Every year since 1956, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) has published its ranking of the largest airlines in the world ; however depending on the selected criteria, results differ, because there are several ways of ranking the size of a carrier: the number of aircraft in its fleet, the total number of passengers on the international and domestic networks, or the number of passenger / kilometres carried –- ‘‘R.P.K. : Revenue passenger kilometres’’ in the jargon.
Chris Goater, Corporate Communications Manager - IATA :
"We believe that this criterion is the most representative as it takes into account the distance travelled. You can actually have a short-haul airline carrying a large number of passengers but it will not necessarily give you an idea of ??its range, its network, how far it can take passengers or the importance of its international connections."
For the number of passenger / kilometres transported : Emirates, United Airlines and Lufthansa were the three largest companies last year with over 200 million R.P.K. for the Dubai company.
If we now take a closer look at the overall number of passengers carried in 2013, the situation changes. Delta Air Lines outperformed Southwest Airlines by a short head with 120 million customers embarked, as against 115 for the low-cost airline. China Southern Airlines was third. A ranking that is mainly due to the size of the American and Chinese domestic networks, whose international traffic accounts for less than 10% of their activity.
Finally, as for the number of aircraft, Delta Air Lines, with 743, is undoubtedly in first place, followed by United Airlines and Federal Express. Emirates, lags far behind at present, with only 212, however, the Dubai company possesses the most long-haul aircraft, which make up its entire fleet. A position that will continue to strengthen in the coming years, since Emirates still has nearly 300 Boeing 777-X’s and Airbus A-380’s on order.