Chinese Airlines Trounce US’ Delta & American Airlines To Become The World’s Largest

A Chinese airline has overtaken the US carriers Delta and American Airlines last week to become the world’s largest airline, as per the global travel data provider OAG.

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China Southern has almost managed to return to its pre-COVID levels with a scheduled capacity of 2,580,529 on 26 October, according to the report. It is only a 10% drop on pre-COVID capacity, which was 2,877,703 on 20 January.

Other Chinese airlines such as China Eastern Airlines and Air China have also managed to get close to their pre-COVID levels. Meanwhile, the major airlines across the globe have seen a drastic low in their operating capacity due to the pandemic-induced lockdown and second wave of coronavirus in some countries. 


The OAG has described the last week as being “one of the most depressing ever in the aviation industry as a series of airlines reported billion-dollar quarterly losses, with major carriers announcing large redundancy programs and more and more scheduled airlines revealed plans to cut capacity by up to 30% over the IATA (International Air Transport Association) winter season.”

The Chinese figures are in stark contrast to other aviation heavyweights, which have suffered up to a 50% drop in capacity since January 2020.

As per the OAG data, American Airlines had over 4.8 million capacity in January but has now come down to 2.4 million. The development comes as a shock since the US carriers have held the top position for as long as the aviation industry has existed. 

​The ​Chinese airline may have managed to grab the top spot by capitalizing on the global downturn in the aviation market and its demand from the domestic market remaining unfazed. As per the Centre for Aviation, the entirety of the capacity in China is its domestic market which makes up more than 95% of the total.

Whether the airline will manage to retain the top spot for long is uncertain but because of the cuts in capacity by US airlines, the Chinese airline may remain the world’s largest airline for at least the next couple of months. 

Earlier this year, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had predicted that China will eventually take over the US as the world’s largest aviation market by 2024. 

Just last week, America’s Delta Airlines was celebrating the ​achievement of becoming the world’s largest airline. Now Delta Airlines has slipped back to third place with American Airlines coming at the second spot. 

In more good news for China, which has managed to recover to the pre-COVID levels, nine of the world’s top 10 airline stocks over the past three months were Chinese. The figures indicate golden times for Chinese carriers, with over 1.4 billion Chinese eager to travel. 

However, China’s three big airlines – Air China, China Southern Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines are expected to remain unprofitable in the second half of this year as they had posted losses of more than eight billion yuan ($1.2 billion) each in the first half.