For the past several years American has been the world’s largest airline by most metrics. That title went from Delta to United to American:
- When Delta merged with Northwest, they became the world’s largest airline
- When United merged with Continental, they became the world’s largest airline
- When American merged with US Airways, they became the world’s largest airline
Suffice to say that bigger isn’t always better. That being said, American does love mentioning how they’re the world’s biggest airline. For example, the inflight credit card pitch from flight attendants starts with “American and US Airways have merged to form the world’s largest airline.”
Well, as it turns out, that’s no longer the case… at least not as consistently as it used to be.
As noted by Edward Russell, using the most important metrics, Delta or United are now the world’s largest airline, depending on which metric you want to use. At least that’s the case based on results in the second quarter of 2019:
- In terms of revenue, Delta is the largest airline, followed by American, followed by United
- In terms of available seat miles, United is the largest airline, followed by American, followed by Delta
Now, there are some metrics by which American is still the largest:
- In terms of number of employees, American has the most, followed by United, followed by Delta (which is just to say that they aren’t very efficient)
- In terms of mainline fleet size, American has the largest fleet, followed by Delta, followed by United
Historically the metric of largest airline has generally been based on either available seat miles or revenue, and in those areas American is no longer the biggest.
It will be interesting to see how these numbers evolve over the coming years, accounting for the different strategies the “big three” US airlines are taking with taking delivery of new planes, retiring old planes, and more.