Which Airline Groups Are The Biggest In Europe?


When it comes to airline groups, U.S. airlines like American Airlines, Delta and Southwest come out as some of the largest. But within those world rankings are some of Europe’s largest airline groups. We take a look at the biggest airline groups by passenger traffic.

Which airline group is the largest in Europe? Photo: Lufthansa


Unsurprisingly, the Lufthansa Group is the largest airline group in Europe. It’s the biggest airline group by revenue in Europe but also has impressive passenger traffic figures.

The Lufthansa Group is Europe’s largest. Photo: Lufthansa

In 2018, it broke a new passenger record, flying 142 million passengers throughout the year. At the time, the airline said:


“The hubs in Zurich, Munich, and Vienna were all major contributors to the network airlines’ growth…”

The group is made up of Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian Airlines as Network Carriers as well as the Eurowings branch.


The Ryanair Group follows the Lufthansa Group closely. Photo: Ryanair

Close behind the Lufthansa Group is the Ryanair Group. In 2018, they flew 139 million passengers according to the Centre For Aviation (CAPA).


Whilst that puts them 3 million passengers down from the Lufthansa Group, Ryanair recently posted a spike in passenger traffic numbers. In July, August, and September of 2019, it posted increased air traffic results of between eight and nine percent on the previous year.

In July, the Ryanair Group flew 14.8 million passengers whilst the Lufthansa Group flew nearly 14.6 million. In August, Ryanair flew 14.9 million passengers in comparison to Lufthansa’s 14.1 million. In September, it was still beating Lufthansa in terms of passenger numbers with 14.1 million whereas the Lufthansa Group carried close to 14 million.

However, in October 2019, Ryanair experienced a decline in its percentage change. In October it carried just five percent more passengers than the previous year. Could it take the top spot from the Lufthansa Group for the 2019 end of year airline group rankings?



International Airlines Group is the third-largest European Airline group, according to CAPA. In 2018, they flew just short of 113 million passengers. The Group includes British Airways, Aer Lingus, Vueling, Iberia, LEVEL and soon, Air Europa.

Air Europa will join IAG. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Flickr

Air France – KLM Group

The fourth-largest airline group in Europe is Air France – KLM.

In 2018, Air France – KLM flew over 100 million passengers. Photo: KLM

In 2018, the Air France – KLM Group posted passenger numbers of 101.4 million. Whilst the airline group still ranks in the top five for 2018, CEO Benjamin Smith is looking to change that. He wants to simplify the group into three main brands: Air France, KLM, and Transavia and hopes to increase revenue to strengthen the group’s leadership position.


The easyJet Group is the fifth-largest in Europe. Photo: easyJet

With 92 million passengers flown in 2018, easyJet retained its position from 2017 as the fifth largest airline group in Europe. The latest accessible statistics for easyJet show a percentage change of 11.8% on the previous year. In March 2019, 7.7 million passengers, in comparison to 6.9 million in March 2018.

Turkish Airlines Group

The Turkish Airlines Group retained its 2017 ranking. Photo: Eric Salard via Flickr

The Turkish Airlines Group also retained its 2017 ranking. It carried 75 million passengers in 2018 which was a 9.5% increase compared to 2017. The Turkish Airlines Group includes SunExpress, which is shared 50% in a joint venture with Lufthansa, and AnadoluJet.

Aeroflot Group

The Aeroflot Group carried 56 million passengers in 2018. Photo: IQRemix via Flickr

The Aeroflot Group carried 56 million passengers in 2018. It ranks as the seventh-largest airline group in Europe. The group is comprised of Aeroflot Airline, Aurora Airlines, Pobeda Airlines and Rossiya Airlines.

Do you think the 2019 rankings will change? Let us know which airline group you think will be largest by the end of the year!