Most Profitable Airlines in 2022

Airlines · 6 min read · Aug 18, 2022
most profitable airlines

Airline industry is one of the most tricky industries on the planet. Running successful and profitable airlines in this fiercely competitive market is a tough mountain to climb for stakeholders and senior executives. Profitability is hampered by hidden expenses, fluctuating fuel costs, financial turmoil, pandemics, conflicts, and inadequate infrastructure.

With the Airline Deregulation Act in 1978 in the US, it became even tougher for airlines to stay afloat since mostly all federal influence over route planning, fares, or new airline establishment has been virtually removed overnight. Many countries followed suit which ramped up the global airline competition even further. The 1988 National Transportation Act temporarily deregulated domestic aviation transportation in Canada. Bouncing off of the Northern America, domestic air service deregulation began in the United Kingdom in 1980 as well, and airline markets throughout Europe took after in the 1990s.

Deregulation of the aviation industry initially appeared to be a difficult choice because many analysts concluded that it would reduce spending on safety. Despite the fact that its safety has not declined, air travel remains the world’s fastest and safest mode of transportation.

In contrast, deregulation made it exceptionally difficult for most airlines in US to survive. Some were long-established legacy carriers, such as Trans World Airlines and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) (TWA). Airlines have a distinct organizational structure and profit strategy when compared to other modes of transportation.

Deregulation inaugurated many new avenues for airlines and reduced the cost of flights for customers. This article outlines profitability in the aviation industry and mentions some of the most well-known profitable airlines on a global scale.

5 Most profitable airlines in the North America

Aeromexico

Aeromexico, Mexico’s national airline, is operated by Aerovas de México, S.A. de C.V., with headquarters in Mexico City. Its scheduled routes offer more than 90 destinations, including Mexico, North, South, and Central America, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Aeromexico, a Mexican airline, reported in its first-quarter financial results that it had recovered 79% of its total pre-pandemic revenue. Aeromexico’s revenue reached 12.9 billion pesos between January and March (about 630 million US dollars). The operating loss in the first quarter of 2022 was minus $763.4 million pesos, a $2.7 billion peso increase from the first quarter of 2021.

One of the most profitable airlines Aeromexico aircraft stationed at an airport in the morning.

FedEx

FedEx Corporation, formerly known as Federal Express Corporation and later as FDX Corporation, is an international conglomerate holding company headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, with a focus on logistics, e-commerce, and shipping. FedEx was the most profitable airline company in the area in 2020, with nearly 38 billion dollars in revenue.

FedEx generated $22.6 billion in revenue, $1.8 billion in operating income, and $1.87 billion in net profit for fiscal year 2021. FedEx, a full-service freight carrier, generated revenue even during the pandemic, when planes all over the world were grounded. Several full-service airlines were able to move cargo aboard passenger aircraft and survive the pandemic as a result.

American Airlines

American Airlines, Inc. is a biggest airline in US headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, which is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. It is the world’s largest airline in terms of fleet size, flight network, and passenger revenue miles. Despite the fact that capacity was down nearly 9% by 2022, American reported a record second quarter revenue of $13.4 billion, up 12% from 2019. In comparison to the same period last year, United’s revenues grew by 6% while capacity decreased by 15%.

The carriers’ return to profitability was fueled by soaring revenue. American Airlines managed to earn $533 million in the quarter before exceptional items, aligning the expectations of analysts polled by Refinitiv. It is substantially lower than the $810 million the airline made during the same period last year prior to the epidemic, but it compares to a $1.1 billion loss the previous year.

Aircraft fleet of one of the most profitable airlines American

United Airlines Holdings 

A publicly listed airline holding company with its headquarters in Chicago’s Willis Tower, United Airlines Holdings, Inc. was earlier known as United Continental Holdings, Inc., UAL Corporation, Allegis Corporation, and was formed as UAL, Inc.  The aviation group UAH owns and runs United Airlines, Inc. United made $471 million in the second quarter as opposed to the $1.3 billion it suffered the year before.

Less than half as much money was made as a profit in the second quarter of 2019. United, in contrast to American, underperformed experts’ expectations. Higher costs, notably the skyrocketing cost of aviation fuel, were one of the reasons why earnings couldn’t keep up with the increased sales. After personnel expenditures, fuel is the second-highest expense for airlines.

A white commercial aircraft of one of the most profitable airlines United.

Delta Airlines

Delta, one of the world’s oldest airlines, has its corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Delta Connection, one of the airline regional subsidiaries, operates over 5,400 daily flights to 325 destinations in 52 countries across six continents. Delta Air Lines has been designated the most profitable airlines in the world and North America.

With $47 billion in sales and a massive margin of 10%, the Atlanta-based megacarrier earned $4.76 billion in net income in 2019. Given the challenges of fuel costs and numerous other variables, Delta’s 10% profitability is regarded as a standard and distinguishes the airline from its competitors in the United States. With the pandemic already subsiding, Delta is optimistic that its long-term bets will begin to pay off and that it will soon be profitable again.

A commercial aircraft of one of the most profitable airlines Delta.

Most profitable airline operates from every continent of the world

Every area of the world has unique economic dynamics that are impacted by things like local purchasing power, laws, infrastructure, way of life, and a few other things. It is crucial to take into account reputable carriers from different regions of the world.

Comparing the outcomes from various geographical areas can help you better comprehend the idea of successful airlines on a global scale. The performance of these airlines is evaluated before the COVID-19 pandemic.

North America 

Delta

In terms of both departures and total traffic volume, Atlanta is Delta’s most important hub. It is the world’s second-largest airline in terms of scheduled passenger traffic, revenue passenger miles traveled, and fleet size. It is ranked 69th on the Fortune 500. Delta people are the foundation of our success and I am honored to recognize their efforts with $1.3 billion in profit sharing for 2018,” said Ed Bastian, Delta’s chief executive officer.

South America

LATAM

Chile’s LATAM Airlines reported a $86 million profit in the third quarter of 2019, more than doubling the $35 million profit in the same period last year, according to a securities document. The largest one in Latin America claimed that increased the airline’s revenues, particularly in Brazil, where Avianca Brasil recently ceased operations, which benefited the three remaining carriers.

A white LATAM commercial aircraft landing on a runway.

Europe

Lufthansa

Lufthansa, Germany’s top airline, is among the top performing airlines in the world. It is also Europe’s largest airline in terms of passenger traffic. The airline, which is a Star Alliance member and has its headquarters in Cologne, Germany, operates over 700 aircraft. The airline was one of the most profitable in the world in 2018, as evidenced by its $ 2.5 billion profit.

UK

IAG

International Airlines Group was formed by the merger of British Airways and a major Spanish carrier. The air transport corporation is headquartered in the United Kingdom but is registered in Madrid, Spain. IAG forecasts that the airline earned $ 3.5 billion before taxes in 2018. The airline is ranked sixth worldwide and is traded on the London Stock Exchange.

Middle East

Emirates

Emirates Airlines, which is funded by the Dubai government, operates more than 3,600 flights per week to more than 150 destinations in 80 countries. This carrier is regarded as the largest in the Middle East. Emirates Airlines is not only one of the world’s most profitable airlines, but it is also the world’s second-largest freight carrier and the fourth-largest airline in terms of passengers carried. Emirates made a net profit of $237 million on sales of $29.8 billion in 2018.

An Emirates airlines jumbo jet parked at a jetway.

Asia

China Southern 

China Southern, one of the largest airlines in the country, has its headquarters there. China Southern Airlines, formed by the merger of several regional carriers, is one of the world’s largest airline companies. the world’s sixth-largest airline in terms of passenger traffic and the largest carrier in Asia in terms of fleet size, earnings, and passenger traffic.

The airline, which was a SkyTeam member until January 1, 2019, operates over 2,000 flights per day to over 200 destinations from its two main bases in Beijing Daxing International Airport and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport. In 2018, the company generated $21.7 billion in revenue and $509 million in net profit.

Oceania 

Qantas

Qantas Airways Limited is Australia’s flag carrier and the country’s largest airline in terms of fleet size, international routes, and international markets. It was established in November 1920 and is the world’s third-oldest air carrier still in action. Australia’s national airline declared a 14.9% increase in annual profitability due to a strong quarter for its domestic business budget airline, Jetstar. Despite reporting a 14% increase in real net profit to $1.6 billion for the 2018 fiscal year, Qantas proclaimed a legislated net profit of $980 million.

A white and red Qantas commercial aircraft landing on a runway.

Final thoughts

The airline industry is a fierce market with heavy competition. It is also quite volatile as it is easily impacted by various factors such as travel restrictions, airline employee strikes, and natural disasters. Yet, despite the setbacks, some of the most profitable airlines benefit from returning travel-hungry customers and they continue to thrive better than before. While in this article we talked about some of the world’s largest airlines, let’s not forget that the low cost airline market has also seen a sharp increase in profits.

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Eglė Bartaševičiūtė
A passionate traveler and an avid aviation enthusiast bringing you the most well-founded, accurate and up-to-date industry content.

2 comments

  1. Navvab says:

    Hello
    Please present the final report of these airliner if it possible.we are in 2022 and this article is for 2018.

  2. Bewengel Adem says:

    I am an aviation industry enthusiast working in one of the biggest airlines in Africa Ethiopian Airlines. I was expecting at least one paragraph about the African aviation sector but was not lucky to find that in your article while you were mentioning every region’s biggest airlines.
    I’m disappointed and if you are willing to discuss I would like to know why the Article didn’t include about African region.

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