The 5 Biggest Airlines By Fleet Number


When describing an airline, we can use several elements and factors to determine its size or success. We can compare the different carriers by revenue, number of passengers carried, brand value, number of destinations, fleet size, number of countries served and even the scheduled passenger-kilometres flown or freight-ton-kilometres scheduled.

4 out of the top 5 places of the biggest airlines by fleet ranking are occupied by US-owned airlines as per the data from December 2017

While it is more prestigious to be one of the best airlines for cabin crew than the one operating the oldest commercial aircraft, it is quite a good deal to be part of the top five biggest airlines by fleet size. So, let’s see how many are the most planes to belong to an airline.

Which airline has the most planes?

Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise that 4 out of the top 5 places of the biggest airlines by fleet ranking are occupied by US-owned airlines as per the data from December 2017. If we jump only a year back, we had a complete American dominance as 5 out 5 five airlines with the most planes were from the USA. The ranking, however, was made with the number of planes belonging to regional partners, which slightly changes the overall number of aircraft operated by an airline.

At present top five of the biggest airlines by fleet includes American Airlines, Delta Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines and China Southern Airlines.

American Airlines

When it comes to numbers, American Airlines has the most planes to belong to an airline. With its 950 aircraft, the carrier takes the first place. American Airlines is one of the major U.S. airlines and is based in Fort Worth, Texas. The company was founded on April 15, 1926, but commenced operation on June 25, 1936. The airline is part of Oneworld alliance and flies to 95 domestic destinations and 95 international destinations in 55 countries. It has codeshare agreements with nearly 30 other airlines such as British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Jetstar Airways, Finnair, etc.

When it comes to numbers, American Airlines has the most planes to belong to an airline

Most of its fleet consists of Airbus and Boeing planes, while there are also a number of Embraer and McDonnell Douglas aircraft. Over two-thirds of the planes are narrow-bodies – Airbus A320 series and Boeing 737-800s. The wide-body aircraft are presented mainly by Boeing. American Airlines is the third largest operator in the world of Boeing 767 series.


Delta Airlines

Delta airlines number of aircraft
American Airlines operates 850 planes on its fleet.

The second biggest airline by fleet number is Atlanta-based Delta Airlines, which currently has 850 planes on its fleet. The company is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance and has codeshare agreements with more than 20 other carriers. In addition, Delta has entered into joint ventures with several other airlines that include Air France–KLM and Alitalia.

Delta operates Airbus, Boeing, and McDonnell Douglas planes and has the largest fleet of Airbus A330s in the USA. It is also the biggest operator of Boeing 717, Boeing 757, Boeing 767, McDonnell Douglas MD-88 and McDonnell Douglas MD-90 aircraft in the world.

United Airlines

United Airlines number of aircrafts
United Airlines has a fleet of 745 planes

The third place in this ranking belongs to United Airlines, which has a fleet of 745 planes. The carrier is based in Willis Tower, Chicago and has commenced operation back on March 28, 1931. It is a member of the Star Alliance and flies to 235 destinations and 138 international destinations in 60 countries across Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania.


United Airlines operates a fleet consisting of Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

Southwest Airlines

With its 697 planes, Southwest Airlines occupies the fourth place among the biggest airlines by fleet size. This is the largest low-cost airline in the world, that was established in 1967 and commenced operations on June 18, 1971. The headquarters of the airline is in Dallas, Texas and it services 99 destinations in 40 states, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Central America and the Caribbean.

Southwest Airlines has an all-Boeing fleet comprising of 513 Boeing 737-700, 202 Boeing 737-800, and 16 Boeing 737 MAX 8s. The carrier has an order of 30 737 MAX 7 and upon delivery of the aircraft, it will be its launch operator.

China Southern Airlines

China Southern number of aircraft
There are 545 planes in China Southern Airlines

A Chinese carrier has made it to the top five for the most planes to belong to an airline. Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines operates a fleet of 545 planes which are predominantly Airbus and Boeing. The Airline also has 20 Embraer 190s on lease from CLC and is expecting 20 Comac C919. China Southern Airlines also operates 14 cargo aircraft – two Boeing 747-400Fs and 12 Boeing 777Fs.

The SkyTeam member serves 193 destinations in 35 different countries worldwide.

With the dynamics on the aviation market, it will be interesting to see if the ranking will remain the same by the end of 2018.