The 10 Largest Airlines In The World Right Now

The four largest airlines in the world by seats being flown right now are all U.S. carriers. Somewhat surprising to me, the fifth-largest airline by seat capacity is Indian discounter IndiGo. There are 3 Chinese airlines in the top 10 largest, but they’ve dropped down to spots 6-8 as they pull back domestic capacity.

Delta is flying more seats than any other airline in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s flying more passengers since it continues blocking most middle seats. And they’re only a few seats ahead of American which is trying to fill its planes.

Southwest is traditionally the largest domestic airline. It’s no surprise then that United, which is so heavily dependent on international during normal times, is flying fewer seats than Southwest. But though Southwest was heavily aggressive early in the pandemic they’ve been more cautious. Turning back the clock six months, if you had told me that world borders would still be closed, I’d have bet Southwest Airlines would be the largest airline in the U.S. and the world. But they’re not (they’re number three).

Here are the current top 10 and how their capacity compares to last week and a year ago:

Week of Week-Over-Week Versus
Feb 8th Change Jan. 2020
Delta        2,827,201 0.3% -37.6%
American        2,826,487 0.5% -41.2%
Southwest        2,087,526 1.0% -44.9%
United        1,878,508 7.7% -46.9%
IndiGo        1,317,718 6.2% -16.3%
China Eastern        1,199,058 -26.3% -55.8%
China Southern        1,103,605 -28.7% -61.6%
Air China           926,680 -25.3% -50.8%
ANA           902,139 -3.1% -34.4%
LATAM           834,209 -7.4% -55.4%

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. I’ve flown 6 out of the 10 above and surprisingly, in my experience, Air China (CA) was better than the much hyped SQ, EK, or EY in business.

  2. It is most notable that there are no European airlines on the list.
    Having flown multiple times during the covid era as well as having watched airline financial statements, the key to survival for airlines to serve markets which the government has not locked down or imposed restrictions that kill demand.
    And then airlines have to look for the highest revenue and cut as much of their costs as possible.

    With a year since the US-China travel bans which spawned many others throughout the world, the damage to many airlines will take years to undo. And the industry will be smaller.

  3. Al Baker said that 80% of QR’s aircraft are now being flown, albeit mainly used for cargo. However, I would have guessed they would have been in the top 10.

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