The Largest Airlines in the World

American Airlines is the largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried. Editorial credit: GagliardiImages /
American Airlines is the largest airline in the world by number of passengers carried. Editorial credit: GagliardiImages /

The last decade has been characterized by a steady growth in air travel. Several airlines have positioned themselves as the main players in air travel and preferred carriers throughout the world. The largest airline in the world by passengers carried is the US-based American Airlines. Some of the world's other largest airlines are listed below. 

The World's Largest Airlines

1. American Airlines - 198.7 million

With nearly 200 million passengers served annually, American Airlines is the largest airline in the world. The airline offers more than 6,500 daily flights to over 330 destinations around the world. American Airlines is expected to dominate air travel in the coming years given its plans to increase its fleet size by over 100 aircraft.

2. Delta Air Lines - 183.7 million 

Delta Air Lines is a large American airline. With 183.7 million passengers served annually, Delta Air Lines is the world's second-largest airline. The airline is headquartered at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is the busiest airport in the United States and one of the busiest airports in the world. Delta flies to six continents. 

3. Southwest Airlines - 151.8 million 

Southwest Airlines is the third largest airline in the world by passenger count. Founded in 1966, Southwest Airlines has grown in fleet size and passenger numbers, and currently has a network of 101 destinations in 40 states. 

4. United Airlines - 143.2 million

United Airlines is a large American airline with its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. It was founded as Varney Air Lines in 1926. Though the airline has eight hubs in total, the largest hub is at Chicago-O'Hare airport. United has a fleet size of 758 aircraft.

5. Ryanair - 119.8 million 

Ryanair is a budget airline based in Ireland. It is the largest European airline in the world. Ryanair serves a network of 34 countries, especially in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. Ryanair’s largest bases are located in Dublin and London. 

6. China Southern Airlines - 84.9 million

China Southern Airlines is a Chinese airline established in 1998. It is the largest airline in China by revenue, fleet, and passenger size. China Southern Airlines operates over 2,000 flights to 210 destinations in 35 countries. It ranks as the sixth largest airline in the world. 

7. China Eastern Airlines - 80.9 million

China Eastern Airlines is the second busiest airline in China, with an annual passenger load of around 80.9 million people. Together with China Southern Airlines and Air China, these three top Chinese airlines are referred to as the “Big Three.”

8. easyJet - 73.1 million 

easyJet is Europe's second largest airline. This UK-based airline flies to over 30 countries. The airline has existed since 1995. 

9. Turkish Airlines - 62.8 million

Turkish Airlines is a Turkey-based airline that flies all over the world. The airline has been in existence for 85 years but has seen a rapid expansion over the past few years. Today, it flies large cargo aircraft to more than 73 countries worldwide. 

10. Lufthansa - 62.4 million 

Lufthansa is a large German airline and the tenth largest airline in the world. Lufthansa is one of the founders of the Star Alliance group, alongside United Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Thai Airways, and Air Canada. 

A Note On Sourcing

Airlines are ranked by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The ranking process considers several factors, including the demand for air transport, supply, and performance of the airline industry.

The World's Largest Airlines by Passengers Carried

RankAirlineCountry of HeadquartersNumber of Passengers Carried
1American AirlinesUnited States198,700,000
2Delta Air LinesUnited States183,700,000
3Southwest AirlinesUnited States151,800,000
4United AirlinesUnited States143,200,000
6China Southern AirlinesChina84,900,000
7China Eastern AirlinesChina80,900,000
8easyJetUnited Kingdom73,100,000
9Turkish AirlinesTurkey62,800,000
10LufthansaGermany 62,400,000

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