualifies an aircraft as an airliner. Passenger aircraft with fewer than 20 passenger seats are called commuter aircraft or air taxis, depending on their size, and engine and seating configurations (the Beechcraft 1900, for example, has only 19 seats so that it will not qualify as an airliner and may be operated under less strict requirements in most countries). While piston engines were common on propliners like the Douglas DC-3 until the beginning of the jet age, nearly all modern airliners are powered by turbine engines, either turbofans or turboprops, since they operate efficiently at much higher altitudes.

Historically, a few aircraft manufacturers have dominated the market for large airliners: U.S. companies Boeing, Douglas Aircraft Company (now part of Boeing), and Lockheed Corporation (now part of Lockheed-Martin, and no longer involved in civil aviation); Soviet (now Russian) manufacturer Tupolev; and European multinational Airbus Industrie. Other major manufacturers have included EMBRAER, De Havilland Canada (now part of Bombardier), and Fokker (now defunct), all concentrating on smaller propeller airlines.

As of 2005, there are now only two airliner manufacturers targetting the international market: Airbus (based in Western Europe) and Boeing (based in the United States). Since Airbus has emerged has a viable competitor to Boeing, both companies, backed by their respective governments (the European Union and European governments on one side, the US government on the other side), have been engaged in bitter quarrels, each side accusing the other of being subsidized by their government. Airbus can borrow money from European governments at low rates and without the need to refund them should the product result in losses; Boeing gets research and development contracts from NASA and the US Department of Defense, in addition to a large volume of military orders. Accusations that Boeing was allowed to sell or lease airplanes at inflated prices to the US military were substantiated by the 2004 sentencing of a former US military procurement official for corruption.

Well-known and memorable airliners history include the DC-3; the Concorde (operated 1976–2003, by two airlines only, British Airways and Air France, and capable of flying at twice the speed of sound); the Boeing 747 "jumbo jet" (from 1968 to 2005 the only airliner with two passenger decks); and the Boeing 707. In 2006, the world's largest airliner to date, the Airbus A380 "superjumbo", featuring full-length dual passenger decks, is expected to start service with Singapore Airlines.

As airliners are highly expensive most are leased out for long periods of time (20-40 years, typically) and very few go back into service after a long lease is up (the latter due to the fact that the gradually evolving aerospace technology leaves older airliners unable to compete against new machines with respect to operating economy). Most end-of-service airliners end up in the Mojave desert, at the Mojave Spaceport (aka "The Airplane Boneyard"). From this the term "Mojave" has come to refer to the temporary storage of aircraft, e.g. during recessions in airline industry activity and between short-term leases.

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