Last year at this time the four largest airlines in the world based on capacity were all in the U.S. American Airlines was the world’s largest airline, Delta second, followed by Southwest and then United.
The aviation industry has been among the hardest hit by COVID-19. Passengers aren’t flying. Many borders are closed, countries have grounded business travelers, and the economy is in recession. So airlines are flying a lot less than they were before the pandemic.
That’s shaken up which airlines offer the most travel capacity in the world. From OAG data, here’s capacity right now compared to where it was at the beginning of the year. (HT: David Koenig)
|Rank||Airline||Jan. 2020||Airline||Jun 15, 2020|
|5||China Southern||2,877,703||Air China||1,285,518|
|8||Air China||1,881,825||Wizz Air||822,721|
United has been among the most aggressive in cutting flights to save on cost since the early stages of the pandemic. American Airlines will grow more next month, as it plans to operate at 55% of last year domestically (just 40% overall though, with international travel lagging).
Southwest Airlines is still struggling, along with everyone else. However it doesn’t have a premium cabin product to sell, doesn’t fly nearly as much internationally, and outside of Chicago Midway its major hubs haven’t been hit as hard so far by the coronavirus as the Northeast. They also appear to have a strategy of flying more than competitors, to capture an outsized share of a smaller passenger pie.
Meanwhile China’s airlines have brought more of their capacity back than other airlines around the world and that pushes some of their already large players up in the rankings. Three Chinese airlines are now among the five largest in the world. (This will not last.)