Featured Image: Brandon Farris/Airways

The World’s Largest Global Airlines in April 2024

DALLAS — The global aviation industry is a complex, yet exciting and challenging ecosystem with airlines vying for dominance in a market driven by passenger comfort, affordability, and extensive route networks. To truly understand an airline's capacity, a single metric like the number of airplanes wouldn't be a sufficient metric.

This is where Available Seat Miles (ASMs) come into play. ASMs offer a more nuanced picture by considering both the number of seats an airline offers and the distances their flights cover. Airlines with a focus on long-haul travel with larger aircraft will naturally have higher ASMs compared to those serving primarily short-haul domestic routes with smaller planes.

This article delves into the world's largest airlines in April 2024, using ASMs, as obtained from CIRIUM to unveil the largest airlines of April. We'll explore how regional powerhouses establish themselves and how factors like fleet size and route network influence an airline's overall capacity.

N510DN Delta Air Lines Airbus A350-900. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

Largest Global Airlines

The skies of April 2024 were dominated by the colossal capacity of North American carriers, with United Airlines (UA) retaining its crown as the world's largest airline based on Available Seat Miles (ASMs). Boasting a staggering 25,586,308,401 ASMs, UA cemented its position as a global leader, showcasing its extensive network and ability to move passengers across vast distances.

Hot on their heels were American Airlines (AA) and Delta Air Lines (DL), further solidifying the strong presence of US carriers on the global stage. Interestingly, AA offered the most flights (178,878) and seats (22,691,087) in April 2024, highlighting their widespread network and commitment to passenger volume.

However, the landscape wasn't solely painted red, white, and blue. Emirates (EK), carved out a unique space among the top contenders. Despite operating a significantly lower number of flights and smaller fleet, compared to its American counterparts, EK secured the fourth position with an impressive 18,077,349,430 ASMs. This achievement reflects their strategic use of larger aircraft on all routes, allowing them to efficiently transport a bulk of passengers across continents.

N8639B Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-800. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Following closely behind was Southwest Airlines (WN). Despite offering a whopping 19,642,215 seats, their focus on shorter domestic routes translated into a lower ranking in terms of ASMs (15,083,550,638). The remaining global airlines showcased a diverse range of airlines, each with its own strengths and specialties.

From the high frequency of shorter flights within Europe by Ryanair (FR) to the long-haul dominance of Qatar Airways (QR) and the extensive regional network of China Southern Airlines (CZ), April 2024 offered a glimpse into the dynamic and ever-evolving world of global aviation.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | United Airlines (UA) | 25,586,308,401 | 129,583 | 17,126,368 | | 2 | American Airlines (AA) | 24,278,830,104 | 178,878 | 22,691,087 | | 3 | Delta Air Lines (DL) | 23,872,018,964 | 140,950 | 19,779,065 | | 4 | Emirates (EK) | 18,077,349,430 | 13,982 | 5,790,072 | | 5 | Southwest Airlines (WN) | 15,083,550,638 | 123,529 | 19,642,215 | | 6 | Ryanair (FR) | 13,902,195,423 | 95,892 | 18,276,430 | | 7 | Qatar Airways (QR) | 12,912,997,900 | 15,896 | 4,391,793 | | 8 | China Southern Airlines (CZ) | 11,934,038,151 | 66,189 | 11,913,002 | | 9 | Turkish Airlines (TK) | 11,414,539,641 | 32,661 | 6,632,096 | | 10 | China Eastern Airlines (MU) | 10,937,337,658 | 69,902 | 11,693,756 | | 11 | Air China (CA) | 10,540,137,303 | 49,749 | 9,284,936 | | 12 | British Airways (BA) | 9,218,620,203 | 25,484 | 4,873,160 | | 13 | Lufthansa (LH) | 8,894,689,302 | 36,913 | 6,385,022 | | 14 | Air Canada (AC) | 8,199,343,925 | 30,916 | 4,542,642 | | 15 | Air France (AF) | 8,150,286,608 | 23,154 | 4,102,120 | | 16 | LATAM Airlines (LA) | 7,634,526,219 | 44,130 | 8,056,934 | | 17 | IndiGo (6E) | 7,433,272,106 | 59,851 | 10,714,608 | | 18 | EasyJet (U2) | 6,837,265,548 | 49,725 | 8,945,899 | | 19 | Singapore Airlines (SQ) | 6,765,784,317 | 9,417 | 2,487,805 | | 20 | Alaska Airlines (AS) | 5,729,740,384 | 35,065 | 4,622,150 |
N400AN American Airlines Airbus A321neo. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Largest Airlines in North America

Unsurprisingly, the "Big Three" US carriers held the top three spots in North America. Thanks to their extensive networks and long-haul capabilities.

Rounding out the top five are WN, and Air Canada (AC). AC secured the fifth spot with 8,199,343,925 ASMs, offering a strong domestic network within Canada and international connections to other continents.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | United Airlines (UA) | 25,586,308,401 | 129,583 | 17,126,368 | | 2 | American Airlines (AA) | 24,278,830,104 | 178,878 | 22,691,087 | | 3 | Delta Air Lines (DL) | 23,872,018,964 | 140,950 | 19,779,065 | | 4 | Southwest Airlines (WN) | 15,083,550,638 | 123,529 | 19,642,215 | | 5 | Air Canada (AC) | 8,199,343,925 | 30,916 | 4,542,642 | | 6 | Alaska Airlines (AS) | 5,729,740,384 | 35,065 | 4,622,150 | | 7 | JetBlue (B6) | 5,667,920,586 | 27,149 | 4,173,823 | | 8 | Spirit Airlines (NK) | 4,624,983,075 | 24,596 | 4,677,839 | | 9 | Frontier Airlines (F9) | 3,414,092,068 | 18,351 | 3,722,996 | | 10 | Aeromexico (AM) | 2,957,000,644 | 16,745 | 2,529,071 |
EI-GSC Ryanair Boeing 737-800. Photo: Francesco Cecchetti/Airways

Largest Airlines in Europe

April 2024 saw Europe's aviation landscape abuzz with activity, and the continent's largest airlines displayed a fascinating mix of established players and budget challengers. Ryanair (FR) reigned supreme, securing the top spot with a staggering 13,902,195,423 ASMs. This achievement reflects the continued popularity of budget travel in Europe, where passengers prioritize affordability for shorter flights within the region.

The LCC achieved this feat despite offering a lower number of flights (95,892) compared to some counterparts. However, their extensive network of shorter routes with a high frequency of flights translated into a dominant position.

Turkish Airlines Airbus A350-900. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Turkish Airlines (TK) followed closely behind, showcasing its enduring presence as a major carrier in the region. Boasting an impressive 11,414,539,641 ASMs, TK acts as a vital bridge between Europe and Asia.

Legacy carriers like British Airways (BA) and Lufthansa (LH) maintained a strong presence, securing the third and fourth positions respectively. This highlights that despite the rise of budget airlines, established carriers with extensive networks and brand recognition continue to hold significant appeal for passengers seeking a more traditional travel experience. The British flag carrier offered 9,218,620,203 ASMs, while LH followed with 8,894,689,302 ASMs.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | Ryanair (FR) | 13,902,195,423 | 95,892 | 18,276,430 | | 2 | Turkish Airlines (TK) | 11,414,539,641 | 32,661 | 6,632,096 | | 3 | British Airways (BA) | 9,218,620,203 | 25,484 | 4,873,160 | | 4 | Lufthansa (LH) | 8,894,689,302 | 36,913 | 6,385,022 | | 5 | Air France (AF) | 8,150,286,608 | 23,154 | 4,102,120 | | 6 | EasyJet (U2) | 6,837,265,548 | 49,725 | 8,945,899 | | 7 | KLM (KL) | 5,654,448,355 | 21,596 | 3,390,754 | | 8 | Aeroflot (SU) | 5,244,850,959 | 21,026 | 3,477,105 | | 9 | Iberia (IB) | 4,273,292,139 | 15,282 | 2,366,879 | | 10 | EVA Air (BR) | 3,347,644,410 | 4,727 | 1,391,513 |
China Southern Airlines Boeing 777-300(ER). Photo: Daniel Gorun/Airways

Largest Airlines in Asia-Pacific

The growing capacity of China's major airlines continues to dominate the Asia-Pacific region. China Southern Airlines (CZ) retained its crown in April 2024, boasting an impressive 11,934,038,151 ASMs. China Eastern Airlines (MU) and Air China (CA) followed closely behind, securing the second and third positions with 10,937,337,658 and 10,540,137,303 ASMs respectively. These three major carriers highlight the vastness of the Chinese aviation market and the growing influence of Chinese airlines on a global scale.

However, the Indian aviation market is also making its mark on the global stage. IndiGo (6E), the largest Indian carrier, emerged as a strong contender, showcasing the diversification of travel options within the region. 6E secured the fourth position with ASMs totaling 7,433,272,106 in April.

VT-IUZ IndiGo Airbus A321neo. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

This demonstrates the growing demand for affordable travel options within the vast Indian subcontinent. The April figures suggest that the LCC is likely to climb even higher in the rankings in the coming months. 6E recently ordered its first wide-body aircraft from Airbus, with deliveries slated to start from 2027. The LCC has ordered 30 Airbus A350-900s with options for an additional 70 aircraft.

Rounding out the top five is Singapore Airlines (SQ), known for its luxurious amenities and focus on long-haul travel. Despite offering a significantly lower number of flights (9,417) compared to others, SQ held the fifth position with 6,765,784,317 ASMs.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | China Southern Airlines (CZ) | 11,934,038,151 | 66,189 | 11,913,002 | | 2 | China Eastern Airlines (MU) | 10,937,337,658 | 69,902 | 11,693,756 | | 3 | Air China (CA) | 10,540,137,303 | 49,749 | 9,284,936 | | 4 | IndiGo (6E) | 7,433,272,106 | 59,851 | 10,714,608 | | 5 | Singapore Airlines (SQ) | 6,765,784,317 | 9,417 | 2,487,805 | | 6 | ANA (NH) | 5,515,531,739 | 34,892 | 6,362,999 | | 7 | Cathay Pacific (CX) | 5,382,723,307 | 7,597 | 2,263,869 | | 8 | Qantas (QF) | 4,882,178,967 | 23,106 | 3,241,857 | | 9 | Korean Air (KE) | 4,541,932,902 | 9,908 | 2,216,293 | | 10 | Hainan Airlines (HU) | 4,218,759,534 | 21,689 | 4,065,237 |
CC-BGK LATAM Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Largest Airlines in South America

In South America, LATAM Airlines Group (LA) secured the top spot with a commanding 7,634,526,219 ASMs, showcasing their extensive network and ability to connect passengers across several destinations within South America.

Complementing LA are Avianca (AV) and Copa Airlines (CM), which round out the top three South American carriers in April 2024. AV, the flag carrier of Colombia held the second position with 3,092,356,912 ASMs, whereas CM, the flag carrier of Panama, followed closely behind in third place with 2,295,898,410 ASMs, offering strong connections within Central and South America, and beyond.  

Azul (AZUL), a Brazilian low-cost carrier, landed in the fourth position while yet another Brazilian carrier, Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes (GOL) made it to the top five largest airlines in the region.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | LATAM Airlines (LA) | 7,634,526,219 | 44,130 | 8,056,934 | | 2 | Avianca (AV) | 3,092,356,912 | 21,333 | 3,891,941 | | 3 | Copa Airlines (CM) | 2,295,898,410 | 10,049 | 1,617,856 | | 4 | Azul (AD) | 2,283,422,539 | 27,206 | 3,344,955 | | 5 | Gol (G3) | 2,023,928,688 | 16,835 | 2,998,590 | | 6 | Aerolineas Argentinas (AR) | 1,276,132,714 | 8,473 | 1,207,598 | | 7 | Sky Airline (H2) | 591,232,273 | 4,160 | 803,853 | | 8 | JetSmart Chile (JA) | 471,267,720 | 2,458 | 489,264 | | 9 | BoA (OB) | 260,760,380 | 3,754 | 520,709 | | 10 | Wingo (P5) | 134,943,744 | 1,648 | 306,528 |
A6-EOD Emirates Airbus A380-800 (Expo 2020 Dubai Livery). Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Largest Airlines in the Middle East

In the Middle East, Emirates (EK) secured the top spot with a staggering 18,077,349,430 ASMs in April. Interestingly, despite offering a lower number of flights (13,982) compared to its counterparts, EK offered the highest number of seats (5,790,072) in the region, highlighting its above-average seat capacity per flight. Not to mention, EK is the largest operator of the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777.

Qatar Airways (QR) followed closely behind EK, further solidifying the Middle East's status as a global transit hub. Clocking in with 12,912,997,900 ASMs, the Doha (DOH) based carrier offered the most flights (15,896) in the Middle East in April 2024, showcasing its extensive network of routes within the region and beyond.

HZ-AK43 Saudia Boeing 777-300(ER) (Green Falcons Livery). Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Rounding out the top three is Saudia (SV) with 5,202,207,686 ASMs. The remaining airlines showcase the diverse range of airlines operating in the region, offering a variety of travel options for passengers.

From established carriers like EK, QR, and Etihad Airways (EY) to budget-friendly options like flydubai (FZ), Air Arabia (AP), and flynas (FY), the Middle East continues to be a dynamic region in the world of aviation.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | Emirates (EK) | 18,077,349,430 | 13,982 | 5,790,072 | | 2 | Qatar Airways (QR) | 12,912,997,900 | 15,896 | 4,391,793 | | 3 | Saudia (SV) | 5,202,207,686 | 15,443 | 3,531,073 | | 4 | Etihad Airways (EY) | 4,545,253,052 | 6,646 | 1,642,459 | | 5 | Flydubai (FZ) | 2,291,544,281 | 9,686 | 1,674,776 | | 6 | Air Arabia (G9) | 1,527,575,398 | 6,280 | 1,132,446 | | 7 | Flynas (XY) | 1,219,061,530 | 8,123 | 1,420,074 | | 8 | Kuwait Airways (KU) | 1,045,938,101 | 2,733 | 545,208 | | 9 | Gulf Air (GF) | 996,412,975 | 4,121 | 729,716 | | 10 | Oman Air (WY) | 991,285,412 | 2,851 | 599,058 |
ET-AVE Ethiopian Airlines Airbus A350-900 (10th A350 Sticker). Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

Largest Airlines in Africa

Ethiopian Airlines (ET) led the carriers in Africa, with ASMs totaling 3,683,677,967 in April. EgyptAir (MS) and Royal Air Maroc (AT)  further bolstered Africa’s connectivity with 1,886,177,981 and 1,149,010,418 ASMs respectively.

Even smaller airlines like Air Mauritius (MK), Safair (FA), Tunisair (TU), and Airlink (4Z) continue to play a crucial role in connecting remote destinations and fostering economic growth across Africa. These African carriers continue to foster economic development and cultural exchange across the region.

| Rank | Airlines | ASMs | Flights | Seats | | :--- | :-------------------------------------------- | :--------------| :-------| :---------- | | 1 | Ethiopian Airlines (ET) | 3,683,677,967 | 11,179 | 1,986,929 | | 2 | EgyptAir (MS) | 1,886,177,981 | 7,158 | 1,295,578 | | 3 | Royal Air Maroc (AT) | 1,149,010,418 | 5,107 | 798,150 | | 4 | Kenya Airways (KQ) | 802,539,251 | 3,778 | 498,673 | | 5 | Air Algerie (AH) | 733,657,494 | 6,192 | 790,202 | | 6 | Air Cairo (SM) | 625,828,084 | 3,131 | 479,045 | | 7 | Air Mauritius (MK) | 512,510,072 | 1,081 | 181,892 | | 8 | Safair (FA) | 500,079,072 | 4,600 | 849,768 | | 9 | Tunisair (TU) | 337,159,289 | 1,890 | 349,068 | | 10 | Airlink (4Z) | 290,045,462 | 7,138 | 497,021 |