The World’s Biggest Airlines – And Aviation Regions – Have Shifted Because Of Covid And Thanksgiving

OAG schedule data shows which airlines and which regions have brought schedules back closest to pre-pandemic levels.

China has recovered the most. I’m surprised that in percentage terms Mexico has recovered more than In contrast it’s surprising that Vietnam’s aviation sector hasn’t recovered more, given that country’s success containing SARS-CoV-2.

Country 20-Jan 23-Nov % Change
China        16,882,726        15,173,794 -10%
USA        20,759,829        13,046,105 -37%
India          4,255,510          2,511,829 -41%
Japan          4,121,355          2,309,581 -44%
Indonesia          3,144,406          2,169,411 -31%
Brazil          2,842,645          1,469,228 -48%
Russia          2,158,058          1,315,579 -39%
Mexico          1,920,941          1,295,375 -33%
Turkey          1,924,284          1,013,687 -47%
Vietnam          1,564,576          1,013,649 -35%

No European nations are in the top 10 (Spain is 13th). Interesting the top 10 in this list ranked in the same order for the week of November 23 as they did for the week of January 20, albeit at lower levels of seats scheduled across the board.

Europe as a whole is down 76%. As Covid-19 epidemics spread like wildfire both in the U.S. and Europe, European flight schedules have been pulling back amidst lockdowns while U.S. passenger travel has held firm and grown slightly entering the Thanksgiving period. In fact the entire world’s week-over-week increase of 400,000 seats is accounted for by Southwest Airlines (other airlines did grow capacity, and of course some shrank as well).

Airline flight schedules have rebounded the most in Northeast Asia, down only about a quarter compared to last year, while Latin America schedules are down the second least overall (-39.3% vs 40.2% for North America overall).

Right now the top 10 airlines in the world by capacity are:

Airline Seats
Delta 3,043,537
Southwest 2,950,159
China Southern 2,606,234
American 2,494,255
China Eastern 2,082,360
United 1,873,326
Air China 1,602,176
IndiGo 1,233,534
ANA 960,456
Hainan Airlines 804,126

The top 7 airlines are either in the U.S. or China. Delta is the world’s largest by capacity, and China Southern which is part-owned by American, is larger than American because of China’s domestic market recovery keeping the virus in check.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. It’s not really surprising Vietnam’s airline industry hasn’t recovered, it’s entirely dependent on foreign, mostly Chinese, travelers. Even business travelers are mostly Chinese nationals. Just as we outsourced our manufacturing to China, the Chinese are outsourcing theirs to Vietnam and Malaysia.

  2. DL’s numbers should be reduced by 1/3 since the block middle seats so they are not the largest by seat capacity.

Comments are closed.