20 largest airlines in the world; Southwest, American, Delta

  • Since March 2020, airlines around the world have been on a rollercoaster of scheduling and operational issues.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of operators connected and expanded, and the industry today looks different than it did before the pandemic.
  • Aviation information firm OAG has shared with Insider the world’s largest airlines by seat availability in 2021 – take a look.

Over the past two and a half years, the air transportation industry has changed dramatically.

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced carriers around the world to curtail and alter their schedules as travel has ground to a halt and countries have closed their borders. Pilots demanded early retirement, employees were fired, and planes were parked.

However, high demand after the pandemic is turning the industry upside down. As travel recovers faster than expected, airlines are taking steps to keep up, such as buying new planes, flying new routes and launching aggressive hiring campaigns to work harder on the ground and in the air to ensure smooth operations.

Worldwide, airlines transported approximately 2.2 billion people and operated 22.2 million flights in 2021, research firm Finances Online reported, citing data from the International Air Transport Agency (IATA). That compares to 1.8 billion in 2020, which was just 40% of the 4.5 billion transported in 2019, according to IATA.

Despite all the turmoil, which airlines are now the biggest in the world? The US “Big Four” airlines, including American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines, as well as several Chinese carriers, were among the top 20 in 2021 with hundreds of millions of seats offered, according to the data. according to London-based aviation analytics company Official Airline Guide (OAG).

In 2019, the organization also provided Insider with 2018 data showing that American Airlines is the largest carrier in the world. Since then, the rankings have changed, and Southwest Airlines has become the largest carrier in the world by number of seats. Several airlines that made the top 20 in 2018 offered significantly fewer seats in 2021.

Meanwhile, there are several carriers, such as JetBlue Airways and Hainan Airlines, that were not part of the 2018 data set but increased capacity last year to make the list.

Here are the 20 largest airlines in the world by the number of seats available to customers:

20. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 33,645,148 seats

2018 Capacity: 54,574,295 seats

19. Shandong Airlines

Shandong Airlines.

Shandong Airlines.

Markus Meinka/Shutterstock


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 33,735,751 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

18. Hainan Airlines

Hainan Airlines

Hainan Airlines.

TonyV3112/Shutterstock


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 38,230,597 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

17. Xiamen Airlines

Xiamen Airlines.

Xiamen Airlines.

PomInOz/Shutterstock


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 39,087,022 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

16. Sichuan Airlines

Sichuan Airlines.

Sichuan Airlines.

Rebius/Shutterstock


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 39,294,914 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

15. Easyjet

EasyJet.

EasyJet.

Simone Previdi/Shutterstock


Country: Great Britain

2021 Capacity: 39,490,376 seats

2018 Capacity: 100,082,969 seats

14. Shenzhen Airlines

Shenzhen Airlines.

Shenzhen Airlines.

TonyV3112/Shutterstock


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 39,727,188 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

13. JetBlue Airways

JetBlue Airways A321neo.

JetBlue Airways.

Lucas Wunderlich/Shattestock


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 40,356,063 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

12. Spirit airline

Spirit Airlines plane.

Spirit Airlines.

Carlos Yudica/Shutterstock


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 40,622,515 seats

2018 Capacity: Not included in the top 20 data of 2018

11. Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines.

Turkish Airlines.

Markus Meinka/Shutterstock.com


Country: Turkey

2021 Capacity: 45,249,215 seats

2018 Capacity: 93,109,025 seats

10. Ryanair

Ryanair planes in the photo at Dublin Airport.

Ryanair.

Jason Kernduff/Reuters


Country: Ireland

2021 Capacity: 48,696,471 seats

2018 Capacity: 142,540,776 seats

9. Skywest Airlines

SkyWest Airlines Bombardier CRJ200 plane

SkyWest airline.

Heather Dunbar / Shutterstock.com


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 48,696,471 seats

2018 Capacity: 142,540,776 seats

8. IndiGo

An IndiGo airliner on the runway at Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport.

IndiGo.

Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.


Country: India

2021 Capacity: 72,444,166 seats

2018 Capacity: 74,570,054 seats

7. Air China

Air China.

Air China.

Dmytro Rukhlenko/Shutterstock


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 75,905,153 seats

2018 Capacity: 90,531,776 seats

6. United Airlines

United 767.

United Airlines.

EQRoy/Shutterstock


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 97,220,490 seats

2018 Capacity: 193,981,547 seats

5. China Eastern Airlines

A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 is parked on November 13, 2021 in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China.

China Eastern Airlines.

VCG/VCG via Getty Images


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 115,625,762 seats

2018 Capacity: 122,917,175 seats

4. China Southern Airlines

A319neo of China Southern Airlines.

China Southern Airlines.

Airbus


Country: China

2021 Capacity: 123,472,958 seats

2018 Capacity: 131,972,745 seats

3. Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines plane.

Delta Air Lines.

On The Run Photo/Shutterstock


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 143,180,744 seats

2018 Capacity: 233,758,798 seats

2. American Airlines

Airplane AA

American Airlines.

Nicholas Economou/Getty Image


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 151,146,489 seats

2018 Capacity: 256,928,663 seats

1. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines.

Southwest Airlines.

Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock


Country: USA

2021 Capacity: 168,852,981 seats

2018 Capacity: 209,526,838 seats

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