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Ranked: Which Airlines Carried the Most Passengers in 2022?

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A bar chart ranking the largest airlines by passengers in 2022.

Ranked: Which Airlines Carried the Most Passengers in 2022?

After being battered by the pandemic, the airline industry is on the upswing, with traffic growing 30% and revenue surging 50% year-on-year in 2022.

And of the 3 billion passengers who took a flight last year, more than half flew on one of the big players in the industry. We use information from 2023 Allianz Partners Big Book of Travel Data by IdeaWorksCompany to visualize the largest airlines by traffic.

The Top 20 Airlines By Traffic in 2022

At the top of the list, American Airlines flew nearly 200 million passengers in 2022. The airline’s most popular route was between Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) and Los Angeles (LAX), operating more than 30 flights a day.

In fact, Dallas is a “fortress hub” for American, where the airline—along with its regional partners—own more than 70% of the airport’s flights.

Here’s a quick look at the other airlines and their annual passengers in 2022.

RankAirlineHeadquarteredAnnual Passengers
1American Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.199.3M
2Delta Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.171.4M
3Ryanair Group*🇮🇪 Ireland168.6M
4United Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.144.3M
5Southwest Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.126.6M
6Lufthansa Group🇩🇪 Germany101.8M
7International Airlines Group (IAG)🇬🇧 UK94.7M
8IndiGo*🇮🇳 India85.3M
9Turkish Airlines Group🇹🇷 Türkiye71.8M
10easyJet**🇬🇧 UK69.7M
11Air France / KLM Group🇫🇷 France65.0M
12China Southern Group🇨🇳 China62.6M
13LATAM Group🇨🇱 Chile62.4M
14Wizz Air*🇭🇺 Hungary51.1M
15Emirates Airline*🇦🇪 UAE43.6M
16China Eastern Group🇨🇳 China42.5M
17Alaska Air Group🇺🇸 U.S.41.5M
18Aeroflot Group🇷🇺 Russia40.7M
19JetBlue Airways🇺🇸 U.S.39.6M
20ANA Group*🇯🇵 Japan38.7M

*Financial year for these airlines ended in March, 2023. **Financial year for this airline ended in September 2022.

Close behind American is another U.S.-based rival, Delta, which got more than 170 million passengers to their destinations.

Ranked third is Ryanair Group, headquartered in Ireland, the most popular of the low-cost carriers (defined by their lower fares and no-frills service) which transported more than 168 million passengers around the world.

Rounding out the top five are two other U.S.-based airlines, United and Southwest, with annual passenger figures of 144.3 million and 126.6 million respectively.

Ranked: Top 20 Airlines By Revenue in 2022

Examining the same list of airlines by the most revenue earned over the year throws up a few interesting surprises.

RankAirlineHeadquarteredAnnual Revenue
(USD Billions)
1American Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.$49.0
2Delta Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.$45.6
3United Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.$45.0
4Emirates Airline*🇦🇪 UAE$29.2
5Air France / KLM Group🇫🇷 France$27.5
6Lufthansa Group🇩🇪 Germany$26.9
7International Airlines Group (IAG)🇬🇧 UK$24.0
8Southwest Airlines🇺🇸 U.S.$23.8
9Turkish Airlines Group🇹🇷 Türkiye $18.4
10China Southern Group🇨🇳 China$13.0
11ANA Group*🇯🇵 Japan$12.6
12Ryanair Group*🇮🇪 Ireland$11.2
13Alaska Air Group🇺🇸 U.S.$9.7
14LATAM Group🇨🇱 Chile$9.4
15JetBlue Airways🇺🇸 U.S.$9.2
16Aeroflot Group🇷🇺 Russia$7.7
17IndiGo*🇮🇳 India$7.1
18easyJet**🇬🇧 UK$7.0
19China Eastern Group🇨🇳 China$6.9
20Wizz Air*🇭🇺 Hungary$4.1

*Financial year for these airlines ended in March, 2023. **Financial year for this airline ended in September 2022.

American and Delta retain their top positions—earning $49 billion and $45 billion respectively—but Ryanair Group falls out of the top five to 12th place, having made $11.2 billion last year.

Other low-cost carriers—IndiGo from India and EasyJet from the UK—also slide down ranks, both pulling in about $7 billion in revenue.

Air Passenger Traffic by Region in 2022

Airlines with headquarters in Europe transported one-third of all air passengers in 2022, slightly ahead of their U.S.-based counterparts.

RegionPassenger Share (2022)
Europe31.5%
U.S. & Canada29.7%
Asia & South Pacific 23.3%
Latin America9.2%
Middle East & Africa6.4%

This was despite Russia’s Aeroflot losing both passengers and revenue between 2021–2022, as the airline was banned from entering the U.S., Canada, UK, and EU airspace.

Meanwhile, all four of China’s largest airlines also suffered traffic drops as the country grappled with residual effects of the pandemic, impacting Asia’s share of passengers.

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Markets

What History Reveals About Interest Rate Cuts

How have previous cycles of interest rate cuts in the U.S. impacted the economy and financial markets?

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Line chart showing the depth and duration of previous cycles of interest rate cuts.

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The following content is sponsored by New York Life Investments

What History Reveals About Interest Rate Cuts

The Federal Reserve has overseen seven cycles of interest rate cuts, averaging 26 months and 6.35 percentage points (ppts) each.

We’ve partnered with New York Life Investments to examine the impact of interest rate cut cycles on the economy and on the performance of financial assets in the U.S. to help keep investors informed. 

A Brief History of Interest Rate Cuts

Interest rates are a powerful tool that the central bank can use to spur economic activity. 

Typically, when the economy experiences a slowdown or a recession, the Federal Reserve will respond by cutting interest rates. As a result, each of the previous seven rate cut cycles—shown in the table below—occurred during or around U.S. recessions, according to data from the Federal Reserve. 

Interest Rate Cut CycleMagnitude (ppts)
July 2019–April 2020-2.4
July 2007–December 2008-5.1
November 2000–July 2003-5.5
May 1989–December 1992-6.9
August 1984–October 1986-5.8
July 1981–February 1983-10.5
July 1974–January 1977-8.3
Average-6.4

Source: Federal Reserve 07/03/2024

Understanding past economic and financial impacts of interest rate cuts can help investors prepare for future monetary policy changes.

The Economic Response: Inflation

During past cycles, data from the Federal Reserve, shows that, on average, the inflation rate continued to decline throughout (-3.4 percentage points), largely due to the lagged effects of a slower economy that normally precedes interest rate declines. 

CycleStart to end change (ppts)End to one year later (ppts)
July 2019–April 2020-1.5+3.8
July 2007–December 2008-2.3+2.6
November 2000–July 2003-1.3+0.9
May 1989–December 1992-2.5-0.2
August 1984–October 1986-2.8+3.1
July 1981–February 1983-7.3+1.1
July 1974–January 1977-6.3+1.6
Average-3.4+1.9

Source: Federal Reserve 07/03/2024. Based on the effective federal funds rate. Calculations are based on the previous four rate cut cycles (2019-2020, 2007-2008, 2000-2003, 1989-1992, 1984-1986, 1981-1983, 1974-1977).

However, inflation played catch-up and rose by +1.9 percentage points one year after the final rate cut. With lower interest rates, consumers were incentivized to spend more and save less, which led to an uptick in the price of goods and services in six of the past seven cycles. 

The Economic Response: Real Consumer Spending Growth

Real consumer spending growth, as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, typically reacted to rate cuts more quickly. 

On average, consumption growth rose slightly during the rate cut periods (+0.3 percentage points) and that increase accelerated one year later (+1.7 percentage points). 

CycleStart to end (ppts)End to one year later (ppts)
July 2019–April 2020-9.6+15.3
July 2007–December 2008-4.6+3.1
November 2000–July 2003+0.8-2.5
May 1989–December 1992+3.0-1.3
August 1984–October 1986+1.6-2.7
July 1981–February 1983+7.2-0.7
July 1974–January 1977+3.9+0.9
Average+0.3+1.7

Source: BEA 07/03/2024. Quarterly data. Consumer spending growth is based on the percent change from the preceding quarter in real personal consumption expenditures, seasonally adjusted at annual rates. Percent changes at annual rates were then used to calculate the change in growth over rate cut cycles. Data from the last full quarter before the date in question was used for calculations. Calculations are based on the previous four rate cut cycles (2019-2020, 2007-2008, 2000-2003, 1989-1992, 1984-1986, 1981-1983, 1974-1977).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the Global Financial Crisis were outliers. Spending continued to fall during the rate cut cycles but picked up one year later.

The Investment Response: Stocks, Bonds, and Real Estate

Historically, the trend in financial asset performance differed between stocks, bonds, and real estate both during and after interest rate declines.

Stocks and real estate posted negative returns during the cutting phases, with stocks taking the bigger hit. Conversely, bonds, a traditional safe haven, gained ground. 

AssetDuring (%)1 Quarter After (%)2 Quarters After (%)4 Quarters After (%)
Stocks-6.0+18.2+19.4+23.9
Bonds+6.3+15.3+15.1+10.9
Real Estate-4.8+25.5+15.6+25.5

Source: Yahoo Finance, Federal Reserve, NAREIT 09/04/2024. The S&P 500 total return index was used to track performance of stocks. The ICE Corporate Bonds total return index was used to track the performance of bonds. The NAREIT All Equity REITs total return index was used to track the performance of real estate. Calculations are based on the previous four rate cut cycles (2019-2020, 2007-2008, 2000-2003, 1989-1992). It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is not indicative of future results. Index definitions can be found at the end of this piece.

However, in the quarters preceding the last rate cut, all three assets increased in value. One year later, real estate had the highest average performance, followed closely by stocks, with bonds coming in third.

What’s Next for Interest Rates

In March 2024, the Federal Reserve released its Summary of Economic Projections outlining its expectation that U.S. interest rates will fall steadily in 2024 and beyond.

YearRange (%)Median (%)
Current5.25-5.505.375
20244.50-4.754.625
20253.75-4.03.875
20263.00-3.253.125
Longer run2.50-2.752.625

Source: Federal Reserve 20/03/2024

Though the timing of interest rate cuts is uncertain, being armed with the knowledge of their impact on the economy and financial markets can provide valuable insight to investors. 

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