Updated on May 15, 2024.
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While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the airline industry internationally, many airlines in 2019 saw substantial growth within their companies. Though first and second quarter reports give a false sense of which airlines are truly the largest in the world, viewing growth from a non-Covid-19 related perspective gives the consumer a better understanding on which airlines truly are the largest.

7. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines has marked its place at no.7 in the list of best airlines in the world. The company earned a revenue of $22.4B in the financial year 2019 as per the annual report[12] released by Southwest. On the other hand, Southwest airline is at no.3 in terms of carrying passengers, where it served 162.68 million travelers worldwide in 2019. However, the company was hit by the COVID as, like other airline groups, and managed to carry only 62million passengers in the year 2020.

6. IAG-International Airline Group

IAG-International Airline Group

At #6, we have the IAG-International Airline Group, a multinational airline group headquartered in Madrid. The company generated a whopping revenue of $28.8B[11] in 2019. Although if we look at the stats as carrying passengers, the company is not far behind. It carried around 118.3 million passengers in the year 2019.

5. Air France – KLM

Air France – KLM

While this airline is placed at number 5 on this list with a total revenue in 2019 was $30.45 billion[9], the amount of passengers that was carried last year is jaw dropping. According to the Airfrance KLM Group[10], this airline carried 104 million passengers in 2019! These 104 million passengers reached 250 destinations in 112 different countries.

4. Deutsche Lufthansa Airlines

Deutsche Lufthansa Airlines

This airline out of Germany total revenue in 2019 was $40.79 billion[8]. While the top three airlines on this list could potentially be debated as which should be listed as first through third when looking at all aspects (revenue, fleet, and passengers), Deutscha Lufthansa Airlines definitely comes in at a solid number four. In 2019, WATS reported a total of 158,986 passengers, in contrast to the leaders who each carried over 300,000 passengers in the same year.

3. United Airlines

United Airlines

Coming in at number 3 in total revenue, this airline totaled  $43.24 billion[6] in 2019. WATS reported a total of 329,562 passengers, which is not far behind its leading competitors. Fleet size of this operation comes as no surprise being so close in revenue and passenger count to the two airlines above. Planespotters.net[7] once again brings us information regarding leading airline industry fleet specs with United Airlines contains a fleet size of over 806 aircrafts with another 69 planned and on order. However, different than the larger airlines, their fleet has a much more narrow diversity of aircrafts than its leading competitors with much older averages for aircraft age. Being the oldest aircrafts on the fleet, the Airbus A320 averages 22.2 years and the Boeing 767 at 23.1 years old.

2. American Airlines

American Airlines

Though American Airline is running the show right now in 2020 the total operating revenue in 2019 was $45.8 billion[4]. This is just shy of beating out its lead competitor, Delta Airlines.

Again, the WATS (World Air Transport Statistics) reported that American Airlines carried 330,577 passengers.

When it comes to fleet size American Airlines is has the largest fleet in the world with a total of 876 aircrafts with an anticipated 18 more to arrive, according to Planespotters.net[5].  Like with Delta, American Airlines has a large amount of Boeing 737s. In fact, they own a whopping 389 of them with an average 10.3 years of age. Furthermore, the oldest aircraft on the fleet with an average age of 19.5 years is the Airbus A320.

1. Delta Airlines

Delta Airlines

According to Delta Airlines financial reports, revenue in 2019 was $47 billion[1]. According to Planespotters.net[2], Delta Airlines carries a hefty fleet of 834 aircrafts. Their fleet carries a diverse range of aircraft types ranging from the various Airbus craft, the Boeing 717, 727, 737, and on. In fact, Delta has over 300 Boeing 737’s, where the average age of this craft on this fleet is 9.7 years old. The oldest craft on the fleet is the Airbus A320 is an average 25.2 years old and has 69 still in use.

In 2019, the WATS (World Air Transport Statistics)[3] reported that Delta Airlines carried 330,034 passengers. Now while this number is smaller than its competition (American Airlines), you can see that overall revenue and fleet size is what makes Delta the leader in the industry.


[1] Delta Air Lines Announces December Quarter and Full Year 2019 Profit. (2020, January 14). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://ir.delta.com/news/news-details/2020/Delta-Air-Lines-Announces-December-Quarter-and-Full-Year-2019-Profit/default.aspx

[2] Delta Air Lines Fleet Details and History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.planespotters.net/airline/Delta-Air-Lines

[3] World Air Transportation Statistics 2021. (2021). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.iata.org/contentassets/a686ff624550453e8bf0c9b3f7f0ab26/wats-2021-mediakit.pdf

[4] American Airlines: What We Made. (2019, January). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://s21.q4cdn.com/616071541/files/doc_news/assets/2019-Financial-Recap.pdf

[5] American Airlines Fleet Details and History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.planespotters.net/airline/American-Airlines

[6] United Airlines Holdings Inc Revenue 2006-2020: UAL. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/UAL/united-airlines-holdings-inc/revenue

[7] United Airlines Fleet Details and History. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.planespotters.net/airline/United-Airlines

[8] Deutsche Lufthansa AG Financial Statements 2005-2020: DLAKY. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/DLAKY/deutsche-lufthansa-ag/financial-statements

[9] Air France-KLM SA Revenue 2006-2020: AFLYY. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.macrotrends.net/stocks/charts/AFLYY/air-france-klm-sa/revenue

[10] Passenger transport. (2015, June 30). Retrieved October 13, 2020, from https://www.airfranceklm.com/en/activities/passenger-transport

[11] IAG Final Results 2019, from https://www.iairgroup.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/newsroom-listing/2020/financial-results-2019

[12] Southwest airlines co. 2019 annual report to shareholders, from http://investors.southwest.com/~/media/Files/S/Southwest-IR/LUV_2019_Annual%20Report.pdf