Which Airlines Carry The Most Passengers?

After being battered by the pandemic, the airline industry is on the upswing, with traffic growing 30% and revenue surging 50% year-on-year in 2022.

And of the 3 billion passengers who took a flight last year, more than half flew on one of the big players in the industry.

Visual Capitalist’s Pallavi Rao created the image below, using information from 2023 Allianz Partners Big Book of Travel Data by IdeaWorksCompany, to visualize the largest airlines by traffic.

The Top 20 Airlines By Traffic in 2022

At the top of the list, American Airlines flew nearly 200 million passengers in 2022. The airline’s most popular route was between Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX), operating more than 30 flights a day.

In fact, Dallas is a “fortress hub” for American, where the airline—along with its regional partners—own more than 70% of the airport’s flights.

Here’s a quick look at the other airlines and their annual passengers in 2022.

Rank Airline Headquartered Annual Passengers
1 American Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. 199.3M
2 Delta Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. 171.4M
3 Ryanair Group* 🇮🇪 Ireland 168.6M
4 United Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. 144.3M
5 Southwest Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. 126.6M
6 Lufthansa Group 🇩🇪 Germany 101.8M
7 International Airlines Group (IAG) 🇬🇧 UK 94.7M
8 IndiGo* 🇮🇳 India 85.3M
9 Turkish Airlines Group 🇹🇷 Türkiye 71.8M
10 easyJet** 🇬🇧 UK 69.7M
11 Air France / KLM Group 🇫🇷 France 65.0M
12 China Southern Group 🇨🇳 China 62.6M
13 LATAM Group 🇨🇱 Chile 62.4M
14 Wizz Air* 🇭🇺 Hungary 51.1M
15 Emirates Airline* 🇦🇪 UAE 43.6M
16 China Eastern Group 🇨🇳 China 42.5M
17 Alaska Air Group 🇺🇸 U.S. 41.5M
18 Aeroflot Group 🇷🇺 Russia 40.7M
19 JetBlue Airways 🇺🇸 U.S. 39.6M
20 ANA Group* 🇯🇵 Japan 38.7M

*Financial year for these airlines ended in March, 2023. **Financial year for this airline ended in September 2022.

Close behind American is another U.S.-based rival, Delta, which got more than 170 million passengers to their destinations.

Ranked third is Ryanair Group, headquartered in Ireland, the most popular of the low-cost carriers (defined by their lower fares and no-frills service) which transported more than 168 million passengers around the world.

Rounding out the top five are two other U.S.-based airlines, United and Southwest, with annual passenger figures of 144.3 million and 126.6 million respectively.

Ranked: Top 20 Airlines By Revenue in 2022

Examining the same list of airlines by the most revenue earned over the year throws up a few interesting surprises.

Rank Airline Headquartered Annual Revenue
(USD Billions)
1 American Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. $49.0
2 Delta Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. $45.6
3 United Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. $45.0
4 Emirates Airline* 🇦🇪 UAE $29.2
5 Air France / KLM Group 🇫🇷 France $27.5
6 Lufthansa Group 🇩🇪 Germany $26.9
7 International Airlines Group (IAG) 🇬🇧 UK $24.0
8 Southwest Airlines 🇺🇸 U.S. $23.8
9 Turkish Airlines Group 🇹🇷 Türkiye $18.4
10 China Southern Group 🇨🇳 China $13.0
11 ANA Group* 🇯🇵 Japan $12.6
12 Ryanair Group* 🇮🇪 Ireland $11.2
13 Alaska Air Group 🇺🇸 U.S. $9.7
14 LATAM Group 🇨🇱 Chile $9.4
15 JetBlue Airways 🇺🇸 U.S. $9.2
16 Aeroflot Group 🇷🇺 Russia $7.7
17 IndiGo* 🇮🇳 India $7.1
18 easyJet** 🇬🇧 UK $7.0
19 China Eastern Group 🇨🇳 China $6.9
20 Wizz Air* 🇭🇺 Hungary $4.1

*Financial year for these airlines ended in March, 2023. **Financial year for this airline ended in September 2022.

American and Delta retain their top positions—earning $49 billion and $45 billion respectively—but Ryanair Group falls out of the top five to 12th place, having made $11.2 billion last year.

Other low-cost carriers—IndiGo from India and EasyJet from the UK—also slide down ranks, both pulling in about $7 billion in revenue.

Air Passenger Traffic by Region in 2022

Airlines with headquarters in Europe transported one-third of all air passengers in 2022, slightly ahead of their U.S.-based counterparts.

Region Passenger Share (2022)
Europe 31.5%
U.S. & Canada 29.7%
Asia & South Pacific 23.3%
Latin America 9.2%
Middle East & Africa 6.4%

This was despite Russia’s Aeroflot losing both passengers and revenue between 2021–2022, as the airline was banned from entering the U.S., Canada, UK, and EU airspace.

Meanwhile, all four of China’s largest airlines also suffered traffic drops as the country grappled with residual effects of the pandemic, impacting Asia’s share of passengers.


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