Home Airline News The World’s Largest Airlines

The World’s Largest Airlines

by Matt Falcus
world's largest airlines

world's largest airlines

We previously reported on the world’s largest airlines top 10 list which looked at the combined fleets of operators, including subsidiaries and feeder partners.

In this new list, we look at the current world’s largest airlines list at the end of 2017.


First off, we look at the largest by number of aircraft in their fleet.

1. American Airlines

American Airlines is the world's largest airlines

Still the world’s largest, with a fleet of around 950 mainline aircraft. This swelled with the incorporation of US Airways’ fleet a couple of years ago. Older MD-80 aircraft are being replaced by modern Boeing 737 MAX 8s.


2. Delta Air Lines

Delta A350

Photo (c) Delta Air Lines

Not far behind is Delta, with 850 mainline aircraft in its fleet. Recent acquisitions include the new Airbus A350, however older Boeing and McDonnell Douglas models are still operated.


3. United Airlines

United Airlines 777-300

Another US carrier, which also benefited from its merger with Continental Airlines. United flies approximately 745 mainline aircraft, with new Boeing 777-300ER and 787 models being added recently.


4. Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines Coco

The inspiration behind low-cost carriers the world over, Southwest Airlines only operates Boeing 737 aircraft – 697 of them at the time of writing. It recently retired the last of its older -300 models, with newer -800s and MAX 8s being delivered to fill the gaps.


5. China Southern Airlines

Larger than the national airline Air China, China Southern’s fleet ranks at over 545 aircraft (including 14 mainline cargo freighters). The airline’s fleet includes the Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and 737 MAX, making it incredibly modern.


6. China Eastern Airlines

China’s second-largest carrier, based at Shanghai but with a strong domestic and worldwide presence, China Eastern’s fleet numbers 486 aircraft across Airbus and Boeing models, with the A320neo, A350,  737 MAX and 787-9 all on order.


7. Ryanair

Europe’s largest airline by far is Ryanair which, like Southwest Airlines in the USA, operates a strict single aircraft type policy focused around the Boeing 737 – 413 of them. These mostly consist of the -800 model, but will see the special MAX 200 variant begin deliveries in 2019.


8. Air China

Air China. Photo (c) Erik Ritterbach

The national carrier of China comes in next with 392 aircraft. It also flies the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX, and like other Chinese carriers has committed to the new Comac C919 which is due in the future.


9. FedEx Express


By Timo Jäger [GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html) or GFDL 1.2 (http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

The first cargo airline to feature on the list, FedEx Express operates 371 mainline aircraft (with a further 286 in its FedEx Feeder fleet which is contracted to other carriers). It is notable for operating many classic aircraft still, but is modernising with the acquisition of brand new Boeing 767-300 and 777 freighters.


10. Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is one of the world's largest airlines

Turkish Airlines A330 (c) Erik Ritterbach

The largest airline in the Eastern Europe/Middle East region, despite the dominance of carriers like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways, is Turkish Airlines. Its mainline fleet has 329 aircraft (including 14 freighters) spread across Airbus and Boeing models, with new A321neo and 737 MAX aircraft on order.


spotting books

Aviation books for spotters, from Airport Spotting Blog. Click here.



Next, we look at the world’s largest airlines by number of destinations served.

1. UPS Airlines

YSSYguy at en.wikipedia

The logistics in operating to over 720 destinations across America and worldwide is truly impressive. UPS Airlines’s fleet did not make the top 10, at just over 230 aircraft, but it certainly covers most destinations through utilising partner carriers.


2. FedEx Express

FedEx Express 757

FedEx is the world’s largest airline by destinations served

Following the theme of providing cargo logistics around the globe, FedEx Express and its feeder carriers reach 375 worldwide destinations.


3. United Airlines

United Airlines 757

The largest passenger airline in terms of the number of destinations is United Airlines, across its mainline and United Express fleets, which serves 373 airports.


4. American Airlines

American Eagle CRJ

Again, with its mainline and American Eagle operations, the largest airline by fleet size serves 350 destinations.


5. Delta Air Lines

Delta A330

With 320 destinations around the world, Delta and Delta Connection are at the mid-point in the table.


6. Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines A321

Part of Turkish Airlines’ impressive rise to prominence over the past decade has been in developing a network of flights connecting through its Istanbul hubs. It currently serves 302 worldwide destinations.


7. Lufthansa

Lufthansa Airbus aircraft (c) Erik Ritterbach

One of Europe’s dominant airlines, and recently awarded 5* status by Skytrax, is German national carrier Lufthansa. Including its regional subsidiaries, it serves 274 worldwide destinations.


8. China Eastern

China Eastern A330

A star of Chinese aviation, China Eastern currently reaches 217 worldwide destinations, with domestic routes featuring heavily.


9. Air France

Another European airline with good connections is Air France, which has a network of 204 destinations across Europe and the rest of the world.


10. Air China

Air China Dreamliner

Air China Dreamliner and A330 (c) Erik Ritterbach

In tenth position is Air China. Again, it has a strong network of domestic routes across China, and links to cities around the world – 201 destinations in all.


These lists are correct at the time of writing, but naturally airlines are changing all the time. New aircraft are delivered on a weekly basis, and every summer and winter season brings new destinations to their networks, and sees others retired.





You may also like


John December 15, 2017 - 9:12 am

I just love ,if that’s the word ,enjoy the livery .the Miriiad of companies shown
And the aircraft themselves,

Southwest - Suck out! - Page 6 - Pelican Parts Technical BBS April 20, 2018 - 9:31 pm

[…] served at 720. The next closest is FedEx with 375 destinations served. Data provided by The World's Largest Airlines – Airport Spotting Blog dated December 2017. __________________ 1978 SC coupe […]

Amazon expands its fleet of planes, so you get your package on time – Kopitiam Bot December 22, 2018 - 8:12 am

[…] By adding 10 more aircraft, Amazon is expanding its fleet by 25 percent — a sizable increase. But this fleet is still dwarfed by other shipping companies. UPS owns 247 aircraft (and leases more during November and December), while FedEx owns over 650 (ranking it among the world’s largest airlines). […]

These Are the World’s Largest Airlines - Trivoso April 15, 2019 - 12:01 am

[…] common measure of the size of an airline is the number of aircraft it operates. Airport Spotting created a list of the world’s top 10 largest airline fleets as of the end of 2017. While many of […]

Beijing Investigates FedEx After Huawei Complains of Diverted Packages June 2, 2019 - 10:15 pm

[…] added that as FedEx runs one of the world’s largest cargo airlines and is trusted as a reliable brand by Chinese consumers, China is set to lose more […]

Beijing Investigates FedEx After Huawei Complains of Diverted Packages – Truthbaron June 2, 2019 - 10:16 pm

[…] added that as FedEx runs one of the world’s largest cargo airlines and is trusted as a reliable brand by Chinese consumers, China is set to lose more […]

Amazon expands its fleet of aircraft, so you'll get your package on time - December 18, 2020 - 11:21 am

[…] By adding 10 more planes, Amazon is expanding its fleet by 25% – a significant increase. But this fleet is still overwhelmed by other shipping companies. UPS owns 247 aircraft (and more leasing in November and December), while FedEx owns more than 650 (rate it out of the world’s largest airlines). […]


Leave a Comment