Top 10 Largest Airlines in the World

Top 10 Largest Airlines in the World

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global aviation industry is expected to post a cumulative revenue of $727 billion, with airlines retaining an average of $8.27 for every passenger carried. This upwards shift in profits reflects the net impact of several global factors, including stronger global economic prospects, record load factors, lower fuel prices, and a major appreciation of the US dollar.

With a number of major airlines recording large gains this year, the industry looks to be back on track as a major driver of economic growth.

Our list of the top 10 largest airlines in the world, ordered by 2014 revenue:

China Eastern Airlines. Credit: Planet Spotters

10. China Eastern Airlines

Revenue (2014): $14.69 billion
Country of Origin: China
Founded: 1988
Employees: 68,874

China Eastern Airlines is a Shanghai-based carrier that averages 1880 daily departures to 217 destinations in 26 different countries. The company transports nearly 79.1 million passengers a year on its fleet of 497 aircraft.

Over the last few years, CEA has undergone a transformation and have thus been nominated for a handful awards, such as the Five-Star Flight Safety Award given by the CAAC, while ranking on two of Fortune China’s lists, the Top 25 Most Innovative Chinese Companies list, and the Social Responsibility Ranking List.

China Southern Airlines. Credit: Travel Weekly AU

9. China Southern Airlines

Revenue (2014): $16.99 billion
Country of Origin: China
Founded: 1988
Employees: 90,000

Based in Guangzhou, China Southern Airlines carried 100.92 million passengers in 2014 making them #1 in Asia and #3 in the world when measured by passengers. This record solidified CSA’s position as the leader among Chinese airlines for the past 36 years as they operate 2,000 flights a day to 210 destinations in 40 different countries.

CSA has been featured on Fortune China’s top 50 Most Admired Chinese Company list for the past 3 consecutive years, and the company also won the Stars of China Award 2014 from the Global Finance Magazine.

Southwest Airlines. Credit: Star Telegram

8. Southwest Airlines

Revenue (2014): $18.61 billion
Country of Origin: USA
Founded: 1967
Employees: 47,000

Dallas-based Southwest emerged from its humble beginnings in 1971 to become the world’s largest low-cost carrier today. With the company flying to 97 destinations on 697 planes, it reportedly flew 135.76 million people on a total 1,255,502 flights in 2014.

Last year, Southwest ranked #9 on Fortune Magazine’s top 50 World’s Most Admired Companies, although it was down from #7 on the previous year’s list. It has won a number of industry awards for safety, customer service, and environmentally friendly policies among others. ranked Southwest #1 on their Best Travel & Leisure Company list.

International Airlines Group. Credit: Wikimedia

7. International Airlines Group

Revenue (2014): $21.46 billion
Country of Origin: England and Spain
Founded: 2011
Employees: 59,484

London-based International Airlines Group is the combination of Aer Lingus from Ireland, British Airways, and Spanish airlines Iberia and Vueling. Yearly, the group transports nearly 97 million passengers to 255 locations on its fleet of 525 aircraft.

In 2014, the Skytrax World Airline Awards included all four group airlines in the World’s Top 100 Airlines in 2015 list with British Airways coming it at #17, Aer Lingus at #65, Iberia at #67, and Vueling rounding out the list at #96.

Emirates Group. Credit: Luxuo

6. Emirates Group

Revenue (2014): $26.24 billion
Country of Origin: UAE
Founded: 1985
Employees: 84,153

When the Dubai-based Emirates airline was founded, it was backed by Dubai’s royal family and operating leased aircraft from Pakistan International Airlines. 30 years later, the company own 231 planes flying nearly 49.3 million people to 144 cities in 81 countries.

The Emirates Group has emerged as a serious contender by winning numerous industry awards, but more importantly, the Group has initiated a number of humanitarian projects that mostly help disadvantaged children in the surrounding regions. Its efforts include the Emirates Airline Foundation, which focuses on the health and welfare of needy children, and the Emirates-CHES Home, an orphanage fitted with a medical wing for abandoned HIV positive children in Chennai, India.

Air France. Credit: Planet Spotters

5. Air France – KLM

Revenue (2014): $26.5 billion
Country of Origin: France and the Netherlands
Founded: 2004
Employees: 96,000

When Air France – KLM is the result of a merger in 2004 that combined the French and Dutch airlines that boast an operating history which dates back the World Wars. In 2008, it was the largest airline company in the world in terms of total operating revenues, and also the largest in the world in terms of international passenger-kilometers.

Last year, the airline flew 87.35 million passengers on 894 planes, which fly to 316 destinations in 115 different countries through 2,200 daily flights.

Lufthansa Group. Credit: The Drum

4. Lufthansa Group

Revenue (2014): $31.9 billion
Country of Origin: Germany
Founded: 1953
Employees: 118,781

Lufthansa was first founded in 1926 through the merger of two smaller airlines, Deutscher Aero Lloyd and Junkers Luftverkehr. However, the airline was forced to suspend its operations in 1945 after the Second World War. Despite reopening in 1953, the company wasn’t cleared to fly until 1955. Today, the company manages about 1,001,975 flights annually while carrying 105,988 passengers per day.

Lufthansa was highly recognized at the 2015 World Airline Awards, where it won the ‘Best Airline Transatlantic’, ‘Best Airline in Western Europe’, and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge’ awards.

United Continental Holdings. Credit: Lonely Planet

3. United Continental Holdings

Revenue (2014): $38.90 billion
Country of Origin: USA
Founded: 2010
Employees: 84,000

Chicago-based United Continental Holdings is the result of a 2010 merger between United Air Lines and Continental Airlines, and quickly became the world’s largest airline as measured by revenue passenger miles. Today, UCH flies around 138 million people yearly to 352 destinations in 58 countries while operating 4,675 daily flights all over the world. In 2013, UCH became the first U.S. airline to offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

The company is the winner of Global Traveler’s ‘Best Frequent-Flyer Program’ for 11th consecutive years, and it has also been named as the ‘Best North American Airline’ by Business Traveller magazine.

Delta. Credit: Skift

2. Delta

Revenue (2014): $40.36 billion
Country of Origin: USA
Founded: 1928
Employees: 80,000

Georgia-based Delta is the oldest airline still operating in the United States, and was the world’s largest airline in terms of scheduled passengers carried in 2013. Today, the company flies to 316 destinations in 57 countries while operating 15,000 flights and carrying more than 170 million passengers annually.

Delta has ranked on Fortune Magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies in the four of the last five years, while Business Travel News ranked Delta as #1 on its Annual Airline Survey for the fourth consecutive year, an industry first.

American Airlines Group. Credit: Learn Bonds

1. American Airlines Group

Revenue (2104): $42.65 billion
Country of Origin: USA
Founded: 1930
Employees: 113,300

American Airlines Group is the result of a 2013 merger between US Airways and American Airlines, which had filed for Chapter 11 bankrupts protection a year earlier. Today, the group is the largest airline in the world, operating 6,700 flights and transporting 530,794 passengers daily. Its fleet of 1,494 planes is also the largest globally, and according to chairman and chief executive Doug Parker, the company posted the best year ever in 2014 with a net income of $4.184 billion.

American Airlines is also actively involved in philanthropic activities, having supported nearly 1,400 nonprofit organizations around the world.