American Airlines Dominates U.S. Summer Travel – United Leads Across The Atlantic

Data from Aviation analytics company Cirium shows that American Airlines offers the most seats of any airline this summer. Using schedule data for this month, they edge out Southwest Airlines as the largest carrier by the measure. Both American and Southwest have a heavily domestic-focused network, and don’t fly their seats as far as United Airlines (or Delta).

Overall domestic scheduled seats are up 6% year-over-year despite aircraft delivery delays, especially by Boeing. Seats are up 7.8% across the Atlantic this month with Delta just a hair’s breadth behind United Airlines (which is much larger across the Pacific).

Scheduled Domestic Seats For Summer

American Airlines flies the most domestic seats – but Southwest Airlines is surprisingly close.

Among the fastest growth is Breeze (33.36%), which is new and growing off a low base, so that makes sense. Ultra low cost carriers Spirit, Frontier, and Sun County have all grown more than 20% as well (21% – 36%). They’ve faced higher costs and are trying to amortize those costs across more seats.

Meanwhile American grew 8% – they’ve acknowledged they have probably added seats too quickly. In contrast Delta grew 5% and United 3%.

Most shocking is that JetBlue shrank 9%. They’re troubled and a lot of the flying they were doing was unprofitable, though an axiom in aviation is that you can’t shrink to profitability. They need to find places to fly that make money.

Cirium shares that the single route with the most seats this month isn’t New York LaGuardia – Chicago O’Hare… it’s Seattle – Anchorage with approximately 146,000 seats, 80% of which are flown by Alaska Airlines. Of course Anchorage is a heavily seasonal market. In May 2020, when passenger travel was largely shut down, Anchorage was actually the busiest airport in the world due to cargo.

July 2024 July 2023 % Variance
American Airlines 20,519,680 18,973,829 8.15%
Southwest Airlines 20,325,414 20,051,083 1.37%
Delta Air Lines 18,659,453 17,777,347 4.96%
United Airlines 14,407,786 13,987,654 3.00%
Alaska Airlines 5,152,741 4,789,066 7.59%
Spirit Airlines 4,740,135 3,906,194 21.35%
Frontier Airlines 3,989,472 2,939,326 35.73%
JetBlue 2,993,542 3,298,323 -9.24%
Allegiant Air 2,263,716 2,154,822 5.05%
Hawaiian Airlines 1,105,705 1,124,554 -1.68%
Sun Country 576,414 462,210 24.71%
Breeze Airways 542,516 406,810 33.36%
Avelo Airlines 294,490 291,944 0.87%

Source: Cirium

Who Rules The Atlantic?

Summer Europe grows substantially – flexing capacity nearly 20% compared to off-peak periods – and this summer continues that trend. Overall there will be nearly 8% more seats flown compared to last summer, aided not just by continued secular demand trends but also the July Olympics in Paris. Air France is growing seat capacity over 15% – more than any other major carrier.

United is biggest by seats across the Pond, but only barely. Delta is closer than you’d expect (but United is much bigger across the Pacific and overall long haul).

American, which lacks transpacific depth, surprisingly offers only 21% fewer transatlantic seats than Delta – though American’s schedule to Europe is heavily seasonal and this is the peak. One of American’s problems is its lack of seats to Europe over the summer – they haven’t been flying where people want to go – and they’re constrained not just by Boeing aircraft delivery delays but by too-aggressively retiring aircraft during the pandemic. American dropped its Boeing 757, Boeing 767 and Airbus A330 fleets and then didn’t have the planes to fly.

The greatest percentage growth in seats for U.S. – Europe (not most seats) is Denmark (27%) followed by Croatia (17%) and Spain (16%).

July 2024 July 2023 % Variance
United Airlines 722,428 701,075 3.00%
Delta Air Lines 719,985 685,497 5.00%
American Airlines 565,077 533,377 5.90%
British Airways 419,169 411,567 1.80%
Lufthansa 323,584 292,854 10.50%
Air France 279,426 242,508 15.20%
Virgin Atlantic 242,973 223,517 8.70%
Turkish Airlines 209,672 187,291 11.90%
Aer Lingus 163,591 154,674 5.80%
Iberia 131,072 114,428 14.50%
Icelandair 117,360 104,600 12.20%

Source: Cirium

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, 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 »

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  1. @ Gary — Tim will be here in 5 seconds tp explain why Delta is actually #1 in all of these metrics, all while being most premiumest.

  2. When looking at the 3 alliances across the pond, they are all pretty close together. OW and AL / SKY / STAR are withing 500,000 seats of each other. Since many of these (or all of them) are JV, sharing operations, costs and revenue 50 – 50, it look pretty even.

  3. Spoke to somebody who travelled on AA PHL-NCE and had a whole row to herself, the plane was empty, and the fare was about 1/3 of what it would have cost on AF or DL out of JFK (worth the schlep from NYC for her). N=1, but American has a very strange strategy that doesn’t seem to be working too well.

  4. @gene
    Tim is busy arguing on omaat about Riyadh air being the most amazing thing delta has ever done…

    To absolutely no one’s surprise lol

  5. How is Denmark the fastest growing european destination?

    SAS? Delta flies seasonally to CPH. Is there another airport involved?

  6. Delta flew less ASMs than AA or UA in 2023.
    Size is not their goal unless it also results in making the most money.

    IN 2023, AA lost money flying the Atlantic and Pacific while DL made twice as much as UA flying the Atlantic in absolute dollars and 80% more than UA per ASM across the Pacific.
    AA’s profits to Latin America offset its other losses

    So, let AA and UA chase size.

    And yet, DL still generates more revenue and profits than any other US airline.

  7. I flew AA PHL NCE and both directions were full flights. My upgrade cleared on the way over but not the return. The flight wasn’t cheap.

  8. Delta sucks the big one. But if you want to fly from Atlanta to Birmingham, well there you go. If you want to fly the World you’d obviously choose any other airline.

  9. Are you paid by AA?

    Delta remains #1 airline by revenue, isn’t that the relevant metric?

  10. > “Meanwhile American grew 8% – they’ve acknowledged they have probably added seats too quickly.”

    If anyone was wondering, it was Vasu Raja who said this on the 2024 Q1 earnings call.

    Specifically, he admitted AA added too much capacity in **off-peak** periods. It’s also worth noting that aircraft utilisation going up too.

  11. @cairns that’s just not true. ATL is the closest hub to me, and from there I can connect one stop to destinations like London, Seoul, Zurich, Cape Town, Santiago, Honolulu and much more- all on Delta. If they’re not your choice that’s fine just say that, but they bring me all over the world comfortably and on time. And I appreciate them greatly.

  12. and more significantly, ATL is more than AA will ever have in any single hub – or anything that UA will ever have in a single hub either.

    when people like cairns post what they do, they might as well just throw out their user name because their stupidity follows them with every post.

  13. I’m really curious to know how much of the capacity of AA, DL, UA, and AS is mainline and how much is “regional partner”.

    I’ll bet the answer to that has a lot to do with profitability.

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