The differences lie in history. Since airline deregulation in the late 1970’s, America’s big three have struggled with “legacy issues”—an industry term for older workforces, higher salaries, pensions and union contracts that all add up to higher costs.

Not only are Asian airlines relatively unhampered by these issues, but they’re also blessed by the fact that their region is seeing phenomenal growth in passenger traffic. Asian airlines in recent years have accounted for half of total industry profits. And those earnings are wisely reinvested into newer planes, cutting-edge seats and innovative entertainment systems.

WSJ explains it further in a short video, based off Skytrax survey: