Everything must come to an end, and quite a few airlines from around the globe had to face their own demise last year. While most of them boasted years of service, a few on this list are projects that unfortunately never came to fruition, meaning they never had the chance to take off. Issues such as challenging market conditions, politics, or high fuel prices pushed the following airline species to extinction; re-branding, mismanagement, or bankruptcy had also come into play. If you’re eager enough to know which ones took their last bow in 2018, read on!
When talking about the biggest airlines in the world, physical size is not the sole determining factor—it’s merely just a part of the equation. If you keep scrolling, you’ll be able to see the most massive of them all in a total of nine categories, which include the number of passengers carried, fleet size or the number of aircrafts of similar model being operated by a certain airline, revenue, number of routes taken, destinations reached and countries served, and a few more interesting classifications!
Largest By Revenue
1. American Airlines Group (United States) – US$ 43 B
2. Delta Air Lines (United States) – US$ 42.1 B
3. Lufthansa (Germany) US$ 41.5 B
4. United Airlines (United States) US$ 38.3 B
5. Air France–KLM (France/ Netherlands) US$ 29.1 B
6. IAG (Spain/ UK) US$ 26 B
7. Southwest Airlines (United States) US$ 21.2 B
8. China Southern Airlines (China) US$ 19.7 B
9. All Nippon Airways (Japan) US$ 17.8 B
10. China Eastern Airlines (China) US$ 15.7 B
Largest by Passengers Carried
1. American Airlines Group (United States) – 199.6 M
2. Delta Air Lines (United States) – 186.4 M
3. Southwest Airlines (United States) – 157.8 M
4. United Airlines (United States) – 148.1 M
5. Ryanair (Ireland) – 130.3 M
6. Lufthansa Group (Germany) – 130 M
7. China Southern Airlines (China) – 126.3 M
8. China Eastern Airlines (China) – 110.8 M
9. IAG (Spain/ UK) – 104.8 M
10. Air China Group (China) – 101.6 M
Largest By Scheduled Passenger-Kilometers Flown
Airline Holdings Group
1. American Airlines Group (United States) – 364,191 M
2. Delta Air Lines (United States) – 350,299 M
3. United Airlines Holdings (United States) – 347,963 M
4. The Emirates Group (United Arab Emirates) – 292,221 M
5. Lufthansa Group (Germany) – 261,156 M
6. International Airlines Group (Spain/UK) – 252,819 M
7. Air France–KLM (France/ Netherlands) – 248,476 M
8. China Southern Airlines (China) – 230,697 M
9. Southwest Airlines (United States) – 207,802 M
10. Air China (China) – 201,090 M
1. American Airlines (United States) – 330,577 M
2. Delta Air Lines (United States) – 330,034 M
3. United Airlines (United States) – 329,562 M
4. Emirates (United Arab Emirates) – 302,298 M
5. Southwest Airlines (United States) – 214,561 M
6. China Southern Airlines (China) – 200,239 M
7. Ryanair (Ireland) – 170,900 M
8. China Eastern Airlines (China) – 166,282 M
9. Air China (China) – 161,199 M –
10. Lufthansa (Germany) / British Airways (United Kingdom) – 158,986 M
Largest By Scheduled Freight Ton-Kilometers
1. FedEx Express (United States) – 17,499 M
2. Emirates SkyCargo (United Arab Emirates) – 12,713 M
3. Qatar Airways Cargo (Qatar) – 12,695 M
4. UPS Airlines (United States) – 12,459 M
5. Cathay Pacific Cargo (Hong Kong) – 11,284 M
6. Korean Air Cargo (South Korea) – 7,839 M
7. Lufthansa Cargo (Germany) – 7,394 M
8. Cargolux (Luxembourg) – 7,322 M
9. Air China Cargo (China) – 7,051 M
10. China Southern Airlines (China) / Singapore Airlines Cargo (Singapore ) – 6,597 M
Largest By Fleet Size
1. American Airlines (United States) – 950
2. Delta Air Lines (United States) – 850
3. United Airlines (United States) – 745
4. Southwest Airlines (United States) – 697
5. China Southern Airlines (China) – 545
6. China Eastern Airlines (China) – 486
7. Ryanair (Ireland) – 413
8. Air China (China) – 392
9. FedEx Express (United States) – 371
10. Turkish Airlines (Turkey) – 329
Largest By Number Of Countries Served
1. Turkish Airlines (Turkey) – 121
2. Air France (France) – 91
3. British Airways (United Kingdom) – 82
4. Ethiopian Airlines (Ethiopia) – 81
5. Emirates (United Arab Emirates) – 78
6. Qatar Airways (Qatar) – 78
7. Lufthansa (Germany) – 75
8. KLM (Netherlands) – 67
9. American Airlines (United States) / United Airlines (United States) – 62
10. Aeroflot (Russia) – 58
Largest By Number Of Routes
1. Ryanair (Ireland) – 1,831
2. American Airlines (United States) – 1,106
3. United Airlines (United States) – 950
4. easyJet (United Kingdom) – 945
5. Delta Air Lines (United States) – 939
6. Southwest Airlines (United States) – 754
7. China Southern (China) – 667
7. China Eastern (China) – 648
8. Wizz Air (Hungary) – 615
9. Air China (China) – 470
10. TUI Airways (United Kingdom) – 470
Largest By Number Of Destinations
1. UPS Airlines (United States) – 727
2. FedEx Express (United States) – 375
3. United Airlines (United States) – 373
4. American Airlines (United States) – 350
5. Delta Air Lines (United States) – 320
6. Turkish Airlines (Turkey) – 302
7. Lufthansa (Germany) – 274
8. China Eastern Airlines (China) – 217
9. Air France (France) – 204
10. Air China (China) – 201
Largest By Brand Value
1. American Airlines (United States) – US$ 9.094 B
2. Delta Air Lines (United States) – US$ 8.712 B
3. United Airlines (United States) – US$ 7.027 B
4. Emirates Airlines (United Arab Emirates) – US$ 5.336 B
5. Southwest Airlines (United States) – US$ 5.298 B
6. China Southern Airlines (China) – US$ 4.063 B
7. China Eastern Airlines (China) – US$ 3.81 B
8. British Airways (United Kingdom) – US$ 3.484 B
9. Air China (China) – US$ 3.433 B
10. Lufthansa (Germany) – US$ 2.914 B
Aeroflot is one of the oldest and most interesting airlines in the world. The airline has a colorful history of almost 100 years in operation, and has seen itself rise from a small airline to a mammoth airline with thousands of aircraft flying the skies of Russia and the world.
Aeroflot was created in 1923 shortly after the Civil War in Russia. The initial name of the airline was “Dobrolet”, which means “Good Flying” in Russian. It wasn’t until the early 1930’s that the airline changed its name to Aeroflot.
The first international route of Aeroflot was to the German city of Konigsberg (now the Russian city of Kaliningrad). The first domestic flight was between Moscow and Nizhniy Novgorod.
The first aircraft in the fleet of Dobrolet/Aeroflot were not Russian built planes, but actually German built Junkers F-13 aircraft. It wasn’t until the early 1930’s that Russia began to develop their own aircraft which would replace the German Junkers planes.
Only Operating Jetliner
In 1956, Aeroflot launched services from Moscow to Irkutsk using the brand new jet engine aircraft, the Tupolev TU-104. From the time period of 1956 until 1958, the Tu-104 was the only jet engine aircraft operating in the world, due to the grounding of the British de Havilland DH-106 (the Comet), due to safety concerns after a few crashes.
Soviet Monopoly Joke
During the 1960’s, the Advertising and Information Office for Aeroflot was created. The office created the official slogan “Fly Aeroflot!” to promote the airline within Russia. However, this created a popular joke among the citizens, as there was no competition for Aeroflot within Russia, as they were the sole airline to operate in the Union. The actual reason behind this marketing campaign was to convince travelers to use planes over trains, which was Aeroflot’s main competitor at that time.
A Massive Fleet
At one time, Aeroflot operated over 2,000 aircraft in its fleet. The aircraft varied from tiny Antonov An-2 cropdusters and Mil-Mi Helicopters, to the large Illyushin Il-86 four engine aircraft and the Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic jet.
World Record Holder
During the 1980’s, Aeroflot carried more than 120 million passengers each year. This was a record set for the Guiness Book of World Records, and has never been beaten.
Banned from the United States
From 1983 until 1990, Aeroflot was banned from flying to the United States due to an executive order signed by then President Ronald Reagan. This order was signed in retaliation for the Soviet Union shooting down a Korean Airlines Boeing 747 (Flight 007) while flying over prohibited airspace in the Soviet Union. This ban was lifted in 1990 when the Soviet Union dissolved and the Russian Federation was created.
During the early 1990’s when the Soviet Union was dissolving, the massive airline Aeroflot was broken up into smaller regional/national airlines in their respective post-Soviet countries. Some examples are Bashkirian Airlines, Krasnoyarsk Airlines, Tatarstan Airlines, etc.
Aeroflot is one of only (3) airlines in the world to operate a supersonic aircraft in service, with the other two residing in Europe (British Airways and Air France). Aeroflot flew the Tupolev Tu-144 in 1975 and was flying regularly between Moscow and Alma Ata (Kazakhstan) until discontinued in 1978. The Tu-144 was troubled from the beginning and
Pan Am was one of the most iconic and innovative companies that have ever existed. What started as a simple mail and passenger service grew into an airline that spanned 6 continents and connected millions of travelers each year. Pan Am was an innovator and one of the main reasons why aviation is the way it is today.
Creating the Jumbo Jet (Boeing 747)
During the 1960’s, Juan Trippe pressured Boeing into developing an aircraft twice the size of the Boeing 707. This is how the 747 was born. Juan Trippe had hands on involvement with the development of this revolutionary new aircraft.
Pan Am was the launch customer for both the Boeing 707 and Boeing 747 aircraft.
6 Continents Club
At its peak in 1968, Pan Am flew to 86 countries on all six continents over a route network of 81,410 miles (131,000 km).
Pan Am was founded in 1927 as a scheduled air mail and passenger service with flights between Key West (Florida) and Havana (Cuba).
International Air Transport Association (IATA)
Pan Am was the founding member of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Pan Am was among the first airlines to sign options to purchase the famous supersonic Concorde. However, Pan Am never took delivery of the aircraft along with other airlines. The only airlines to take delivery of the Concorde were BOAC (British Airways) and Air France. Pan Am was the first U.S. airline to sign a purchase order for 15 of the Boeing 2707 (American version of the Concorde), however, this aircraft never made it off the drawing board due to Congress voting against funding it.
Pan Am built an airport terminal called the “Worldport”. This building was located at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York. It was designed with an elliptical four acre roof that suspended from the outside columns of the terminal. This designed was intended to allow the passengers to get on and off the aircraft via stairs without getting wet since the front of the aircraft is under the overhang. Once the jetbridge was introduced, this feature became obsolete.
More than just an airline…
Pan Am was more than just an airline. Pan Am owned the InterContinental Hotel chain, which would play a part in opening hotels and resorts around the world. In 1945, President Roosevelt and Juan Trippe, the head of Pan Am, met to discuss their concerns over Latin America. They came up with an idea to offer luxury hotels in key cities to attract both businessmen and tourists. The hotels would also be important for the crews of Pan Am and their passengers in destinations where luxury hotels were non-existent. Intercontinental Hotel Corporation was created in 1946, and opened its first property in Belem, Brazil. The chain would continue to grow and expand to its present numbers of 180 hotels and resorts.
The Berlin Wall
Pan Am operated a high frequency network of flights between West Germany and West Berlin during the Cold War days. These flights lasted from 1950 until 1990 with Douglas DC-4 and DC-6B aircraft, until they were later replaced with Boeing 727’s.
Record Setting Flight
During the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific, a Pan Am Clipper named (Pacific Clipper) was flying to New Zealand from San Francisco. Instead of risking being potentially shot down on their return eastward journey, they decided to take the much longer route back by going west. This flight covered 31,500 miles (59,694 km) and became the first commercial aircraft to circumnavigate the world.
Virgin Atlantic Airways is a British airline that was founded in 1984 by entrepreneur Richard Branson. The airline currently has a fleet of 44 aircraft and reaches 33 destinations around the world.
Join the “Riff Raff” Class
While trying to set themselves up to be unique, Richard Branson thought it would be a good idea to name coach class “Riff Raff”. Fortunately, this idea never came to fruition, and coach was aptly name, “Economy”.
One of the Final Operators of the Airbus A-340-600
Virgin Atlantic is one of the last airlines in the world to operate the long bodied Airbus A-340-600 aircraft. The planes were due for retirement, however, due to the issues with the Boeing 787 and wait time for the Airbus A-350, these planes will see a little more time in the air between London and the rest of the world.
Three Main Bases of Operation (London and Manchester)
Just like its main competitor British Airways, Virgin Atlantic splits their flights in London up between both Heathrow and Gatwick airport. The flights from Heathrow Airport are more geared towards the business traveler with destinations such as New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Dubai, and more. The flights from Gatwick Airport are more geared towards the leisure traveler with destinations such as Cuba, Barbados, etc.
The airline also has a third base of operations and this is located in Manchester. These flights are a mixture of business and leisure travelers with flights to New York, Orlando, Las Vegas, etc.
Virgin Atlantic Does Not Have A Short Haul Fleet
Most airlines feed their long haul flights with ‘feeder’ flights from other cities to their main hub. This helps to ensure the large aircraft are filled each flight to reduce costs and increase profitability. Virgin Atlantic does not utilize any short haul aircraft and relies solely upon passengers beginning and ending their flights in the destination and/or arrival city. Virgin Atlantic did operate a short haul airline named Little Red for a few years, but this idea was put to rest in 2015 due to the carrier operating unprofitably.
Two Babies Have Been Born On-Board Virgin Atlantic Planes
In October of 2012, a woman flying from London to Johannesburg gave birth to a baby boy en route. The second occurrence of a birth on board was in May 2004 during a flight from Lagos to London.
The Longest On-Board Bar In The Sky
Passengers booked in “Upper Class”, the First Class equivalent on Virgin Atlantic can drink at the world’s longest bar in the sky. The bar was introduced in 2012 and measures almost 9 feet in length. The bar is also covered with over 1,000 Swarovski crystals and beams colorful LED lighting to give you that ‘night club’ feeling 30,000 feet in the air.
Virgin Atlantic Was A One Year Experiment
Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic, has a firm belief that if a business doesn’t succeed after the first year, scrap it and move on to the next idea. While airlines typically take years to build a loyal following, Branson saw that Virgin Atlantic turned a nice profit it’s first year, and used that as proof to expand the airline with additional 747 aircraft and by adding routes to new cities like Florida, Tokyo, and Los Angeles.
A Different Original Plan
The original founders of Virgin Atlantic did not include Richard Branson, but included two men named Randolph Fields and Alan Hellary. Their idea was to create a new airline named “British Atlantic Airways” and operate flights between London and the Falkland Islands in 1982, right after the Falklands War had finished. However, after realizing the runway was too short in the Falklands, the idea was deemed unviable and soon scrapped.
The pairs next idea was to obtain a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft and operate flights between London Gatwick and Newark, New Jersey. However, they decided that they needed more funding to compete against low cost US airline PEOPLExpress, which is how they came to find Richard Branson.
Six Different Aircraft Types In The Fleet
Virgin Atlantic operates six types of aircraft in their fleet. They consist of:
- Airbus A330-200
- Airbus A330-300
- Airbus A340-600
- Airbus A350-1000 (coming soon – 2019)
- Boeing 747-400
- Boeing 787-9
Cheeky And Brow Raising Promotional Slogans
When you think of the United Kingdom and Airlines, the first thing that comes to mind is likely British Airways. With this in mind, the marketing folks at Virgin Atlantic knew they had to be a little over the top to get noticed, and created some pretty interesting slogans for their marketing campaigns. When the airline began to offer on-board massages, the slogan was, “BA doesn’t give a shiatsu”. When the airline began to offer seatback games on board their aircraft, they released the slogan “Play with yourself”.