10 Largest Airlines in the World (by Passengers)

2009 has not been a really memorable year for many of the world’s largest airlines out there. And the same goes to the workers (or some, ex-workers) so to speak. The recent global recession has affected all sectors, and the aviation industry was not spared. Major airlines have been forced to take the dramatic steps, grounding some of their planes, and slicing the number of workers in major series of layoffs.

The fact that one of the world’s leading airlines operators, the Japan Airlines, JAL decided to file for bankruptcy and is losing his status as one of the world’s top airlines overnight did not make things any easier. More than 15,000 unfortunate JAL employees will lose their jobs in time to come.

Nevertheless, some of the airlines strive against the great predicament and are still standing tall. In fact, they grow bigger and better. Some carried a much larger percentage of passengers in 2009 compared to the previous years. From the employee point of view, it’s nice working with these large (and also perhaps, stable) companies which safeguarded them from untoward layoff incidents.

So, which are the largest airlines in the world at the moment?

There is more than 1 definite method to determine the ranking of airlines size. Here, we rank the airlines according to the total number of scheduled passengers throughout the year 2009. The numbers were as collected and published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

1. Delta Airlines (161 million passengers)


Based in Atlanta, United States, Delta Airlines operates a wide array of aviation network, both domestic and international, covering North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Caribbean islands, Middle East and Australia.  Up until last year, it was the one and only airline in the US which flies its planes into Africa, with its Atlanta-Johannesburg being the longest non-stop route. Delta’s merge with Northwest Airlines completed its mission to become the official world’s largest commercial carrier.

2. Southwest Airlines (101 million)


A low-cost airline, Southwest Airlines was the biggest airline in 2007 when it became the only airline in this planet to have carried over 100 million passengers that year before the rise of Delta displaced it to the second spot. Apart from being one of the largest, Southwest is also a smartly managed airline, and today maintains its status as a very much profitable airlines for more than three consecutive decades.

3. American Airlines (85 million)


Boosted with a fleet of more than 600 aircrafts, American Airlines flies its planes throughout the United States, Canada, Caribbean, Latin America, Japan, Europe, China and India. Altogether, the airline is made up of over 80 smaller airlines which came under one roof through merger and acquisition exercises. American Airlines is the first commercial air carrier that introduced full flight internet service on their planes.

4. United Airlines (81 million)


At fourth spot is United Airlines, the oldest commercial airline in the US, which completes the all-US airlines in the top four. The company provides carrier service to more than 170 countries worldwide, flying to over 1,000 destinations and cities. United is an employee to some 48,000 workers.  In the wake of 9/11 attack, coupled with other financial messes, the airlines was forced to file for bankruptcy. However, it was cleared for restructuring in 2006, which saw the airline successfully exited the bankruptcy.

5. Lufthansa (77 million)


Europe’s largest airline, Lufthansa, is the flag carrier for Germany, and provides services to over 180 international destinations and 18 domestic cities. Its international routes cover Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Lufthansa is considered one of the largest employers in the aviation industry, employing a massive 105,000 workers who work throughout its offices across the world.

6. Air France-KLM (74 million)


Air France-KLM is a result of a merger between Air France and Netherland-based operator, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) in 2004. Four years after the merger, it became the world’s largest airline in terms of operating revenues and passenger-kilometers. With global headquarter in Paris, France and another major hub in Amsterdam, Netherland, it today remains as one of the most profitable commercial airlines in the Europe.

7. Ryanair (65 million)


Ryanair is an Irish-based low cost airline, having a base in the Ireland capital, Dublin. The deregulation of the air industry in Europe late in the 90s has spurred the airline’s rapid expansion, which saw the company becoming one of the largest airline carriers in the whole of Europe. Ryanair has the largest international passenger numbers, with the number continues to increase thanks to its innovative marketing strategies that win more customers.

8. Continental Airlines (63 million)


Continental Airlines, which has a history spanning over 7 decades, is another US-based airline which is based in Houston, Texas. It operates its fleet of planes throughout America, South America, Canada and the Asia Pacific region, with 3 hubs at Newark Liberty International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.

9. China Southern Airlines (62 million)


Currently the only Asian airline in the top ten list. The China Southern Airlines operates international, regional and domestic services with the operation headquarted in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China. It is also Asia’s largest airline in terms of fleet size. The history of the airline started rather quite recent, which was in 1989, and considering the relative short years of presence, its growth to its present status is nothing less than spectacular.

10. US Airways (51 million)


More than 30 thousand workers are now being employed with US Airways, America’s fifth largest airline. The company is the proprietor of US Airways Shuttle, a brand which provides hourly flight service between Ney York, Washington and Boston. But large size does not guarantee good service. A survey carried out on over 20,000 respondents in 2007 found US Airways to be the worst airline when it comes to customer service.

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