ANALYSIS: Airlines in North America - The Biggest and Fastest Growing Operators

Ahead of this year's World Routes forum, Routesonline is providing another look at our series of articles on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across regions of the world last year. Here we look closely at the airlines of North America and highlight the region's top performers.

Ahead of this year's World Routes forum, Routesonline is providing another look at our series of articles on the leading airlines and airports and most used aircraft types across regions of the world last year.  Here we look closely at the airlines of North America and highlight the region's top performers.

​ The data is all supplied by OAG Aviation using its OAG Schedules Analyser tool.

Scheduled Air Capacity From North America (2005 - 2014)

Our analysis of published schedules for the past ten years shows that air capacity within and from North America has fallen from 1,107,233,349 available seats in 2005 to 1,035,961,222 available seats in 2014.  This represents a decline of 6.4 per cent across the period, an average annual fall of 0.7 per cent.  The chart shows a big fall occurred in 2009 but the market has been recovering since then.  In the past year capacity increased 1.6 per cent.

Top Ten Airlines in the North American Market (2014)

It is no surprise to see all the US majors leading this analysis, but the statistics also highlight the emergence of secondary tier of network and low-cost carriers and why Southwest Airlines is the budget model so many other carriers aspire to replicating. Delta Air Lines leads the way with an 18.7 per cent share of available capacity within and from North America in 2014. It has seen a 1.4 per cent network capacity growth from the region in 2014.

Southwest Airlines is the second largest carrier in this market, buoyed in 2014 by the absorption of much of AirTran Airways’ network, and most notably its international services. The low-cost carrier has a 16.4 per cent share with capacity growth of 5.4 per cent versus 2013, boosting its capacity share by 0.6 percentage points.

The budget carrier separates Delta from the other US majors: United Airlines (15.1 per cent share), American (12.0 per cent share) and US Airways (10.2 per cent share), but this situation will change as American and US Airways complete their integration, with the ‘new’ American taking the number one spot.

The highest rate of growth among the top ten carriers in 2014 was recorded by Spirit Airlines, which moved up in the analysis from eleventh to tenth at the expense of AirTran Airways. The ultra low-cost carrier recorded a capacity growth of 15.7 per cent between 2013 and 2014, increasing its share of capacity from 1.3 per cent to 1.5 per cent.

Interestingly, only one of the top ten airlines in this market reported a decline in capacity in this region between 2013 and 2014: US major United Airlines which saw capacity decline 1.4 per cent.

Fastest Growing Airlines in the North American Market (2010-2014)

Looking at capacity data in the region across a five year period, it is Spirit Airlines that has grown capacity by the biggest margin with capacity up 107.8 per cent from 2010. Significant growth during this timescale was also recorded by Sun Country Airlines (up 74.7 per cent) and Virgin America (up 70.9 per cent), while United Airlines (up 49.9 per cent), Allegiant Airlines (up 46.0 per cent) and Porter Airlines (up 44.6 per cent) also had notable capacity increases across the five years.

Data comparison between 2013 and 2014 shows US low-cost carriers with the largest year-on-year growth among the top 20 carriers in this region. Spirit Airlines has witnessed the largest increase with capacity rising 15.3 per cent over the 12 month period. Double-digit capacity growth within and from North America were also recorded by Allegiant Airlines (up 12.3 per cent) and Frontier Airlines (up 10.0 per cent).

Scheduled North American Capacity by Aircraft Type

The chart below shows which aircraft types were most prevalent in the North American market during 2014. The schedule data shows the Boeing 737-700 (Winglets) (73W) is the most widely used aircraft type in this market with a 12.5 per cent share of available seats with overall network capacity up 8.1 per cent between 2013 and 2014 from 119.53 million seats to 129.23 million seats.

The second most utilised aircraft type in this market is the Airbus A320 (320) with a 9.1 per cent share, while third most widely operated type by network capacity is the Boeing 737-800 (738) with a 7.1 per cent share.

The biggest rise in annual capacity among the top ten aircraft types were recorded by the Boeing 737-800 (Winglets) (73H) with a 25.3 per cent rise in available domestic seats in 2014 versus 2013, followed closely by the Airbus A321 (321), up 23.8 per cent, thanks in part to its introduction on transcontinental schedules.

The largest decline in annual capacity was recorded by the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ) with a fall of 14.1 per cent versus 2013, albeit it remains the fifth most used aircraft type in the region. Boeing 757 (757) and McDonnell Douglas MD-88 (M88) capacity also fell, 12.1 per cent and 1.6 per cent, respectively.


Routes Americas 2021

The route development forum for the Americas
Bogotá, Colombia  9 - 11 February 2021

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