The commercial aviation industry has grown back to a relatively healthy shape since the Covid-19 pandemic, with all of the ten largest airlines in the world reporting annual revenue over $10bn in 2023. 

Fitch Ratings’ outlook for the global airline sector in 2024 is neutral, with the credit rating agency stating that it anticipates demand for air travel to “remain supportive”, as global traffic returns to pre-pandemic levels but also notes that traffic will remain below any historical trend lines that were set before 2020.

Indeed, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) forecasts net profits of $25.7bn for the global airline industry in 2024 and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) also projects that global air traffic in Q1 2024 will surpass pre-pandemic levels. 

So, here are the top ten largest airlines in the world, ranked by annual revenue:

10. China Southern Airlines: $12.92bn

Despite recording $12.92bn revenue in 2023, China Southern Airlines actually recorded a loss of $4.81bn. One of the three major airlines in China alongside China Eastern Airlines and Air China, the Guangzhou-headquartered airline employs 100,431 staff across its operations. The airline, which has a market cap of $12.54bn, operates over 2,000 flights per day to over 200 destinations.

9. Turkish Airlines: $19.68bn

Turkey’s flag carrier is the largest mainline carrier in the world by number of destinations served, operating flights to 340 destinations across four continents. Turkish Airlines, which has a market cap of $8.88bn, posted profits of $2.79bn in 2023 and revenue of $19.68. Headquartered at Istanbul Atatürk Airport, the airline employs 40,264 staff and has been a member of the Star Alliance since 2008.

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8. Southwest Airlines: $26.09bn

Founded in 1967, Southwest Airlines recorded $26.09bn revenue in 2023 and profits of $267m. The Dallas-headquartered low-cost carrier employs 66,000 staff across its operations, which include services to 121 destinations. Southwest, which has a market cap of $17.65bn, carries more domestic passengers than any other US airline.

7. International Airlines Group: $31.94bn

International Airlines Group (IAG) is an Anglo-Spanish multinational airline holding company. Formed in 2011 after the merger of British flag carrier British Airways and Spanish flag carrier Iberia, IAG’s subsidiaries also include IAG Cargo, Aer Lingus, and Vueling. IAG, which has a market cap of $9.41bn, posted $3.79bn profits in 2023 alongside an annual turnover of $31.94bn and employs 66,044 staff.

6. Air France–KLM: $32.52bn

Air France–KLM Group is a Paris-based French holding company, created in 2004 after French flag carrier Air France merged with Dutch flag carrier KLM. The group, which has 78,950 employees, also operates the Transavia low-cost brand. Air France–KLM Group recorded $32.52bn revenue in 2023, with a $1.85bn profit, and it has a $4.12bn market cap.

5. The Emirates Group: $32.62bn

The only state-owned company on this list, The Emirates Group is a holding company that operates the UAE’s flag carrier Emirates and Emirati airport services provider Dubai National Air Travel Agency (known as dnata). The largest airline in the Middle East, Emirates operates 3,600 flights per week from its Dubai International Airport hub to over 150 cities in 80 countries. Emirates, which employs 102,379 staff, recorded profits of $3bn in 2023, with an annual revenue of $32.62bn.

4. Lufthansa Group: $35.8bn

Germany’s flag carrier Lufthansa is one of the five founding members of the Star Alliance. When combined with its multiple subsidiaries (which include the Austrian, Swiss, and Belgian flag carriers), it is the second-largest airline in Europe. Lufthansa, which has the largest fleet of aeroplanes in the world, announced a $35.8bn revenue and $940m profit in 2023. Founded in 1926, the airline has a market cap of $12.1bn and employs 109,509 staff across its operations.

3. United Airlines Holdings: $48.82bn

United Airlines Holdings is a publicly traded holding company which owns and operates US carrier United Airlines. Chicago-based United employs 92,800 staff and operates flights to all six inhabited continents and serves more destinations than any other airline. A founding member of the Star Alliance, United recorded $48.82bn revenue and $940m profit in 2023, with a market cap of $14.7bn.

2. American Airlines Group: $52.79bn

Publicly traded holding company American Airlines Group was formed in 2013 following the merger of AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines and Air Choice One; and US Airways Group, the parent company of US Airways. American employs 129,700 staff and operates 6,800 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in 48 countries, making it the airline that carries the most passengers per year. American, which has a market cap of $9.05bn, recorded profits of $822m in 2023 with a turnover of $52.79bn.

Kansas City, MO – May 9, 2020: Delta Airplanes sit in a row at Kansas City International Airport

1. Delta Air Lines: $54.67bn

Delta Air Lines is the oldest operating airline in the US and the seventh oldest in the world. Based in Atlanta, home to one of the busiest airports in the world, Delta operates over 5,400 flights daily and serves 325 destinations in 52 countries. The airline, which has the largest market cap of any airline at $21.81bn, employs 95,000 staff. Delta recorded profits of $4.6bn in 2023, with an annual turnover of $54.67bn.