The Largest Airlines in the World, By Passenger Count

••• Infographic courtesy of IATA

Edited by Benet Wilson

Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair and Dallas, Texas-based Southwest Airlines carried the most international and domestic passengers respectively in 2015, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). IATA's 60th annual World Air Transport Statistics (WATS) guide -- on the largest airlines in the world -- covers areas including:

  • Demand for air transport: traffic operations, performance of major route areas, passenger and freight forecasts, world airport rankings;
  • Supply of air transport: capacity in terms of number of seats, number of scheduled flights by aircraft type;
  • Performance of the airline industry: safety statistics, financial results, fuel performance; and 
  • A compilation of statistics on the top 100 airlines and alliances.

Among the world’s largest domestic markets, India had the fastest domestic passenger growth in 2015. With annual growth of 18.8 percent (in a market of 80 million domestic passengers), India’s performance surpassed that of Russia (11.9 percent  growth, in a market of 47 million domestic passengers), China (9.7 percent  growth, in a market of 394 million domestic passengers) and the United States (5.4 percent  growth, in a market of 708 million domestic passengers).



“Last year airlines safely carried 3.6 billion passengers—the equivalent of 48% of the Earth’s population—and transported 52.2 million tonnes of cargo worth around $6 trillion.

In doing so, we supported some $2.7 trillion in economic activity and 63 million jobs,” said Tony Tyler, IATA’s Director General and CEO in a statement.

System-wide, airlines carried 3.6 billion passengers on scheduled services in 2015, an increase of 7.2 percent over 2014, representing an additional 240 million air trips.

Airlines in the Asia-Pacific region once again carried the largest number of passengers. 

The top five airlines ranked by total scheduled passengers carried (domestic and international) were:

1. American Airlines (146.5 million) 

2. Southwest Airlines (144.6 million) 

3. Delta Air Lines (138.8 million)

4. China Southern Airlines (109.3 million)

5. Ryanair (101.4 million) 


The top five international/regional passenger airport-pairs were all within the Asia-Pacific region:

1. Hong Kong-Taipei (5.1 million, up 2.1% from 2014)

2. Jakarta-Singapore (3.4 million, down 2.6%)

3. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi-Hong Kong (3 million, increase of 29.2%)

4. Kuala Lumpur–Singapore (2.7 million, up 13%)

5. Hong Kong-Singapore (2.7 million, down 3.2%)


The top five domestic passenger airport-pairs were also all in the Asia-Pacific region:

1. Jeju-Seoul Gimpo (11.1 million, up 7.1% over 2014)

2. Sapporo-Tokyo Haneda (7.8 million, up 1.3%)

3. Fukuoka-Tokyo Haneda (7.6 million, a decrease of 7.4% from 2014)

4. Melbourne Tullamarine-Sydney (7.2 million, down 2.2%)

5. Beijing Capital-Shanghai Hongqiao (6.1 million,  up 6.1% from 2014)