American Airlines Loses World’s Largest Airline Title to Delta and United
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
American Airlines is no longer the world’s largest airline, losing its title to both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines in the second quarter.
Why the split title? It all depends how “biggest” is measured. But, no matter the measure, it’s no longer American — at least based on the numbers from the second quarter of 2019.
Atlanta-based Delta became the world’s largest airline by revenue with $12.5 billion in operating revenues during the period. American reported $12 billion in operating revenues and United $11.4 billion in the second quarter.
Deutsche Bank analyst Michael Linenberg first noted what was then a potential change in ranking in a report earlier in July.
Chicago-based United became the world’s largest by capacity flying 73.2 billion available seat miles (ASMs) in the quarter. American flew 72.3 billion ASMs and Delta 71.8 billion. ASMs are a standard industry measure of seat capacity.
American has held the title of world’s largest airline since its merger with US Airways in 2013.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier’s drop in the rankings come as it faces challenges on multiple fronts. The company has idled 24 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft since the type was grounded in March, costing it at least $400 million in pre-tax income this year and prompting the cancellation of thousands of flights including the suspension of its Dallas/Fort Worth-Oakland route.
In addition, weather and an ongoing dispute with mechanics took an added toll on American’s operation in the first half of the year.
American’s capacity, measured by ASMs, shrank for the first time in seven years as a result of the operational challenges it faced in the second quarter.
Delta and United, meanwhile, have not sat idle as American has struggled. Delta has excelled at finding new ways to generate revenue, including being the first to introduce a no-frills basic economy fare, successfully increasing the number of paid upgrades to extra-legroom and first class seats on its flights, and expanding its non-core revenue streams — like its Delta TechOps maintenance business.
United is in the midst of a major domestic growth push. The airline began expanding at an accelerated rate above 4% annually last year in an effort to recapture what executives deem to be its “natural share” of the U.S. market. Growth has been concentrated on its mid-continent hubs in Chicago (ORD), Denver (DEN) and Houston (IAH), but hubs at Washington Dulles (IAD) and other airports have also seen new flights under United’s expansion push.
American, for its part, sees its lagging performance as a temporary blip. Executives expect revenue growth to accelerate as operational issues pass and its network initiatives, including more flights at its Charlotte (CLT), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Washington Reagan National (DCA) hubs, take hold.
Featured imaged by Zach Griff/TPG.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees