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Which Airlines Have The Largest Fleets?





When it comes to measuring airline size, its aircraft fleet is a common metric used. However, considering the last year of aircraft retirements and fleet restructuring, many airlines are smaller than before. So which airlines have the largest fleets?

American Airlines
US airlines dominate the list of largest carriers in the world by a long shot. Photo: Getty Images

When looking at the top 10 largest airline fleets globally, American and Chinese airlines dominate the list. Between them, they occupy nine spots on the list, with little competition from anyone else. Let’s find out which airlines make it to the top. Data in this article is courtesy of

American Airlines

When it comes to who has the most planes, American retains its spot as the largest airline in the world by fleet size. The Fort Worth-based carrier operates 891 aircraft in total, divided into 112 widebodies and 779 narrowbodies. The most popular plane in the fleet is undoubtedly the Boeing 737-800, of which American flies 303 currently.

American Airlines 777
American’s fleet count excludes any subsidiary airlines such as American Eagle. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

On the Airbus side, American operates 133 A319s, 47 A320s, and 247 A321s, with no widebodies. American operates a far larger Boeing fleet, with 343 737s (including 40 MAXs), 67 777s, and 45 787s. Expect this number to continue growing as the airline takes delivery of new aircraft like the 737 MAX, 787, and A321neo.


Right on American’s toes is rival United. The Chicago-based carrier currently operates 828 aircraft, split into 210 widebodies and 618 narrowbodies. The most popular aircraft in the fleet is the Boeing 737-800, of which United flies 141 currently. United is also notable as one of the few American carriers to grow its fleet in 2020 instead of shrinking.

United 777-300ER
United operates far more widebodies than American and is on track to continue growing its fleet in 2021. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

United currently operates 54 A319s and 96 A320s, which means Airbus accounts for under 20% of the fleet. Meanwhile, United flies 61 Boeing 757s, 54 767s, 96 777s, and 60 787s, making it a loyal Boeing customer for now.



Not far behind the competition, Delta comes in as the third-largest airline fleet. The Atlanta-based carrier operates 768 aircraft, divided into 121 widebodies and 647 narrowbodies. Even with strong ties to Airbus, Delta’s most popular aircraft is the Boeing 737-900ER, of which it flies 130.

Delta A350
Delta is an outlier among the ‘Big Four’ for having a nearly equal split among Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Delta certainly has a more diverse fleet compared to its competitors. On the Airbus side, Delta flies 46 A220s, 57 A319s, 54 A320s, 111 A321s, 50 A330s, and 15 A350s. With Boeing, the carrier flies 45 717s, 207 737s, 127 757s, and 56 767s.


The fleet is currently split between 56% Boeing planes and 44% Airbus aircraft. However, recent retirements (such as of the 777) and considering Delta only has Airbus planes on order currently means the balance could tilt towards the European manufacturer soon.


Rounding off the ‘Big Four’ US airlines is the world’s largest low-cost airline, Southwest. The carrier operates a fleet of 736 aircraft, exclusively made up of the Boeing 737 family. This makes the airline the largest 737 operator globally by a significant margin.

Southwest Boeing 737
Southwest’s decision to have a uniform fleet has become a template for low-cost carriers around the world. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Southwest’s fleet is dominated by the 737-700, of which it flies 474. In addition to the -700, the carrier also flies 207 -800s and 55 MAX 8s. However, this long history of Boeing exclusivity could be coming to an end as Southwest considers ordering the Airbus A220 to replace the aging 737-700 fleet.


China Southern

Not far behind the US giants is China’s largest airline: China Southern. The Guangzhou-based carrier operates 620 aircraft, divided into 110 widebodies and 510 narrowbodies. The most popular aircraft in the fleet is the Boeing 737-800, of which the airline operates 163.

China Southern 787
China Southern briefly became the largest airline in the world by capacity last year due to the pandemic. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

China Southern’s fleet tilts towards Airbus ever so slightly, with the carrier flying nine A319s, 142 A320s, 143 A321s, 41 A330s, eight A350s, and five A380s. On the Boeing side, the carrier operates 213 737s (including 24 grounded MAXs), two 747s, 29 777s, and 25 787s. China Southern also operates three COMAC ARJ21s and will operate the C919 in the coming year or two.

China Eastern

Number six on the list is China Eastern, the country’s second-largest airline. The Shanghai-based carrier operates 577 aircraft, consisting of 86 widebodies and 491 narrowbodies. The most popular aircraft in the fleet is the Airbus A320-200, with 178 aircraft and making it the first airline on the list to not feature the 737 in this spot.


China Eastern Airlines 777-300ER
China Eastern is the second biggest airline in the hyper-competitive Chinese market. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

On the Airbus side, China Eastern operates 35 A319s, 227 A320s, 77 A321s, 55 A330s, and eight A350s. With Boeing, the carrier operates 152 737s (including three MAXs), 20 777s, and three 787s currently. The fleet clearly favors Airbus, with nearly 70% of aircraft from the European manufacturer, and has been boosted by China’s continued grounding of the 737 MAX.


While you may have been familiar with all the airlines on the list above, SkyWest might stand out as an odd airline for this list. The St. George-based airline doesn’t operate many aircraft under its own livery but rather operates regional routes on behalf of Alaska, Delta, American, and United. The airline operates a fleet of 564 aircraft, consisting exclusively of regional jets.

SkyWest aircraft Getty
SkyWest operates regional routes for large airlines under familiar names like United Express or American Eagle and generally carries their livery. Photo: Getty Images

SkyWest is the largest operator of regional jets globally, consisting of Bombardier CRJ and Embraer ERJ jets. The carrier currently flies 211 CRJ-100s, 116 CRJ-700s, 44 CRJ-900s, along with 193 ERJ-170s. Next time you’re on a regional jet in the US, check to see if it’s operated by SkyWest!


The only non-American or Chinese airline on this list is Irish low-cost giant Ryanair. The Dublin-based carrier operates 452 aircraft, consisting almost exclusively of the Boeing 737 family (one subsidiary operates the A320).

Ryanair Boeing 737
Ryanair is another exclusive operator of the Boeing 737 and was reportedly influenced by Southwest’s business model. Photo: Getty Images

Ryanair’s fleet is split up among several subsidiaries across Europe, such as Lauda Europe and Ryanair Sun. The carrier operates 423 Boeing 737s, consisting of 422 -800s and one -700, along with 29 Airbus A320s (all flown by Lauda Europe).


The only cargo airline to crack the list of largest airline fleets is FedEx. The Memphis-based cargo giant operates a fleet of 458 aircraft, consisting of 284 widebodies, 129 narrowbodies, and 45 turboprops. The airline follows a hub-based model, with one “SuperHub” in Memphis and several small hubs around the world.

FedEx MD-11F
FedEx is the world’s largest cargo airline by fleet size and volume. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

FedEx has a unique fleet of Airbus, Boeing, ATR, and McDonnell Douglas aircraft, some of which were retired years ago by passenger airlines. The carrier currently operates 23 ATR 42s, 22 ATR 72s, 66 A300s, 10 737s, 119 757s, 97 767s, 46 777s, 16 DC-10s, and 59 MD-11s.

Air China

Flag carrier Air China rounds off the list of the largest airline fleet. The Beijing-based carrier operates 440 aircraft, consisting of 123 widebodies and 317 narrowbodies. The most popular plane in the fleet is the Boeing 737-800, of which the airline flies 100.

Air China 777-300ER
Air China is the largest Boeing 747 operator in China and even uses some for VIP transport. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Similar to its competitors, Air China’s fleet also has slightly more Airbus jets in its fleet. The carrier operates 33 A319s, 75 A320s, 71 A321s, 58 A330s, and 13 A350s. On the Boeing side, Air China operates 134 737s, 10 747s (including seven -8Is), 28 777s, and 14 787s.

Which of these airlines have you flown? Which carrier could grow to become the busiest in the future? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Wow: Virgin Australia Sells 71,000 Domestic Tickets In 24 Hours





Virgin Australia experienced one of its busiest days of domestic ticket sales in 20 years just after the Australian government’s A$1.2 billion (US$920 million) stimulus package went into effect. The enthusiasm was sparked by half-price flights offered on subsidized routes, which included flights to the Gold Coast from the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, among others.

Like other Australian carriers, Virgin Australia’s flight operations have been severely limited over the past year. Photo: Getty Images

71,000 tickets sold in 24 hours

Within the span of a full day, Virgin Australia sold enough tickets to completely fill over 400 of its Boeing 737-800s (which have 176 seats each). The hottest tickets were for subsidized routes, for which the airline halved its standard prices.

Swept up in the momentum and also experiencing large jumps in ticket purchases were other ‘full-price’ routes, which included Melbourne-Perth, Perth-Sydney, and Melbourne-Sydney.

“The overwhelming response from Australians demonstrates loud and clear that they are ready to get back in the air and travel and are a positive sign for the aviation and tourism sectors as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” -Virgin Australia statement via

While Virgin Australia had the record-breaking day, The Islander reports that the country’s other airlines saw spikes in web searches during the same period. Searches for “Qantas”, “Jetstar,” and “Virgin” sharply increased from around midnight Thursday and spiking again at 06:00 Australian Eastern Daylight Time.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia will benefit from the Australian government’s stimulus package. Photo: Simon_sees via Flickr 

The Australian government’s stimulus package

Announced in early March, the government support package includes A$200 million (US$152.6 million) for Qantas and Virgin Australia. Reuters notes that this funding will support the airlines from April to October, with the intent to help maintain mothballed aircraft as well as bring planes out of storage and support wages for international flying staff.

Another major part of the scheme, and the main reason for this story, is the government subsidization of 13 routes. Subsidization has meant that eligible airlines can offer half-price tickets. The impetus for the deal was to support airlines while encouraging domestic tourism at a time when international tourism has been hard hit. According to The Guardian, the routes are as follows:


  • Sydney: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Proserpine, Hamilton Island, Maroochydore, Uluru, Alice Springs, Launceston, Broome, and Avalon.
  • Melbourne: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, Uluru, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie, Broome, and Merimbula.
  • Adelaide: flights to the Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, and Kangaroo Island.
  • Brisbane: flights to Alice Springs, Uluru, and Launceston.
  • Darwin: flights to Cairns and Broome.
  • Perth: flights to Alice Springs.
  • Avalon: flights to the Gold Coast

The half-price fares were made available on April 1st and will continue to be offered until the end of July.

Having recently divested itself of its widebody Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s, Virgin Australia’s fleet is now completely comprised of Boeing 737s. Photo: Aero_Icarus via Flickr 

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

One key concern when it comes to domestic flight bookings is the ever-present risk of interstate border closures in the event of an outbreak during this global health crisis. While it’s hard to resist a good deal, it’s also wise to consider the possibility of such unwelcomed restrictions. Having flight bookings with flexible re-booking and cancelation policies will help greatly if such restrictions arise.


Were you a lucky Australian resident who managed to secure a half-priced flight? Or did you try and miss out? Share your experience with us in the comments.

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US Congressmen Call On DOT To Deny Norse Atlantic Airways Permits





The Chair of the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Peter DeFazio, and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation, Rick Larsen, have called on the US Department of Transportation (DOT) to deny permits for Norse Atlantic Airways to fly to the United States, citing concerns about the airline.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Takes First Test Flight
Norse Atlantic wants to fly to the US with Boeing 787s, but it has ruffled some feathers. Photo: Getty Images

Members of Congress on Norse Atlantic Airways

Rep. DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon, and Rep. Larsen, a Democrat from Washington State, have called on the DOT to deny Norse Atlantic Airways Operating permits on account that it is flouting labor protections.

Drawing on earlier language indicating opposition to the airline, Reps. DeFazio and Larsen have argued that, by organizing itself in a country outside of Norway, where there are strong labor laws, the airline is seeking to flout those laws.

Norwegian selling two 787s to Neos Air
Norwegian also used subsidiaries in other countries, which is a concern highlighted in the letter. Photo: Getty Images

Drawing strong comparisons with Norwegian

The two Congressmen believe the airline is doing this because one of its executives was a former executive at Norwegian, which used Irish and UK subsidiaries to operate long-haul low-cost flights between the US and Europe.

In the letter, the Congressman stated the following:

“Their long-haul low-cost business model was predicated on the use of pilots and flight attendants employed under short-term contracts and assigned to the Norwegian subsidiaries via third-party crew sourcing firms. In short, Norwegian exploited labor while enjoying the liberalized benefits of the U.S.-E.U.-Iceland-Norway open skies agreement and competing unfairly with airlines that do not subvert fair labor standards.”

Norwegian 787
Norwegian recently announced it would be ending long-haul operations. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Using Norwegian as a warning

The letter also urged the DOT to consider that Norwegian failed in its transatlantic operations. Between 2016 and 2019, the letter states that Norwegian incurred debt of nearly $7 billion.


Norwegian is currently under bankruptcy proceedings in Europe and has decided to shut down its long-haul routes and focus on its flights within Europe.

Norwegian made a huge splash when it started transatlantic operations in 2016 between the US and Europe. Using a fleet of mostly Boeing 787 aircraft, the airline brought large numbers of customers across the pond.


Norse Atlantic Airways has already indicated it will operate a similar model, using Boeing 787 aircraft it has signed leases for.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The Dreamliner is an efficient long-haul aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

US airlines breathed a sigh of relief

When Norwegian came into the transatlantic market, it followed its initial routes with plenty of growth. That growth put pressure on US airlines.

Now, without Norwegian in the market, airlines are breathing a sigh of relief. Without that low-cost competition in the market, airlines like United are bullish on their international exposure. Without Norwegian in the market, there is also room for plenty of existing airlines to move toward higher-yield transatlantic operations.

Norwegian 787
Norse will need to do what Norwegian could not: make long-haul operations profitable. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The return of transatlantic demand will depend greatly on the removal of travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Most airlines are focused on cargo with low passenger loads on flights to Europe currently. Only essential travel is permitted between the two areas.

Norse Atlantic is a startup to watch. It has the opportunity to massively grow to the size of Norwegian’s long-haul operations before it shut down, but doing so may come at a high cost and low profitability. It will have to make the long-haul low-cost model work to be successful.

For now, it is a waiting game to see how the DOT will respond to Norse Atlantic. US Congressmen are coming down on the side of the US airline industry, but the DOT may end up granting Norse Atlantic operating permission.

Do you think Norse Atlantic Airways should be allowed to operate between the US and Europe? Let us know in the comments!

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Frontier Launches IPO – How Can The Airline Benefit?





American ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC) Frontier Airlines has officially gone public. Pricing out at the lower end of its target share price, the airline is still expecting to raise over $200 million from the endeavor. Here is a look at how that could benefit the airline.

Frontier Airbus A320
Frontier Airlines is set to benefit from its IPO. Photo: Frontier Airlines

Frontier’s initial public offering pricing

Frontier Airlines announced its initial public offering of 30 million shares at a price of $19 per share. This was toward the lower end of the initial pricing for Frontier’s shares. The share consists of 15 million shares of commons tock offered by Frontier and 15 million shares of common stock to be sold by certain of Frontier’s existing stockholders.

Less the underwriting discount, commissions, and estimated offering expenses, Frontier will net proceeds of approximately $266 million. The sale of stock by the existing stakeholders will not raise Frontier cash. Overall, the net proceeds to both Frontier and the private stakeholders is expected to be over $500 million.

Frontier IPO
Frontier is now trading on the stock market. Photo: Frontier Airlines

The airline is being traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the ticker “ULCC.” Since going public, the airline’s stock price has hovered between $18 and $19 a share.

The net proceeds

The amount that Frontier expects to receive is around $266 million. This is a respectable amount similar to the funding another airline IPO, Sun Country, received.

With $266 million, the airline can do plenty of things. Frontier ended 2020 with long-term debt of over $300 million. The airline can choose to pay down some of its high-cost debt with these proceeds. Or else, the money can be used to fuel expansion. The airline sees plenty of growth opportunities and has a sizable aircraft order book which costs money, and this funding can go a long way.


Frontier A320
There is a lot Frontier can do with this money. Photo: Frontier Airlines

The current state at Frontier

Frontier Airlines is one of the carriers leading the way with capacity increases through the year. The airline’s top stations are Denver, Orlando, and Las Vegas. These are major leisure travel hotspots, but some of them also provide opportunities for Frontier to sell connecting flights.

Frontier serves over 300 nonstop routes touching around 110 airports. Using a low-frequency model, the airline targets mostly point-to-point leisure travelers.


Frontier also sees plenty of room for growth. In the airline’s initial filing for an IPO, the carrier highlighted it had an opportunity to serve 518 additional domestic routes between airports within its existing network not currently served by a ULCC. This is a fascinating number, but it also raises the question of Frontier’s expansion.

Frontier AIrcraft
Frontier is a ULCC that generally operates on a low-frequency, point-to-point model. Photo: Getty Images

In the past, Frontier has not been very hesitant in terms of adding new cities and then cutting them if those flights do not provide the anticipated financial benefits. Moving forward, Frontier will face shareholders and stockholders that may temper some of those ambitions, but the carrier is still expected to add new routes. This is especially true as signs continue to point toward a summer surge, and the CDC outlines guidelines for vaccinated Americans to travel.

The airline is already making moves to become a more modern, fuel-efficient carrier with an eye on costs. The aging and comparatively expensive Airbus A319s will exit the fleet this year as the airline welcomes newer Airbus A320neo family aircraft. Those new jets will also feature lighter-weight seats that will save on fuel, which in turn saves on Frontier’s costs.

Frontier A320neo
Frontier has started taking delivery of aircraft with new seats inside. Photo: Frontier Airlines

Ultimately, Frontier has set itself up to do well in the future. The net proceeds from this IPO will go a long way in getting Frontier the cash influx it needs to survive the next few months and prepare to handle the increase in passengers expected over the summer. As the US airline industry starts to turn the page on the crisis, Frontier is expected to be one carrier that benefits early on from its mostly domestic and short-haul international leisure-oriented model.

Do you think Frontier made the right decision by launching an IPO? Let us know in the comments!

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Cheap ticket deal breaks Virgin’s all-time record, despite lockdown




Virgin Australia 737-8FE(WL) Brisbane Airport VH-YIB
‘Trinity Beach’ arriving into Brisbane Airport as ‘VA957’ in some windy and overcast conditions. 1/10th sec pan for those who are interested.

Virgin sold more domestic tickets on the launch day of the government’s half-price ticket scheme than on any 24-hour period in its history.

The result came despite fears Brisbane’s recent snap lockdown, which ended on Thursday, would put people off interstate travel.

Domestic aviation has been pinning its recovery hopes on the federal government’s plan to supplement 800,000 half-price airfares for passengers to 15 destinations including the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island. It follows the end of JobKeeper last week.

Virgin said in a statement it sold 71,000 supplemented seats in the 24-hour period from 12:01am on 1 April. The top five routes were:

  • Melbourne to Gold Coast
  • Gold Coast to Sydney
  • Maroochydore to Melbourne
  • Cairns to Sydney
  • Adelaide to Melbourne

Destinations not in the scheme also received a “significant boost”, in particular, Melbourne to Perth, Perth to Sydney and Melbourne to Sydney.

“The overwhelming response from Australians demonstrates loud and clear that they are ready to get back in the air and travel and are a positive sign for the aviation and tourism sectors as they look to recover from the impacts of COVID-19,” said the business in a statement.

“As a sign of renewed confidence and pent-up travel demand for travel, more than 85 per cent of the new bookings have been booked for travel from May onwards.”


Skyscanner also said direct interest in booking on Thursday were 25 per cent higher than the week prior, while web searches for “Qantas”, “Jetstar” and “Virgin” also leapt six-fold.

Greater Brisbane lifted its snap lockdown on Thursday at noon, following the state recording just one new case of community transmission.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk did though announce a slight increase in restrictions, which will require residents to wear masks indoors and a limit of indoor gatherings to 30.

The good news came shortly before NSW announced no new local infections across the state, too.

The half-price ticket scheme saw Virgin announcing fares from just $55 between Melbourne-Launceston and Jetstar offering tickets from just $32 between Adelaide and Avalon.

The updated list of destinations now includes Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.

The fares are on sale until the end of July for travel until the end of September, with discounts applied automatically.

Both airline groups have also topped up the 15 locations with sales to other destinations and also extended fare flexibility in light of recent uncertainty.

The package of measures to support aviation in Australia also includes a new wage subsidy for those working in international aviation; cheap loans to small business coming off JobKeeper; and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.

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