What Are The Largest Airline Groups In The World?

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Airline groups have grown in popularity in the last few decades, especially in Europe. Groups like IAG, Lufthansa, LATAM, and Lion Air have expanded dramatically due to mergers and new subsidiaries. So which of these airline groups have the largest fleet?

British Airways Iberia
While airline groups are extremely influential, you may not have even heard of some. Photo: Vincenzo Pace – Simple Flying

This list consists of airline groups will multiple carriers operating separately (excluding regional subsidiaries only). Data in this article is provided courtesy of Planespotters.net.

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Lion Air Group

Perhaps one of the lesser-known carriers outside Southeast Asia, Lion Air has emerged as a leading group in the region. Aside from the mainline carrier (143 aircraft), Lion Air’s subsidiaries include Batik Air (77 aircraft), Malindo Air (25), Wings Air (66), and Thai Lion Air (14). Overall, the group has a fleet of 325 aircraft and will continue expanding in the coming years.

Lion Air Group Getty
Lion Air has emerged as the leading airline group in Southeast Asia by fleet size, overtaking AirAsia. Photo: Getty Images

Lion Air Group’s fleet of 325 aircraft is divided into 80 ATR 72s, 45 Airbus A320s, 12 A330s, and 188 Boeing 737s (including 13 737 MAXs, one of which was involved in the catastrophic crash in October 2018).

LATAM Airlines Group

Latin America’s biggest airline group, LATAM operates a diverse fleet of Airbus and Boeing aircraft. LATAM’s subsidiaries all share the same name, only varying by country of registration, such as LATAM Brasil (149 aircraft), Argentina (10), Chile (127), Ecuador (4), Peru (2), and three cargo arms (11). Overall, the Group currently operates a fleet of 303 aircraft.

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LATAM Brasil Boeing 777-32W(ER) PT-MUA
The LATAM Group came about by a merger between LAN and TAM in 2012 and has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to the pandemic. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

LATAM’s fleet of over 300 planes is divided between Airbus and Boeing. Airbus exclusively provides the airlines with narrowbodies with 45 A319s, 138 A320s, and 38 A321s, along with 11 A350s (the flagship aircraft). Boeing provides a bulk of the airline’s widebody fleet, with 39 767s (including 11 freighters), 10 777s, and 22 787s.

Ryanair Holdings Group

The world’s largest low-cost airline group, the Ryanair Group operates a vast fleet of narrowbody aircraft. Aside from the Ireland-based eponymous airline (255 aircraft), Ryanair’s subsidiaries include Lauda Europe (29 aircraft) and Malta Air (120), along with Poland-based Ryanair Sun (47) and Ryanair UK (1). The group currently operates a fleet of 452 aircraft, with hundreds more on order.

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Buzz Livery, Boeing 737 MAX 200, Ryanair
Dublin-based Ryanair is home to several subsidiaries across Europe. Photo: Getty Images

Ryanair’s fleet consists almost exclusively of the Boeing 737 family, along with 29 Airbus A320-200s (flown by Lauda Europe). The carrier currently flies one 737-700, 422 737-800s, and is expecting imminent delivery of 25 MAX 8s.

Air France-KLM

One of the most recognizable airline groups, Air France-KLM is actually home to more carriers than you may know. Aside from the two flag carriers (Air France – 214 aircraft, KLM – 111 aircraft), Air France-KLM subsidiaries include HOP! (67), KLM Cityhopper (51), Martinair (1), Transavia (39), and Transavia France (43). Overall, the Group currently operates 526 aircraft.

Air France KLM Airbus
Air France-KLM Group is the third-largest in Europe by fleet size and passengers carried. Photo: Getty Images

Given its fleet size, Air France-KLM operates a diverse mix of regional jets, narrowbodies, and widebodies. Among regional aircraft, the group flies 14 Bombardier CRJ-1000s, nine CRJ-700s, two (brand new) Embraer E2s, 12 ERJ-145s, 32 ERJ-170s, and 49 ERJ-190s.

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On the Airbus side, the group flies 18 A318s, 32 A319s, 44 A320s, 20 A321s, 26 A330s, and six A350s. With Boeing, the group operates 132 737s, four 747s (cargo), 98 777s, and 28 787s.

International Airlines Group (IAG)

While you may not be familiar with IAG, it is the parent behind some of Europe’s most popular airlines. The Group is home to British Airways (255 aircraft), Iberia (69), Iberia Express (20), LEVEL (6), Aer Lingus (52), Aer Lingus Regional (10), and Vueling (126). Overall, IAG operates a fleet of 538 planes, narrowly beating Air France-KLM.

vueling to receive state-guaranteed funding
IAG has grown in the last decade with new subsidiaries and acquisitions. Photo: Getty Images

IAG’s fleet primarily consists of Airbus aircraft, some Boeing widebodies, and 10 ATR 42/72s. On the Airbus side, the group operates 48 A319s, 249 A320s, 70 A321s, 41 A330s, 17 A350s, and 12 A380s. With Boeing, the group flies 59 777s and 32 787s (all three variants). In addition to this fleet, IAG is also in the process of acquiring Air Europa, giving it a dominant position in the British and Spanish markets.

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Lufthansa Group

The biggest airline group in the world by fleet size is the Lufthansa Group. The number of carriers owned by the German giant might take some by surprise and includes Air Dolomiti (15 aircraft)), Austrian Airlines (78), Brussels Airlines (46), Edelweiss Air (16), Eurowings (88), Eurowings Europe (12), Germanwings (10), Lufthansa (259), Lufthansa Cargo (12), Lufthansa CityLine (52), and Swiss (92). Overall, this massive group operates 688 aircraft.

Lufthansa Group Airlines
The Lufthansa Group is home to several unique airlines across the continent. Photo: Lufthansa

The Lufthansa Group’s fleet heavily tilts towards Airbus, and it flies the 29 A220s, 104 A319s, 223 A320s, 86 A321s, 43 A330s, 26 A340s, 17 A350s, and eight A380s (whose future status is currently unknown).

Boeing exclusively supplies widebodies to the Group, including 27 747s (including 19 747-8s), five 767s, and 27 777s (including nine freighters). In addition to this, Lufthansa Cargo also flies three MD-11Fs.

Considering Lufthansa’s several regional subsidiaries, the Group also flies 35 Bombardier CRJ-900s, 20 DHC Dash 8s, and 43 Embraer ERJ-190s to round off the fleet.

American and Chinese airlines

Many readers might point out that this list does not include carriers like American Airlines, China Southern, United, and others, despite them having subsidiaries or holding groups. The reason to exclude them is that while they do have subsidiaries, all the airlines fly under the same branding. However, if we were to include them in the list, these airlines will comfortably take the lead for the largest airline groups.

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American and Chinese airlines dominate the list of the world’s largest airlines, both by fleet size and revenue. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

While airline groups have allowed the industry to expand, the pandemic has left many struggling. The six largest airlines and groups (American, Delta, United, Lufthansa, IAG, and Air France-KLM) lost a combined total of $110 billion before the end of 2020. These heavy losses have forced airline groups to ax subsidiaries and shrink their fleet drastically as costs become unsustainable. In the future, expect to see much leaner aircraft groups than before.

How many airline group rankings did you get correct? Did you know all of their subsidiaries? Let us know in the comments!

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