DALLAS — Commercial aviation is one of the most important industries in the world, connecting people across the globe and contributing to the global economy. With so many people flying every day, it’s no surprise that airlines employ a massive workforce to ensure their operations run smoothly.
Over the years, the commercial aviation industry has grown significantly, and airlines have had to expand their workforce to meet the increasing demand for air travel.
A typical organizational structure of an airline includes operations, maintenance, marketing, and finance divisions, an airline also requires a diverse workforce that includes pilots, flight attendants, customer service representatives, mechanics, and other professionals for their day-to-day operations.
In this article, we will take a look at the airlines with the largest workforces, including a glimpse into their operations and a brief mention of their aircraft fleets (numbers may vary according to the dates of published data).
American Airlines (AA) is one of the largest airlines in the world, and it also has the largest workforce in the industry. As of 2022, the Dallas/Fort Worth headquartered airline employed 123,400 people, making it one of the largest employers in the United States.
The carrier is also the largest airline in the world when measured by fleet size, scheduled passengers carried, and revenue passenger mile. Together with its regional partners and affiliates, the airline operates an extensive international and domestic network with almost 6,800 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations.
American, along with its subsidiaries, handles close to 200 million passengers annually with an average of more than 500,000 passengers on a daily basis. According to the airline, it flies to over 269 domestic destinations and over 81 international destinations in 48 countries on five continents.
According to aerotransport.org, AA currently operates 133 Airbus A319s, 48 A320s, 287 A321s, and 335 Boeing 737s in the narrow-body segment. Meanwhile, AA flies 67 Boeing 777s and 56 Boeing 787 Dreamliners in the wide-body segment.
China Southern Airlines
China Southern Airlines (CZ) is reported to be one of the largest airlines in China, along with Air China (CA) and China Eastern Airlines (MU). As of 2022, the Baiyun, Guangzhou headquartered airline employed 100,431 people making it one of the largest employers in China.
Moreover, CZ, operating a fleet of 651 aircraft and serving more than 200 destinations in over 40 countries is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance. According to the airline, it operates more than 3000 daily flights to 224 destinations in 40 countries and regions across the world.
According to aerotransport.org, CZ currently operates 13 Airbus A319s, 145 A320s, 155 A321s, 174 Boeing 737s, and 16 COMAC ARJ21-700s in the narrow-body segment. Meanwhile, CZ flies 40 Airbus A330s, 16 A350 XWBs, 26 Boeing 777s, and 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the wide-body sector.
United Airlines (UA), headquartered in Illinois, United States, has employed 84,100 people and is one of the largest airlines in the world.
As of February 2023, UA operates a fleet of 881 Aircraft (+ 58 On Order/Planned) and operates flights to 238 domestic destinations and 118 international destinations in 48 countries or regions across five continents.
According to aerotransport.org, United Airlines currently operates 81 Airbus A319s, 99 A320s, 430 Boeing 737s, and 59 Boeing 757s in the narrow-body segment. UA operates 52 Boeing 767s, 96 Boeing 777s, and 71 Boeing 787s Dreamliner widebodies.
Delta Air Lines
Delta Air Lines (DL), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, is second among the world’s largest airlines by the number of passengers carried, passenger miles flown, and fleet size and has employed 81,000 people according to the latest report.
Delta has a fleet of 921 aircraft, and, along with its subsidiaries and regional affiliates, operates over 5,400 flights daily and serves 325 destinations in 52 countries on six continents. DL with its worldwide alliance partners operates more than 15,000 flights per day.
According to aerotransport.org, DL currently operates 60 Airbus A220s, 57 A319s, 61 A320s, 153 A321s, 66 Boeing 717s, 218 Boeing 737s, 120 Boeing 757s in the narrow body segment. Meanwhile, Delta Airlines flies 63 A330s, 28 Airbus A350 XWBs, and 66 Boeing 767 widebodies.
China Eastern Airlines
China Eastern Airlines (MU) is the second largest airline in China and is headquartered in Shanghai, China. It has employed 80,321 people, according to the latest report. China Eastern, operating a fleet of 613 aircraft, operates in 170 countries and serves 1,036 destinations.
China Eastern Airlines currently operates 32 A319s, 256 A320s, 68 A321s, 50 A330s, and 16 Airbus A350 XWBs, from the Airbus family. MU also flies 88 Boeing 737s and 20 Boeing 777s from the Boeing family.
International Airlines Group (IAG)
International Airlines Group (IAG) is one of the world’s largest airline groups. As of the latest reports, the London-headquartered airline employed 56,658 people.
International Airlines Group members operate a fleet of 558 aircraft and serve more than 256 destinations. According to IAG, it carries around 94 million passengers each year.
Southwest Airlines (WN) is the largest operator of the Boeing 737 worldwide. The Dallas-based airline employs 55,000 according to the latest airline report.
Southwest deploys a fleet of 793 Aircraft (+86 on order/planned) and serves 42 US states. According to the airline, it operates about 4,000 departures a day with a strong fleet of close to 800 Boeing 737s.
ANA All Nippon Airways
As of 2022, the Tokyo, Japan-headquartered ANA All Nippon Airways (NH) employed 46,580 people. The airline operates a fleet of 212 aircraft.
ANA currently operates 11 A320s, 26 A321s, and 39 Boeing 737s in the narrow-body segment. NH operates 3 Airbus A380s, 24 Boeing 767s, 30 Boeing 777s, and 79 Boeing 787 Dreamliner in the wide-body sector.
According to Statista, as of December 2021, the French-Dutch airline group Air France-KLM had approximately 76,803 people employed: 44,810 people were employed by the airline as ground personnel and 23,455 as cabin crew. Additionally, 8,545 people were working as flight deck crew. The group serves 29 destinations in France as well as worldwide schedules.
Air France- KLM has a mixed fleet of 519 Airbus and Boeing aircraft (+ 20 on order/planned).
Turkish Airlines (TK), headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey is reported to have employed 37,670 people. Moreover, Turkish Airlines operates a fleet of 332 aircraft and serves more than 82 destinations.
The airline serves more nonstop destinations from a single airport than any other airline in the world and flies to 126 countries, more than any other airline.
Turkish Airlines operates six Airbus A319s, 11 A320s, 102 A321s, 60 A330s, and 12 A350 XWBs, from the Airbus family. TK flies 80 Boeing 737s, 40 Boeing 777s, and 16 Boeing 787 Dreamliner from the Boeing family.
Until 2050 and beyond, we face a greater – some say insurmountable – challenge. To make aviation sustainable. For that, we need the next generation of commercial aircraft, new propulsion types, and novel sources of energy. For that, we need new designers, engineers, and financial Wizkids.
But will Aviation get them?
Find out if the commercial aviation industry can meet the demand for more employees in the coming years in Darren Finucane’s take on the topic.
Feature Image: American Airlines Flight Attendants. Photo: American Airlines