The Largest Airlines in the US

Editorial credit: Markus Mainka /
Editorial credit: Markus Mainka /

The United States is the origin of aviation, having been the home of the Wright Brothers when they took to the air at the turn of the 20th century. America’s aviation industry has indeed grown by leaps and bounds since that pioneering flight and is currently home to some of the world’s largest airlines. The two largest airlines in the United States based on the total number of annual passengers are American Airlines and Delta Air Lines with the two airlines flying millions of passengers across the world each year.

The Largest Airlines In The United States

American Airlines

The largest airline in the US regarding the number of annual passengers is the American Airlines. It is a title the carrier has held for five consecutive years since 2013. In 2017, more than 198 million passengers used American Airlines, the highest of any airline in the country. American Airlines is also recognized as the world’s largest airline based both on the number of destinations and the size of its fleet, having about 350 destinations spread across the world, and 948 planes making up its immense fleet. The airline was established in April 1926, but commenced its operations ten years later, in June 1936.

American Airlines was among the founders of Oneworld Alliance, which is the world’s third-largest airlines alliance. The airline has its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas and housed in a 1.4-million-square-foot complex. Initially, it had its headquarters in New York before relocating in 1979 to Texas. Fort Worth is also home to American Airline’s primary hub; the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport. About 53 million of the airline’s passengers go through the Dallas/ Fort Worth International Airport each year. The airline is a title sponsor of two venues of basketball. The carrier is also a sponsor of many professional sports like the Chicago Cubs, Carolina Panthers, New England Revolution, and New England Patriots.

Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines, also known as Delta, is the country’s second-largest airline based on passenger numbers. In 2017, the airline had its passenger numbers reach 186.39 million, the airline’s highest in its history. Delta was one of the four founding airlines of the SkyTeam, a leading global airline alliance. Delta’s fleet is the second-largest in the United States, as it is comprised of 850 planes. The airline's local and international network is only surpassed by American Airlines and is made up of 319 destinations, drawn from 54 countries around the globe. Founded in 1924, Delta is among the oldest airlines in the world. In 2008, Delta Air Line merged with Northwest Airlines to form what became the world’s largest airlines. Delta has its headquarters situated at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, which doubles up as the airline’s primary and largest hub. Additionally, the carrier has nine other hubs located in major cities in the United States.

Government Subsidies

To facilitate the development of the aviation industry in the country, the US government regularly grants US-based airliners with subsidies amounting to billions of dollars. The subsidies are issued through public tenders. America’s largest airline, American Airlines, is a recipient of government subsidies and received $10 million in November 2013 aimed at connecting small domestic airports in rural America to the national network.

The Largest Airlines in the United States

RankAirlineEnplaned Passengers (Yearly)
1American Airlines198,714,575
2Delta Air Lines186,389,862
3Southwest Airlines157,677,218
4United Airlines148,067,000
5Alaska Airlines44,034,000
6JetBlue Airways20,038,090
7Spirit Airlines21,618,039
8Frontier Airlines15,380,000
9Hawaiian Airlines11,505,324
10Allegiant Air12,138,146

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