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United ends 2012 as world's biggest airline, Emirates third. Turkish and Lion Air the biggest movers

31st December, 2012

United Airlines, following its merger with Continental, has ended 2012 as the world's biggest airline measured by available seat kilometres for the current week, ahead of second placed Delta, whose capacity fell 0.3% year on year, according to Innovata. Fast growing Dubai-based carrier Emirates is the world's third biggest airline by this measure, and could be in second place by the end of 2013 if the past year's growth rates are maintained.

Southwest Airlines remains easily the largest LCC, while Lion Air and Jetstar have each climbed the LCC top 10, to sixth and seventh places respectively, overtaking Westjet. Atlanta Airport (just) remains the world's largest, ahead of Beijing Capital Airport, in terms of seat throughput for the week, but this ranking seems certain to reverse in 2013.

The biggest movers in the overall World Top 50 list include Turkish Airlines, which jumped seven places to rank 15th globally, while Indonesian carrier Lion Air vaulted eight places to enter the global Top 40 for the first time. Iberia and India's Jet Airways fell four and seven places in the 2012 rankings, respectively.

Global Airline Alliances collectively grew capacity at higher than the world rate, with SkyTeam expanding fastest of the three majors, although Star Alliance remains easily the largest.

World's top 50 airlines by capacity (ASKs per week): Dec-2012 vs Dec-2011**

 Airline  Dec-11  Dec-12  % change Global rank Ranking
Dec-11 Dec-12 Variance
United Airlines* 3,676,173,972 6,149,398,758 67.3% 4 1 +3
Delta Air Lines 5,659,984,201 5,643,676,049 -0.3% 1 2 -1
Emirates 4,217,428,241 4,992,911,535 18.4% 3 3 -
American Airlines 4,740,187,417 4,800,884,481 1.3% 2 4 -2
Southwest Airlines 3,052,855,291 3,276,525,770 7.3% 6 5 1
Lufthansa 3,232,470,602 3,158,824,795 -2.3% 5 6 -1
British Airways 2,969,790,657 3,049,528,888 2.7% 7 7 -
Air France 2,947,863,927 2,825,526,843 -4.2% 8 8 -
China Southern 2,338,943,535 2,596,677,741 11.0% 10 9 +1
Singapore Airlines 2,284,561,770 2,375,715,435 4.0% 11 10 +1
Cathay Pacific 2,518,689,815 2,311,927,122 -8.2% 9 11 -2
Air China 1,975,786,807 2,193,529,512 11.0% 13 12 +1
US Airways 2,148,315,118 2,016,797,120 -6.1% 12 13 -1
China Eastern 1,802,997,303 1,987,445,996 10.2% 15 14 +1
Turkish Airlines 1,546,786,987 1,918,119,411 24.0% 22 15 +7
Qantas Airways 1,967,029,665 1,863,468,681 -5.3% 14 16 -2
Qatar Airways 1,653,642,624 1,798,311,481 8.7% 19 17 +2
KLM 1,743,421,204 1,785,622,278 2.4% 16 18 -2
Korean Air Lines 1,699,049,358 1,734,522,605 2.1% 17 19 -2
Thai Airways 1,601,385,091 1,702,802,250 6.3% 20 20 -
Air Canada 1,698,644,091 1,671,164,061 -1.6% 18 21 -3
All Nippon Airways 1,246,645,650 1,549,773,945 24.3% 25 22 +3
TAM 1,484,265,530 1,494,027,291 0.7% 23 23 -
Ryanair 1,590,511,473 1,476,213,184 -7.2% 21 24 -3
Japan Airlines 1,392,363,846 1,375,619,611 -1.2% 24 25 -1
JetBlue Airways 1,189,448,769 1,214,788,293 2.1% 27 26 +1
Aeroflot 1,032,936,073 1,197,672,318 15.9% 29 27 +2
Etihad Airways 989,471,343 1,135,831,421 14.8% 32 28 +4
easyJet 1,056,070,278 1,124,069,015 6.4% 28 29 -1
Iberia 1,197,798,613 1,046,122,223 -12.7% 26 30 -4
Malaysia Airlines 1,020,187,141 1,039,171,244 1.9% 30 31 -1
Virgin Atlantic 974,968,392 1,005,248,585 3.1% 33 32 1
Gol 1,007,352,569 913,465,718 -9.3% 31 33 -2
Asiana Airlines 801,526,420 876,324,179 9.3% 36 34 2
Air India 897,084,182 869,253,552 -3.1% 34 35 -1
Alaska Airlines 807,036,820 866,811,809 7.4% 35 36 -1
Saudi Arabian 797,784,368 859,673,901 7.8% 37 37 -
China Airlines 797,010,713 824,521,813 3.5% 38 38 -
Lion Airlines  602,332,879 810,548,478 34.6% 47 39 +8
Hainan Airlines 756,248,033 789,659,041 4.4% 40 40 -
SWISS 735,342,198 768,204,291 4.5% 41 41 -
Jetstar Airways  627,376,629 732,129,754 16.7% 46 42 +4
Air New Zealand 727,101,490 710,174,817 -2.3% 42 43 -1
Westjet 677,374,415 703,526,653 3.9% 45 44 +1
Alitalia 713,564,199 702,771,404 -1.5% 43 45 -2
Jet Airways 766,255,713 682,168,104 -11.0% 39 46 -7
Transaero Airlines 590,637,778 681,909,360 15.5% - 47 n/a
Air Berlin 704,680,454 678,119,686 -3.8% 44 48 -4
Virgin Australia 563,988,380 667,351,376 18.3% - 49 n/a
EVA Air 600,022,403 661,811,048 10.3% - 50 n/a
GRAND TOTAL  81,823,394,427       87,310,342,925 6.7%      

Southwest still the world's biggest LCC, but Vueling, IndiGo and Lion the fastest growing

Southwest Airlines remains the world's biggest LCC and has widened the gap to second placed Ryanair thanks to the latter's marked reduction in capacity this winter. Adding in AirTran's capacity would push Southwest even further ahead.

The Top Five LCC rankings remain unchanged, but big moves have occurred further down the list. India's IndiGo and US-based Spirit continue to rise up the board, while AirAsia X has dropped back as it redirected capacity from long-haul European sectors to shorter Asian routes.

Europe's Vueling has grown a remarkable 40% measured in ASKs, with IndiGo and Lion Air each expanding 35%.

Top 25 LCCs worldwide by capacity (ASKs per week): Dec-2012 vs Dec-2011

 Airline  Dec-11  Dec-12  % Change Global rank Ranking
Dec-11 Dec-12 Variance
Southwest Airlines 3,052,855,291 3,276,525,770 7.3% 1 1 -
Ryanair 1,590,511,473 1,476,213,184 -7.2% 2 2 -
JetBlue Airways 1,189,448,769 1,214,788,293 2.1% 3 3 -
easyJet 1,056,070,278 1,124,069,015 6.4% 4 4 -
Gol 1,007,352,569 913,465,718 -9.3% 5 5 -
Lion Airlines 602,332,879 810,548,478 34.6% 9 6 +3
Jetstar Airways 627,376,629 732,129,754 16.7% 8 7 +1
Westjet 677,374,415 703,526,653 3.9% 7 8 -1
AirTran Airways 704,027,357 593,301,841 -15.7% 6 9 -3
AirAsia Berhad 514,497,106 592,750,621 15.2% 10 10 -
Indigo 363,580,357 489,547,961 34.6% 14 11 +3
Norwegian 376,017,532 460,529,531 22.5% 12 12 -
Condor 408,981,174 400,293,763 -2.1% 11 13 -2
Virgin America 350,169,261 387,519,726 10.7% 16 14 +2
Spirit Airlines 297,900,830 373,126,368 25.3% 19 15 +4
Volaris 305,039,639 348,697,350 14.3% 18 16 +2
Frontier Airlines 363,405,399 330,101,798 -9.2% 15 17 -2
Wizz Air 314,854,410 330,075,746 4.8% 17 18 -1
SpiceJet 270,033,409 313,233,746 16.0% 20 19 +1
AirAsia X Sdn. Bhd. 367,668,226 306,214,544 -16.7% 13 20 -7
Cebu Pacific Air 262,579,589 285,040,540 8.6% 21 21 -
Air Arabia 247,294,792 275,508,189 11.4% 23 22 +1
Pegasus 247,563,308 268,113,218 8.3% 22 23 -1
Vueling Airlines 175,838,664 246,848,248 40.4% 24 24 -
Allegiant Air 173,834,741 217,749,960 25.3% 25 25 -
GRAND TOTAL  15,546,608,096     16,469,920,012 5.9%      

The big get bigger, as the Top 50 airlines double the total growth rate, as capacity is added cautiously

Overall, the world's airlines are adding capacity cautiously, reflecting weak global economic conditions. According to Innovata, overall seating capacity is up approximately 3.2% year-on-year, with the number of flights rising just 0.4% and ASKs rising about 3%.

The Top 50 carriers are, as a group, adding capacity at more than twice the rate of the industry combined.

Worldwide capacity: Dec-2011 vs Dec-2012*

  Dec-2011 Dec-2012 % change
Grand Total Flights per Week 571,757 574,210 0.4%
Grand Total Seats per Week 72,647,903 74,960,633 3.2%
Grand Total ASKs per Week 125,720,984,416 129,461,649,199 3.0%

Members of the world's global alliances are expanding capacity ahead of the global average, allowing the groupings to claw back share from the LCCs and unaligned carriers. According to Innovata, LCCs currently have a 22.3% share of global capacity (seats).

This is partly due to the addition of new members, but that does not account for the full expansion. SkyTeam has grown its market share at a greater rate on all measures than the still much bigger Star Alliance.

LCC vs Unaligned vs Alliances capacity and capacity shares (% of flights, seats and ASKs): Dec-2011 vs Dec-2012*

          % of Totals  
Alliance   Dec-11 Dec-12 % Change Dec-11 Dec-12 Variance
oneworld Flights per Week 56,246 60,019 6.7% 9.8% 10.5% 0.6%
  Seats per Week 7,903,764 8,532,194 8.0% 10.9% 11.4% 0.5%
  ASKs per Week 17,992,906,169 18,616,703,665 3.5% 14.3% 14.4% 0.1%
SkyTeam Alliance Flights per Week 88,271 97,130 10.0% 15.4% 16.9% 1.5%
  Seats per Week 11,654,726 13,137,996 12.7% 16.0% 17.5% 1.5%
  ASKs per Week 22,046,322,002   24,293,888,517 10.2% 17.5% 18.8% 1.2%
Star Alliance Flights per Week 140,825 148,010 5.1% 24.6% 25.8% 1.1%
  Seats per Week 17,162,375 18,430,756 7.4% 23.6% 24.6% 1.0%
  ASKs per Week 32,634,023,803 34,677,013,562 6.3% 26.0% 26.8% 0.8%
Low Cost Carriers Flights per Week 112,199 108,814 -3.0% 19.6% 19.0% -0.7%
  Seats per Week 16,656,834 16,739,379 0.5% 22.9% 22.3% -0.6%
  ASKs per Week 20,027,733,542 19,969,692,726 -0.3% 15.9% 15.4% -0.5%
Un-Aligned carriers Flights per Week 174,216 160,237 -8.0% 30.5% 27.9% -2.6%
  Seats per Week 19,270,204 18,120,308 -6.0% 26.5% 24.2% -2.4%
  ASKs per Week 33,019,998,900 31,904,350,729 -3.4% 26.3% 24.6% -1.6%

Atlanta Airport still the world's biggest – just! – as Beijing closes rapidly

Atlanta has seen out 2012 as the world's busiest airport, but it looks set to lose that title to Beijing Capital Airport in 2013. Singapore Changi Airport has entered the Top 10 by seats per week, helped in no small part by the growth in LCC operations. 30% of all airline seats in Singapore are on LCCs, with Tiger Airways, Jetstar and AirAsia three of the five biggest. The airport this week has announced it registered more than 50 million passenger movements for the year, just two years after crossing the 40-million milestone in 2010. Dubai Airport meanwhile has surged into fifth place on the world rankings as measured by total seats this week.

Top 50 Airports, ranked by seats per week*

Rank Airport Total Seats
1 ATL Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport 1,927,531
2 PEK Beijing Capital International Airport 1,918,574
3 HND Tokyo Haneda Airport 1,813,291
4 LHR London Heathrow Airport 1,668,272
5 DXB Dubai International Airport 1,587,901
6 LAX Los Angeles International Airport 1,442,395
7 HKG Hong Kong International Airport 1,435,824
8 CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport 1,428,587
9 ORD Chicago O'Hare International Airport 1,390,176
10 SIN Singapore Changi Airport 1,388,096
11 CDG Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport 1,374,546
12 DFW Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport 1,357,687
13 BKK Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International 1,184,100
14 FRA Frankfurt Airport 1,173,033
15 JFK New York John F Kennedy International Airport 1,166,772
16 CAN Guangzhou Baiyun Airport 1,161,996
17 DEN Denver International Airport 1,144,936
18 KUL Kuala Lumpur International Airport 1,111,481
19 PVG Shanghai Pudong Airport 1,091,377
20 IST Istanbul Ataturk Airport 1,075,389
21 CLT Charlotte Douglas Airport 999,452
22 ICN Seoul Incheon International Airport 986,851
23 PHX Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport 979,012
24 MIA Miami International Airport 966,980
25 SFO San Francisco International Airport 950,316
26 SYD Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport 934,711
27 AMS Amsterdam Airport Schiphol 934,284
28 DEL Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport 906,331
29 IAH Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport 904,217
30 MAD Madrid Barajas Airport 898,417
31 LAS Las Vegas McCarran International Airport 877,116
32 NRT Tokyo Narita Airport 873,223
33 BOM Mumbai Airport 832,731
34 MNL Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport 829,348
35 YYZ Toronto Pearson International Airport 822,634
36 MCO Orlando International Airport 811,787
37 GRU Sao Paulo Guarulhos International Airport 789,362
38 EWR New York Newark Liberty International Airport 777,024
39 SHA Shanghai Hongqiao Airport 775,566
40 FCO Rome Fiumicino Airport 775,156
41 TPE Taipei Taoyuan International Airport 750,297
42 PHL Philadelphia International Airport 742,838
43 KMG Kunming Airport 742,209
44 MEL Melbourne Tullamarine Airport 723,837
45 SZX Shenzhen Airport 714,341
46 MUC Munich Airport 704,522
47 MEX Mexico City Juarez International Airport 703,654
48 SEA Seattle/Tacoma International Airport 692,548
49 CTU Chengdu Airport 652,594
50 BCN Barcelona El Prat Airport 638,575

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