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Europe’s 15 Biggest Airlines — May 2021 Edition

Here comes the most up-to-date ranking of Europe's biggest airlines. We looked at Europe's carrier's scheduled seat capacity and compiled the last airline ranking.

Europe’s 15 Biggest Airlines — May 2021 Edition

For more than 12 months, Corona has shaken the world’s airline industry and reshuffled the market — at least temporarily. And this—especially—accounts for airline rankings. So we took a closer look at capacity figures in May 2021. As a result, we’re thrilled to represent Europe’s biggest airlines by scheduled seat capacity. Data were retrieved from OAG.

Europe’s Biggest Airlines — Contents

Here’s an overview of what you will find in this blog post:

Europe’s 15 Biggest Airlines — Results Overview

Turkish Airline wins the title of Europe’s biggest airline in May 2021. Although Turkish Airlines offers only half of 2019’s seats, it still offers almost 400,000 more seats than Aeroflot ranked 2nd. The capacity counts seats on flights to, from, or within Europe.

RankAirlineSeat Capacity (mil.)Change vs. May 2019
1Turkish Airlines3.59-49%
5Air France1.94-60%
6S7 Airlines1.58+4%
12Wizz Air1.22-89%
15Ural Airlines0.93+27%
Europe’s 15 Biggest Airlines — Results Overview
Europe's Biggest Airline in May 2021: Turkish Airlines
Europe’s Biggest Airline in May 2021: Turkish Airlines

Europe’s 15 Biggest Airlines — Key Take-Aways

Besides the plane ranking, it is interesting to look at the airline’s capacity in May 2021. We put together our most essential findings and key takeaways from the list of Europe’s biggest airlines.

Low-Cost airline hit hardest but remain in the list of Europe’s biggest airlines

When looking at the change of capacity compared to May 2020, it becomes obvious that low-cost airlines are suffering the hardest. Wizz Air reduced capacity by 89%, easyJet by 87%, and Ryanair by 84%. However, amazing to see that Ryanair still ranks among the top 3 of Europe’s biggest airlines — despite that enormous capacity reduction.

Russian Airlines show Strong Results — New Entries!

Russian airlines (Aeroflot, S7 Airlines, Pobeda, Ural Airlines) show remarkable strong results. Aeroflot shows a moderate capacity reduction in comparison to other flag carriers of 34%. However, the other Russian carriers were able to increase capacity — Pobeda by an impressive 47%. Therefore, it is crazy to see Pobeda ranking higher than EasyJet and close to Europe’s flag carrier bearing in mind that Pobeda operates a fleet of only 39 aircraft.

Europe’s flag carrier bleed equally

Europe’s big flag carriers show similar performance in terms of capacity reduction. SAS, KLM, Lufthansa, or Air France had to reduce their capacity by 60% or 70%. However, unbelievable to see that British Airways does not rank among Europe’s top 15 airlines in May 2021.


Europe’s Biggest Airlines — Airline Details

We put together some details for each of the airlines contained in the ranking.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is Turkey’s biggest airline. With a fleet of 362 aircraft and some 40,000 employees. The airline operates flights to 126 countries, more than any other airline in the world. Turkish Airlines has its main hub in Istanbul and operates a secondary hub in Izmir. Find out everything about Turkish Airlines on our dedicated Turkish Airlines information page.


Aeroflot was founded in 1923 and is Russia’s flag carrier and biggest airline today. Aeroflot operates a fleet of 244 aircraft out of its hub in Moscow (Moscow Sheremetyevo). The airline has 30,000 employees and flies to more than 240 destinations all over the world.


Europe'S biggest airlines: Ryanair
By Alec Wilson from Khon Kaen, Thailand – SP-RSA, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Ryanair is an Irish low-cost airline founded in 1984. Including their subsidiaries, Ryanair operates a fleet of more than 450 aircraft and forms Europe’s biggest low-cost airline. Ryanair has its headquarters in Dublin and operates aircraft bases all over Europe. Before Corona, Ryanair transported almost 150 million passengers.


Lufthansa is Germany’s largest airline and one of the world’s largest airline groups. The group airlines operated out of their bases in Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, and Zurich. In total, the airline group has more than 700 aircraft and, before COVID-19, almost 140,000 employees. The airline operates flights to hundreds of European destinations and Asia, North America, Africa, Central and South America.

Air France

Air France / KLM is a France-Dutch airline group. Besides the main carriers, Air France and KLM, the group consists of Transavia, Hop, or Martinair airlines. In pre-COVID time, the airline group had more than 85,000 employees and operated 2,300 flights with its 550 aircraft. In 2019, Air France / KLM operated 104 million passengers, mainly from Paris and Amsterdam.

S7 Airlines

S7 Airlines is an airline headquartered in Ob, Novosibirsk Oblast, Russia, with offices in Moscow. As of 2008, it was Russia’s largest domestic airline, with its main bases at Domodedovo International Airport and Tolmachevo Airport. It is a member of the Oneworld alliance.


KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the flag carrier of the Netherlands. The airline is part of the Air France / KLM airline group. With a fleet of almost 120 aircraft, KM operates flights to 145 destinations. KLM’s aircraft fleet consists of Airbus A330 and Boeing B737, B777 as well, as B787. In 2019, KLM had 35,000 employees and transported 35 million passengers.


Europe's biggest airlines: Pegasus
By sloppy perfectionist from Austria – Pegasus Airlines Airbus A320neo TC-NBR, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Pegasus Airlines is a Turkish low-cost airline with its headquarters in Istanbul. The airline operates more than 90 aircraft out of various bases in Turkey. Pegasus flies to more than 100 domestic and international destinations in more than 40 countries. The airlines focus on West and Central Europe as well as the Middle East.
Find out everything about Pegasus Airlines on our dedicated Pegasus Airline information page.


Iberia is the flag carrier airline of Spain, founded in 1927. Madrid operates an international network of services from its main base of Madrid–Barajas Airport. Iberia, with Iberia Regional (operated by an independent carrier Air Nostrum) and Iberia Express, is a part of International Airlines Group. In addition to transporting passengers and freight, Iberia Group carries out related activities, such as aircraft maintenance, airports, IT systems, and in-flight catering. Iberia Group airlines fly to over 109 destinations in 39 countries and a further 90 destinations through code-sharing agreements with other airlines.


Pobeda Airlines LCC, commonly known as Pobeda, is a low-cost airline and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aeroflot, the flag carrier and largest airline of Russia. It operates scheduled services to domestic and international destinations mainly from its airline hub of Vnukovo International Airport. Since operations commenced in late 2014, Pobeda is considered one of the fastest-growing airlines in Russia and Europe in 2019, becoming the 3rd largest airline in Russia in February 2019.


Europe's Biggest Airlines: eayJEt

easyJet is a British low-cost airline group with headquarters in London. The airline operates an aircraft fleet of more than 300 planes — mainly Airbus A319, A320, and A320. easyJet serves more than 130 destinations, mainly in Europe from various bases. The airline group has more than 14,000 employees.

Wizz Air

Wizz Air is a Hungarian ultra-low-cost airline with its head office in Budapest. The airline serves many cities across Europe and some destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. Although it is not a flag carrier, it has the largest fleet of any Hungarian airline and currently serves 44 countries.


Vueling is a Spanish low-cost airline and part of the International Airlines Group (IAG). The carrier operates two hubs, one in Barcelona and one in Rome. Measured by fleet size (126 aircraft) and the number of destinations, Vueling is Spain’s largest airline. In addition, Vueling serves more than 100 destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.


Europe's Biggest Airlines #14 SAS
By Stein Olsen from Nannestad, Norway – LN-RGO A320neo, CC BY-SA 2.0,

SAS is a Scandinavian airline group with its headquarters in Sweden. The airline group was founded in 1946. Today the airline group operates more than 150 aircraft with a diversified fleet. Besides various Airbus models (A319, A320, A321, A330, A340, and A350), the airline also operates Boeing aircraft (B737) and Bombardier. SAS operates flights to destinations in Europe, Asia, and North America.

Ural Airlines

Europe's Biggest Airlines: #15 Ural Airlines
Source: Wikipedia

Ural Airlines is an airline based in Yekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia, that operates scheduled and chartered domestic and international flights out of Koltsovo International Airport. In 2018, the company transported nine million passengers.

Europe’s Biggest Airlines — What’s your Opinion?

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Benjamin Walther

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Benjamin is Information Design's CEO and a proven content-maniac. Besides running a successful business and developing pioneering ideas, he's dedicated to writing blog posts and creating content.

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