Charting Trends – US majors head world's largest airline groups; IAG rises, Deutsche Lufthansa falls


They say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’.

In this new regular report CAPA provides an insight on latest industry trends, using data from its extensive databases.

Looking at latest capacity trends, fleet changes, interior innovations or latest airline and airport developments, the 'Charting Trends' report will offer a weekly observation on air travel.

This week CAPA highlights the world's largest airline groups by available seat kilometres (ASKs) in Mar-2023...

World's largest airline groups (Mar-2023, ASKs)

The data, based on OAG flight schedules for Mar-2023 and CAPA configuration information from its CAPA Fleet database, reveals that the US majors continue to dominate this metric, with Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc., and American Airlines Group Inc. holding the top three positions.

This is identical to Mar-2019, ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, albeit all three have seen their network coverage slip during the health crisis: by -6.46%, -2.12% and -3.24% respectively.

Emirates Group remains in fourth position and is the largest non-US airline group in the world by this measurement, although its Mar-2023 numbers are down almost a fifth (-17.66%) on its Mar-2019 performance.

It is now closely followed by International Airlines Group (IAG) – parent of (among others) Aer Lingus, British Airways, Iberia, LEVEL and Vueling – where a similar performance to Mar-2019 (-0.79%) has enabled it to jump above Deutsche Lufthansa AG into fifth position, and first position among Europe's airline groups.

Air France-KLM S.A. (up from seventh to sixth), with a -6.63% change in monthly ASKs, Southwest Airlines Co. (up from ninth to seventh), with a -3.33% change versus Mar-2019, and China Southern Air Holding Company (unchanged in eighth), with a -10.39% change, all also rise above Deutsche Lufthansa AG (down from fifth to ninth) – due to the latter recording a -23.78% reduction in monthly ASKs.

Turkish Airlines Group also rises in the top ten (up from #11) at the expense of Air China, with ASKs up more than a quarter (+28.08%) versus pre-pandemic.

Ryanair Holdings (#12; +25.68%), easyjet plc (#20; +0.64%) and Air India Limited (#24; +12.08%) are the only others among the world's largest 25 airline groups to report a rise in ASKs between the two months.

The strong performance of the two European LCC groups is overshadowed, though, by the rival Wizz Air Group – with the Central and Eastern European low cost specialist (now also expanding further afield) recording a +75.2% rise in ASKs in Mar-2023 versus Mar-2019 (albeit from a lower base), as it continues an aggressive expansion.

Of note also is the fall of three big names in the industry, due to a variety of factors.

Cathay Pacific Group has fallen from #15 to #27 in the ranking (-52.52% versus Mar-2019), due to China's restrictive COVID-19 policy, Aeroflot Group has slipped from #17 to #28 (-52.96% versus Mar-2019), due to sanctions related to the Ukraine war, and Etihad Aviation Group has moved from #25 to #31 (-35.66% versus Mar-2019), due to its business restructuring. 

This week's chart is taken from the CAPA - Centre for Aviation ranking tool, available to all CAPA members and the resource where users can customise search parameters via a variety of metrics.

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