Top 9 biggest airlines in the world
Top 9 biggest airlines in the world

The largest airlines in the world can be defined in several ways. As of 2019, American Airlines Group was the largest by fleet size, passengers carried and revenue passenger mile. Delta Air Lines was the largest by revenue, assets value and market capitalization. Lufthansa Group was the largest by number of employees, FedEx Express by freight tonne-kilometers, Turkish Airlines by number of countries served, Ryanair by number of routes and UPS Airlines by number of destinations served.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as of 26 October 2020 the largest airline in the world is China Southern. American Airlines is now in second place, with Delta at number three.

List of top 9 biggest airlines in the world

9. Hainan Airlines

8. Air France / KLM

7. Southwest Airlines

6. Delta Air Lines

5. United Airlines

4. Air China

3. American Airlines

2. China Eastern

1. China Southern

The top 9 biggest airlines in the world in detail

9. Hainan Airlines

Photo: Travel Daily
Photo: Travel Daily

Hainan Airlines Co., Ltd. (HNA, Chinese: 海南航空公司; pinyin: Hǎinán Hángkōnggōngsī; Hainanese: Hái-nâm Hang-khun-kông-si) is an airline headquartered in Haikou, Hainan, People's Republic of China. It is the largest civilian-run and majority state-owned air transport company, making it the fourth-largest airline in terms of fleet size in the People's Republic of China, and tenth-largest airline in Asia in terms of passengers carried. It operates scheduled domestic and international services on 500 routes from Hainan and nine locations on the mainland, as well as charter services. Its main base is Haikou Meilan International Airport,with hubs at Beijing Capital International Airport and Xi'an Xianyang International Airport and several focus cities.

Hainan Airlines was founded in 1989 and is one of China’s largest airlines. With an aircraft fleet of 220 planes, the airline operates from its hubs in Beijing, Haikou, Xi’an, and Shenzhen. Hainan Airlines has its headquarters in Haikou and operates flights to 110 destinations in Asia, Europe, and North America.

8. Air France / KLM

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Air France, stylised as AIRFRANCE, is the flag carrier of France headquartered in Tremblay-en-France. It is a subsidiary of the Air France–KLM Group and a founding member of the SkyTeam global airline alliance. As of 2013 Air France serves 36 destinations in France and operates worldwide scheduled passenger and cargo services to 175 destinations in 78 countries (93 including overseas departments and territories of France) and also carried 46,803,000 passengers in 2019. The airline's global hub is at Charles de Gaulle Airport with Orly Airport as the primary domestic hub. Air France's corporate headquarters, previously in Montparnasse, Paris, are located on the grounds of Charles de Gaulle Airport, north of Paris.

Air France was formed on 7 October 1933 from a merger of Air Orient, Air Union, Compagnie Générale Aéropostale, Compagnie Internationale de Navigation Aérienne (CIDNA), and Société Générale de Transport Aérien (SGTA). During the Cold War, from 1950 until 1990, it was one of the three main Allied scheduled airlines operating in Germany at West Berlin's Tempelhof and Tegel airports. In 1990, it acquired the operations of French domestic carrier Air Inter and international rival UTA – Union de Transports Aériens. It served as France's primary national flag carrier for seven decades prior to its 2003 merger with KLM.

7. Southwest Airlines

Photo: Dallas Morning News
Photo: Dallas Morning News

Southwest Airlines Co., typically referred to as Southwest, is one of the major airlines of the United States and the world's largest low-cost carrier airline. It is headquartered in Dallas, Texas and has scheduled service to 121 destinations in the United States and ten additional countries. As of 2018, Southwest carried more domestic passengers than any other United States airline.

The airline was established on March 15, 1967, by Herb Kelleher as Air Southwest Co. and adopted its current name, Southwest Airlines Co., in 1971, when it began operating as an intrastate airline wholly within the state of Texas, first flying between Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. It began regional interstate service in 1979 and began expanding nationwide in the decades that followed. Southwest currently serves airports in 45 states and multiple Central American destinations.

6. Delta Air Lines

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Delta Air Lines, Inc., typically referred to as Delta, is one of the major airlines of the United States and a legacy carrier. It is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. The airline, along with its subsidiaries and regional affiliates, including Delta Connection, operates over 5,400 flights daily and serves 325 destinations in 52 countries on six continents. Delta is a founding member of the SkyTeam airline alliance.

Delta has nine hubs, with Atlanta being its largest in terms of total passengers and number of departures. It is ranked second among the world's largest airlines by number of scheduled passengers carried, revenue passenger-kilometers flown, and fleet size. It is ranked 69th on the Fortune 500. The company slogan is "Keep Climbing."

5. United Airlines

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

United Airlines kicks off the top 5 of the world’s biggest airlines. Again, similar to the other U.S. carriers, the airline had to manage an RPK reduction of 60%. The airline operated a cumulated RPK of 28.7 billion between November 2020 and January 2021. However, monthly, the airline operated 20 billion RPK’s less than in pre-COVID time.

United Airlines is another major airline in the United States. Measured by fleet size and the number of routes, United ranks 3rd among the world’s airlines. The airline operates more than 800 aircraft out of its bases in Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Newark, San Fransisco, and Washington. With almost 100,000 employees, United Airlines operates flights to 342 destinations around the world.

4. Air China

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Air China Limited (Chinese: 中国国际航空公司) is the flag carrier of the People's Republic of China and one of the "Big Three" mainland Chinese airlines (alongside China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines). Air China's headquarters are in Shunyi District, Beijing. Air China's flight operations are based primarily at Beijing Capital International Airport. In 2017, the airline carried 102 million domestic and international passengers with an average load factor of 81%. The airline joined Star Alliance in 2007, alongside Shanghai Airlines.

Air China is considered as one of the “Big Three” Chinese airlines. The airline operates a fleet of 450 aircraft and transported more than 100 million passengers in pre-COVID time. Air China flies to more than 200 destinations out of its hubs in Beijing and Chengdu and has 50,000 employees.

3. American Airlines

Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

At position #3, we have another U.S. airline. American Airline. Again, similar to other U.S. carriers, Americans had to handle an RPK-reduction of some 60%. On a cumulated view, American Airlines operated 30.8 billion RPK’s between November 2020 and January 2021.

American Airlines is a major carrier of the United States. Measured by fleet size, American Airlines is the world’s biggest airline. American operates a fleet of 860 aircraft out of its hubs in Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington. The airline has more than 130,000 employees and handled more than 200 million passengers in pre-COVID time.

2. China Eastern

Photo: Airbus
Photo: Airbus

China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited (simplified Chinese: 中国东方航空公司; traditional Chinese: 中國東方航空公司), also known as China Eastern, is an airline headquartered in the China Eastern Airlines Building, on the grounds of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport in Changning District, Shanghai. It is one of the "Big Three" airlines (alongside Air China and China Southern Airlines) of the People's Republic of China, operating international, domestic and regional routes. Its main hubs are at Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport.

China Eastern Airlines is China's second-largest carrier by passenger numbers after China Southern Airlines. China Eastern and its subsidiary Shanghai Airlines became the 14th member of SkyTeam on 21 June 2011. The parent company of China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited is China Eastern Air Holding Company.

1. China Southern

Photo: CSA
Photo: CSA

And finally, the gold medal and biggest airline in the world: China Southern. And definitely amazing to see two Chinese airlines in the first two places. China Southern had to manage an RPK reduction of 40%. However, the airline operated 40.6 billion RPK’s from November 2020 to January 2021.

Besides Air China and China Eastern, China Southern is the third of China’s “Big Three” airlines. China Southern has its headquarters in Guangzhou and operates out of its hubs in Beijing and Guangzhou. The airline has more than 620 aircraft and flies to more than 200 destinations. Almost 100,000 employees are responsible for 2,000 daily flights to destinations all over the world.