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Top 5 Global Airlines – The Secrets to their Success

  • by: Erika Verbovska
  • On: 28, Mar 2018
7 min read

How Do The Top 5 Global Airlines Drive Growth and Success?

In the fast-paced world of Aerospace & Aviation, skilled talent and brilliant minds are forever competing in a crowded market full of national and international airlines. Even the smallest airlines are achieving phenomenal success, and with the commencement of exciting new projects in 2018, the industry has never been so innovative.  

The leaders topping the list of largest global airlines can offer key lessons in weathering recessions, launching unique initiatives and breaking world records. But what are the largest global airlines?

Business analysts at The Economist  and Forbes evaluate all international airlines across:

  • Number of passengers carried globally

  • Turnover

  • Sales

  • Profit

  • Assets

  • Market value

Judging the ‘size’ of an airline is an inexact science, however the most successful airlines on the list of top 5 global airlines received the highest scores across these six metrics.

Who Are The Top 5 Airlines, And What Makes Them So Successful?

5. International Airlines Group

Founded in 1974 in the United Kingdom, International Consolidated Airline Group SA (IAG) is the holding company for British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling. IAG provides passenger and freight air transportation services as well as international and domestic carriage services for passengers and cargo.

Aircraft maintenance services form a key part of the IAG business model. Every year, IAG Group transports 97 million passengers to 255 locations on its fleet of 525 aircraft. Strategic alliances and differentiated activities have strengthened the position of the former companies on the market, enabling IAG to further claim the fifth position amongst the top 5 global airlines.

In 2018 IAG is committed to an eco-friendly initiative: partnering with  an experienced software industrial company to introduce innovative technology that will reduce carbon emissions. The new software is being implemented across the entire International Airlines Group fleet to further optimise fuel use by analysing flight data and monitoring efficiency initiatives. Through the use of updated and forward-looking technologies, IAG are directly addressing the issue of climate change in Aerospace & Aviation, appealing directly to customer concerns and improving corporate and social responsibility simultaneously.

4. Southwest Airlines

With 53,000 employees and a market cap of $33.6 billion, this American company provides scheduled air transportation services in the United States and nearby international markets. Southwest Airlines provide scheduled air transportation services and AirTran Airways operates a fleet of airline services using Boeing 717-200 aircraft and Boeing 737-700 aircraft throughout the United States and to select international locations.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) reveals that Southwest Airlines is second only to Delta Airlines in number of passengers transported, with 129million people safely delivered. Southwest emerged from humble beginnings in 1967 to become the world’s largest low-cost carrier today, with 709 planes and low-cost flights to over 100 destinations in the United States and 10 in additional countries.

Southwest Airlines is adept at establishing and continually building market share, adding several new non-stop routes to its schedule in 2018, whilst additionally meeting customer requirements including low-cost flights.

3. United Airlines

United Airlines offers flights in the US, Canada, South America, and the Pacific and Atlantic geographic area. Although internet access is now offered on long-haul flights across several providers, Unied Airlines were the pioneers of the new technology as the first airline to offer in-flight Wi-Fi.

Born in the year 1934, United Airlines merged with Continental Airlines in 2010 to create  the world’s largest airline as measured by revenue passenger miles. United Continental Holdings has won the Best Frequent Flyer Programme award for the past 13 consecutive years with its MiragePlus Programme. Despite the introduction of several controversial changes in recent years, such as the reduction in bonus miles for elite members and the introduction of a revenue-based model in 2015, United Airlines held onto its title.

A loyalty programme allowing passengers to enjoy the most interesting benefits the more they travel has enabled United Airlines to build brand value and improve customer loyalty.

2. American Airlines Group

With a market cap value of $21.1 billions, American Airlines Group is currently the world’s second biggest airline company. American Airlines provides air transportations for passengers and cargo; the global reach of the cargo division offers a wide range of freight and mail services, based on facilities and interline connections available across the globe. The company also presents a recent example of how a successful and well-planned strategic alliance can lead to top results: American Airlines Group is the result of a merge between US Airways and American Airlines in 2013, which had both filed for bankrupcty protection just a year earlier, and which in 2018 are now enjoying international success.

In February, American Airlines and Qantas filed an application with the U.S. Department of Transportation to form a joint business focused on better serving customers flying between North America and Australia and New Zealand. The proposed joint business aims to significantly improve service, stimulate demand and unlock more than $300 million annually in consumer benefits that are not achievable through any other form of cooperation. American and Qantas will also have the opportunity to launch additional routes between the U.S. and Australia and New Zealand.

An expanded relationship will encourage significant improvements in the airline customer experience, which are estimated to increase demand for new travel in the coming years.

1. Delta Airlines

The oldest airline company still operating in the United States is the world’s largest airline. Delta Airlines is the world’s largest airline in terms of scheduled passengers carried, with 129,433,000 passengers transported every year.

Delat Airlines operates 13 hubs worldwide, with a fleet of 809 aircraft including Airbus, Boeing and McDonnell Douglass planes, and flies to about 335 destinations worldwide throughout North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania.

Delat Airlines provides scheduled flights both for passengers and cargo, whilst its Refinery branch consists of jet-fuel and non jet-fuel products. Delta Airlines has officially announced its involvement in an Exoskeleton Technical Advisory Group (X-TAG) concerned with the best ways to bring full-body, powered industrial exoskeleton systems to the workforce. Gil West, Delta's Chief Operating Officer, comments that ‘This X-TAG is an innovative opportunity to think about how fitting our employees with wearable robotics can build on our strong personal safety culture and further protect our people from injury by giving them an additional layer of strength and protection.’

Delta Airlines has a strong track record of finding new ways to improve customer and employee experiences through technology, and is helping to lead Aerospace & Aviation innovation whilst maintaining its position as the largest airline in the world.

What Makes a Top Global Airline?

The top 5 largest airlines listed above have very different origins and operate across different markets and geographies, however they share many characteristics:

  • Tailor-made structures serve as powerful management tools to

  • Strategic alliances ensure reciprocal benefits and a steadier presence in the global market

  • planning and forecasting combined with effective marketing and branding inform identification of the market, target clients and the achievement of the desired results.

  • Technology increases convenience, reduces costs and delivers a competitive edge.

VHR works with world-leading airlines and MROs – find out more about our specialist Aerospace & Aviation recruitment services.

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