China Southern world’s third-largest airline this winter

China Southern world’s third-largest airline this winter (2)

China Southern has risen from the world’s sixth-largest carrier to third-largest.  It is one of seven Chinese airlines in the world’s top-20, up from three in winter 2019.

China Southern is the world’s third-largest airline this winter. 

It jumped three places from sixth in winter 2019, aided by 16% more seats year-on-year. 

It is also because China is seemingly returning to normal faster than most countries from being the first country afflicted by the pandemic and from its enormous domestic market. Domestic markets are, of course, rebounding faster than international.

Indeed, China’s total domestic seats are up by 35% this winter, OAG data shows.  However, the country’s international market remains a shadow of its former self, down as it is by 87%. 

Chinese airlines now account for seven of the world’s top-20 airlines, up from three last winter.  They have 40% of the top-10 spots too, double YOY.

Read more: Guangzhou’s domestic flights up by 18% YOY as routes total 123.

More widely, Asian airlines now feature 11 times in the top-20, up from five.

In all, seats provided by the top-20 carriers total almost 643 million this winter, down by 30%.

Ranking Airline Winter 2019 seats (two ways) Airline Winter 2020 seats (two ways)
1 American Airlines 109,274,517 American Airlines 71,107,058
2 Delta Air Lines 98,598,374 Delta Air Lines 69,538,116
3 Southwest 86,458,265 China Southern 58,036,493
4 United Airlines 81,643,978 United Airlines 57,343,848
5 Ryanair 53,051,166 Southwest 53,106,637
6 China Southern 49,761,777 China Eastern 50,596,704
7 China Eastern 44,386,069 Air China 37,182,139
8 IndiGo 40,500,050 IndiGo 30,503,532
9 LATAM 39,777,302 All Nippon 22,461,923
10 easyJet 36,922,204 Hainan Airlines 19,308,865
11 Turkish Airlines 34,819,981 LATAM 19,278,429
12 Lufthansa 32,990,770 Alaska Airlines 18,420,501
13 Air China 32,700,605 Ryanair 18,345,753
14 Emirates 31,146,177 Shenzhen Airlines 17,956,989
15 All Nippon 29,926,033 Xiamen Airlines 17,787,626
16 Air Canada 26,037,037 Turkish Airlines 17,728,438
17 Air France 25,445,725 Sichuan Airlines 16,556,963
18 British Airways 24,523,651 Japan Airlines 16,017,813
19 Alaska 24,294,472 Spirit 15,962,638
20 Aeroflot 22,609,672 Lion Air 15,628,069
Bold and green = risen in list or entered list; blue = remained the same YOY; red = declined in list. Source: OAG Schedules Analyser. 

China Southern rise aided by the decline of others

Of course, such development has been aided by the decline of other airlines from lockdowns, quarantines, and border closures. 

While American and Delta retain their top-two positions, Southwest, LATAM, Ryanair, and Turkish Airlines have all fallen.  But they remain in the top-20.

Multiple others, including Lufthansa, British Airways, easyJet, and Aeroflot, have all fallen out of the top-20 list completely.  Europe remains a very badly-hit region.

Interestingly, Spirit joins the table this winter, in 19th place, up from 27th last winter. 

And Alaska Airlines, which has introduced multiple new routes since coronavirus began, is now the world’s 12th largest, up from 19th, despite a one-quarter decline in capacity.  The carrier has this week announced both San Diego to New York JFK, supplementing its existing Newark service, and Los Angeles to Austin.

Of course, most of this shuffling about is only temporary, although each region and country will take very different times to recover.  There will be many bumps on the road to recovery, but it absolutely will happen. 

China Southern world’s third-largest airline this winter (2)

Although this screenshot was taken at nearly 2100 in China, so perhaps not a terribly fair time, it is nonetheless indicative. Chinese airlines now account for seven of the top-20 largest airlines globally by total seats. Source: Flightradar24.


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