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Top 10 World’s Largest Airlines

by Matt Falcus
B-2047 Air China


With recent mergers and acquisitions in the airline market – particularly in the United States – the title of the world’s largest airline has been passing around quite frequently.

Here we list the top 10 world’s largest airlines by aircraft fleet size.

As you can see, the top five positions are dominated by US carriers (which include their regional and commuter fleets), followed by China.

The figures are correct as of June 2016.


1. American Airlines

American Airlines A330

1,556 aircraft

American became the world’s largest airline when it merged with US Airways last year. US Airways itself has been through mergers with many airlines, creating a real family tree of history in this now huge carrier.


2. Delta Air Lines

Delta Boeing 717

1,330 aircraft

Delta merged with Northwest Airlines in 2008 and has continued to grow, with a giant operation at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson airport and worldwide coverage.


3. United Airlines

United 737 700

Photo by Oscar Elvir Vasquez

1,229 aircraft

United vastly increased in size when it joined forces with Continental Airlines in 2010. Its worldwide footprint is huge, including bases in the Far East and massive regional fleets.


4. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines Heart Livery

720 aircraft

Southwest was a pioneering airline and, apart from a few Boeing 727s operated in its early days, has stuck with the 737 ever since. Today it has a huge fleet of -700 and -800 examples, with older -300s and -500s in the process of retirement.



5. FedEx Express

Fedex 757

688 aircraft

The world’s largest cargo airline, with a large worldwide reach and many smaller feeder aircraft servicing its US hubs, which accounts for its vast size.


6. China Southern Airlines

777 China Southern Delivery Event

515 aircraft

The growth in China’s carriers in recent years has seen independent airlines such as China Southern overtake the national carrier.


7. China Eastern Airlines

China Eastern A330

429 aircraft

Another large Chinese airline with a mixed fleet of narrow and wide body airliners and a network reaching across the globe.


8. Air Canada

C-FRAM 777 Air Canada

C-FRAM 777 Air Canada (c) Erik Ritterbach

404 aircraft

With its various feeder and low cost arms, Air Canada is a considerable force, comprising small regional turboprops right up to Boeing 777s and 787 Dreamliners.


9. Air China

Air China 777

384 aircraft

The national carrier of China may not be the country’s largest, but it has still grown to a considerable size.


10. Ryanair


349 aircraft

Ryanair is Europe’s largest low cost carrier, and largest airline by fleet size. Like its inspiration, Southwest Airlines, Ryanair only operates Boeing 737 aircraft, with multiple aircraft per month joining the fleet. It is an early customer for the new 737MAX.



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JeffinMass July 10, 2016 - 3:06 pm

I am wondering where BA, LH and Lionair stand in the top twenty?

Matt Falcus July 10, 2016 - 4:11 pm

British Airways has around 313 aircraft if you count BA CityFlyer. Lion Air has 111 aircraft, but over 200 on order.

wali October 12, 2016 - 2:28 pm

This your list though…. Anyway my favourite (Fedex) is in the list.

yanis October 19, 2016 - 11:23 pm

air canada have not 404 aircraft !!!!! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Canada#Current_fleet

Matt Falcus October 20, 2016 - 8:59 am

Hi Yanis. This includes their feeder airline fleets – Air Canada Express, Rouge etc

Konstantin December 12, 2016 - 4:49 pm

Lufthansa has currently 600 aircrafts (latest Annual Report 2015). Definitely missing!

Matt Falcus December 12, 2016 - 6:22 pm

Hi Konstantin. The Lufthansa group (Swiss, Eurowings, Germanwings, Lufthansa Cityline, Air Dolomiti etc) has 600 aircraft. Lufthansa itself has less than 300.

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[…] Top 10 World’s Largest Airlines […]

Anirban January 4, 2017 - 5:43 am

For “Air Canada” — This includes their feeder airline fleets – Air Canada Express, Rouge etc.
For “Lufthansa” — The Lufthansa group (Swiss, Eurowings, Germanwings, Lufthansa Cityline, Air Dolomiti etc) has 600 aircraft. Lufthansa itself has less than 300.

Why such selective counting?

Martin April 16, 2017 - 9:12 am

No way are air Canada in the top 10

Chris August 7, 2017 - 12:36 am

Do you want to tell me Air Canada have 404 aircrafts? I doubt!

Matt Falcus August 7, 2017 - 12:33 pm

The article is a little old. At the last count Air Canada had 388 aircraft – 174 AC, 166 AC Express and 48 AC Rouge

The World's Largest Airlines - Airport Spotting Blog December 8, 2017 - 5:51 pm

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Lise Kantrowitz April 29, 2018 - 1:39 am

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Abdulwali February 4, 2019 - 6:28 pm

Matt, can you please update this article? it is a little bit old.


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