US Airlines Come Back To The Top Of The Global Pack By Capacity

US airlines have come at the top of the global capacity. American, Delta, Southwest, and United Airlines came out as the top four US carriers. Chinese carriers followed, with a few other top players rounding out the top ten. Here’s a look at where airlines stand.

Boeing 737 MAX, Booking, Differences
American is the largest airline by scheduled capacity in the world, with Southwest coming in third place and United in fourth. Photo: Getty Images

US airlines come out as the top four largest airlines in the world

According to the latest data from OAG, the four largest US carriers all came out as the largest airlines in the world. In order, the top ten largest carriers in the world for the week of February 15th:

  1. American Airlines
  2. Delta Air Lines
  3. Southwest Airlines
  4. United Airlines
  5. China Southern Airlines
  6. China Eastern Airlines
  7. IndiGo
  8. Air China
  9. All Nippon Airways
  10. LATAM Airlines Group

American Airlines comparatively offered two million more seats in the week over ANA and nearly 2.1 million more than LATAM Airlines.

Delta LaGuardia
Delta is not selling all of the capacity it has scheduled. Photo: Getty Images

During the crisis, the list for the largest airlines in the world changed from time-to-time, as Chinese carriers ended up taking some of the top spots as a quick recovery of the air travel market there came as American aviation was blunted.

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US airlines routinely come out on top

In terms of scheduled capacity, American, Delta, Southwest, and United routinely come out on top. Operating in the world’s largest domestic market, the data from OAG coupled with the increased demand for domestic leisure travel in the US shows the US market’s strength.

LAX Delta Air Lines and American Airlines
The top four largest US airlines are typically among the largest in the world. Photo: Getty Images

US airlines are still operating at less capacity than they would normally, with plenty of aircraft still parked. Hopefully, in the summer, airlines will be able to operate a more full schedule.

While Delta has a lot of scheduled capacity, it is blocking seats, so it is not necessarily offering a full array of seat availability as its scheduled capacity may indicate.

In terms of the ranking across US airlines, then United’s fourth-place rank is not necessarily surprising. Even though the airline maintained a relatively intact fleet throughout the crisis while some of its peers retired over 200 jets in one year, the airline had fallen behind its peers when it came to average gauge, pushing its capacity downwards. However, United is working on fixing its gauge issues.

Some notable absences

From the list, several European carriers are missing. Notably, carriers like Ryanair, easyJet, and Turkish Airlines are missing. These carriers made the top ten list by capacity back in 2019, before the crisis hit.

With Europe relatively shut down and changing restrictions in key markets like the UK, it is not surprising to see European carriers drop off the list. ANA and LATAM typically do not make the top 10, though they are some of the largest airlines in their respective geographic area.

Ryanair is noticeably absent from the list. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines hope that the recovery will be on the horizon, hopefully from the busy northern summer season. Much of this will ride on vaccinations and how governments choose to reopen for tourists. The current lifting of restrictions appears as if it will be conducted in a patchwork style rather than a single unified reopening. Europe may prove to be an exception to that, however.

Nevertheless, US carriers are back on top, and that goes to show that the US domestic market is strong. Recent swings in China have led those airlines to continue to keep their rankings in the top ten spots, but the market is not yet as hot as to push any of those airlines into the top spot, which American Airlines continues to hold.

No Middle Eastern carriers were able to break through into the top ten this time around. These carriers typically are not in the top ten but do appear in the top twenty worldwide.

Are you surprised by the OAG rankings? Did you expect US airlines to come back on top in terms of capacity over Chinese carriers this quickly? Let us know in the comments!