7 Surprising Facts About Airlines in Asia

This week’s issue of Airline Weekly (subscription) contains charts on the largest airlines in each of the largest country markets in East Asia, based on Diio Mi data on scheduled seats in 2018.

  1. Air China isn’t the biggest airline in China. China Southern is.

  2. Lion Air is nearly 60% bigger in Indonesia than Garuda Indoensia.

  3. AirAsia is bigger in Thailand than Thai Airways. It’s double the size of Malaysia Airlines in the Malaysia market.

  4. VietJet is now three-quarters the size of Vietnam Airlines

  5. EVA Air is now 90% as big in Taiwan as China Airlines

  6. Cebu Pacific is 50% larger than Philippine Airlines in the Philippines.

  7. The four largest airlines in East Asia are all from China. Singapore, Korean Air, and Thai Airways don’t crack the top 10.

Outside of Air China’s position in the Chinese market, the rest were real surprises to me — at least seeing the magnitude of change. The biggest takeaways are the growth of Chinese carriers and the declining importance in Southeast Asia of national carriers relative to low cost carriers which are overtaking them, especially on short haul and domestic routes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Lion Air may be 60% bigger than Garuda but it’s 100% worse. Garuda at least keeps their jets on the runway…and I can buy tickets from the US with my credit card. I won’t fly Lion, Baltik, Wings Air or any of the other airlines in Indonesia. I value my life. I will fly Garuda. They at least are trying.

    Cebu is only 50% bigger than Philippine Airlines but it’s also only 50% worse. And both have to deal with the fact that Manila is the WORST major airport in Asia.

    I won’t fly Air Asia regardless of which flavor it is. (see: Lion Air, Cebu Pacific)

    EVA deserves to be on par with China Airlines. It delivers a quality product and it’s my go-to airline for Asia whenever possible. Singapore only works for me if I’m headed down in that vicinity Otherwise it’s too much flying for too little payoff and EVA is usually the fastest way at a decent fare level. Of course if I have award miles to burn then I’ll do Singapore.

  2. I have flown Air Asia and find them to be pretty decent. Some places in Asia you don’t have many choices on flying. One of those being Macau.

  3. Don Swalen:
    Definitely a prospective from someone not living in SE Asia or do not need to tavel between the region. For sure Garuda service is much better than Lion Air, by the way, if you live in Indonesia and traveling to/from a minor airport most of the times there is no other option than flying Lion group. In any case Lion Air improved a lot recently (about safety not service) , was able to get safety certifications and being removed from the EU ban. You can purchase easily tickets with any credit card from locals OTA such as Traveloka, Tiket or NusaTrip at same cost of direct booking. I also find AirAsia and Malindo quite decent for regional flights.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *