During the last decades, the Middle East became one of the most essential aviation markets — creating some of the world’s biggest airlines. With the sixth part of our “Spotlight Series,” we take a look at the Middle East aviation market: The Top 10 Biggest Middle East airlines by fleet size.

Top 10 Biggest Middle East Airlines

The “Spotlight Series” is a series of blogs that presents airline and airport rankings for specific regions. The Top 10 Biggest Middle East Airlines is the fifth edition of the “Spotlight Series.” Here are the other issues:

Top 10 Biggest Middle East Airlines

There are many metrics to define the world’s biggest airlines. We’ve analyzed the world’s airlines according to their safety performanceproduct quality, or capacity with some of our latest rankings. Today, we take a look at the fleet size. First, however, we move away from global statistics and take a Middle East deep dive. Moreover, and contrary to many other rankings, we incorporated Corona-related reductions. Therefore, our ranking contains the most up-to-date fleet figures.

On top of that, it is essential to mention that we counted the aircraft of single airlines — not airline groups! Therefore, the ranking might look different from other similar rankings.

Top 10 Biggest Middle East American Airlines

#10 — Flynas

Airline Ranking
Saudi Arabia-based low-cost carrier, flynas, kicks off the list of Middle East’s biggest airlines. The airline operates a fleet of 40 aircraft. As a result, the airline is also Saudi Arabia’s second-largest airline by fleet size. However, on a global level, flynas doesn’t rank in the top 50.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Flynas Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Flynas Details

Airline Information
Flynas is a Saudi Arabian low-cost airline headquartered in Riyadh. The airline is considered the country’s first low-cost airline. Flynas operates a fleet of A320-200 and A320-NEO aircraft and serves destinations in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and Asia.

Flynas aircraft – Photo By Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

#9 — Air Arabia

Airline Ranking
With 43 aircraft, Sharjah-based Air Arabia ranks 9th among Middle East’s biggest airlines. Based on fleet size, Air Arabia is the country’s fourth-largest carrier. Nevertheless, the airline isn’t ranked among the world’s biggest airlines.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Air Arabia Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Air Arabia Details

Airline Information
Air Arabia is a privately owned low-cost airline headquartered in Sharjah International Airport, United Arab Emirates. Besides its main hub in Sharjah, the airline operates a fleet of 43 aircraft out of four additional hubs: Alexandria Airport (Egypt), Casablanca Airport (Morocco), Abu Dhabi Airport (United Arab Emirates), and Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (United Arab Emirates). As of May 2021, the airline operates scheduled services to 170 destinations in the Middle East, North Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Central Asia, and Europe to 22 countries from Sharjah, 28 destinations in 9 countries from Casablanca, Fez, Nador, and Tangier, 11 destinations in 8 countries from Ras Al Khaimah, and six destinations in 4 countries from Alexandria. In addition, the carrier has its frequent flyer program, called AirRewards. Up to now, Air Arabia isn’t a member of an airline alliance.

File:Air Arabia, A6-ANS, Airbus A320-214 (31272720302).jpg
Air Arabia aircraft – Source: Wikimedia

#8 — Oman Air

Airline Ranking
With a current fleet size of 50 aircraft, Oman’s flag-carrier Oman Air ranks 8th among the biggest Middle East airlines. The airline is also Oman’s biggest carrier. Nonetheless, Oman Air doesn’t rank among the world’s largest airlines based on the current fleet size.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Oman Air Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Oman Air Details

Airline Background
Oman Air is the national airline of Oman. The airline is headquartered and operates out of its hub in Muscat, Oman. The carrier has a fleet of 51 aircraft consisting of mainly Airbus and Boeing airplanes. As of July 2020, Oman Air flies to 50 destinations in 27 destinations. Oman Air’s destinations include Bahrain, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia. The carrier isn’t a member of an airline alliance.

Oman Air aircraft – By Jakkrit Prasertwit

#7 — Mahan Air

Airline Ranking
Iran’s second-biggest airline, Mahan Air, ranks 8th among Middle East’s biggest airlines. The carrier operates a fleet of 53 aircraft. Accordingly, Mahan Air’s fleet contains only three aircraft, more than Oman Air’s on rank eight. However, and similar to the already introduced airlines, Mahan Air doesn’t rank on the world’s top 50 biggest airlines.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Mahan Air Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Mahan Air Details

Airline Background
Mahan Air is a privately owned Iranian airline based in Teheran. The airline was founded in 1991 and commenced operations in 1992. Mahan Air operates home bases in Teheran and Mehrabad and a fleet of mainly Airbus aircraft. Mahan Air currently serves more than 50 destinations in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe.

Mahan Air aircraft – By Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

#6 — Flydubai

Airline Ranking
With only one additional aircraft compared to Mahan Air, Dubai-based Flydubai ranks sixth on the Middle East’s biggest airlines list. Flydubai is also the country’s third-largest airline behind Etihad and Emirates. Moreover, Flydubai is considered as Middle East’s biggest low-cost airline.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Flydubai Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Flydubai Details

Airline Background
flydubai is a government-owned budget airline headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The airline operates 54 aircraft out of its hub at Dubai International Airport. flydubai’s fleet solely consists of Boeing B7373 aircraft models. As of May 2021, the airline operates scheduled services to approximately 80 destinations in 50 countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Egypt, Finnland, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Turkey, or Ukraine. The carrier isn’t a member of an airline alliance.

flydubai aircraft – By Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia

Top 10 Biggest Middle East Airlines: Position 5 – 1

#5 — Iran Air

Airline Ranking
Iran’s flag-carrier Iran Air kicks off the top 5 of the Middle East’s largest airlines. Moreover, based on its fleet size, Iran Air is the country’s biggest airline. However, with an impressive fleet of 80 aircraft, the carrier doesn’t rank among the world’s biggest airlines.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Iran Air Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Iran Air Details

Airline Background
Iran Air is the state-owned flag carrier of Iran. The airline was founded in 1944. The airline is headquartered in Teheran and operates flights to more than 70 destinations in Iran, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. The airline operates a fleet of mainly Airbus aircraft.

Iran Air aircraft – By Mark Harkin

#4 — Etihad

Airline Ranking
With Etihad on position four, we enter the world of 100+ fleet size. Actually, there are only four Middle East airlines that operate a fleet size bigger than 100 aircraft. With 103 aircraft, Etihad is the second-largest airline of the United Arab Emirates by fleet size. Moreover, Etihad is also the first airline that ranks among the world’s biggest airlines (position 47).

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Etihad Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Etihad Details

Airline Background
Etihad is the second flag carrier of the United Arab Emirates. The airline has its hub in Abu Dhabi and operates a fleet of more than 100 aircraft. In 2019, Etihad had 20,000 employees (14,000 in 2020) and carried 17.5 million passengers (4.2 in 2020). In pre-COVID times, Etihad operated more than 1,000 daily flights to destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and North America.

Etihad Airways (special livery) – By N509FZ – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

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#3 — Saudia

Airline Ranking
Saudi Arabia’s flag-carrier Saudia ranks as Middle East’s third-biggest airline. The airline operates a fleet of 157 aircraft. Accordingly, the gap to Etihad is quite considerable. At the same time, Saudia ranks as the country’s biggest airline and ranks 28th among the world’s biggest airlines.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Saudia Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Saudia Details

Airline Background
Saudia, formerly know as Saudi Arabian Airlines, is the state-owned flag carrier of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The airline is headquartered in Jeddah and operates 157 aircraft out of three hubs: Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam. Currently, Saudia is considered as Middle East’s third-largest airline in revenue, behind Emirates and Qatar Airways. The airline operates domestic and international scheduled flights to over 85 destinations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. In addition, Saudia operates a frequent flyer program called Al Fursan Loyalty. The airline was a founding member of the Arab Air Carriers Organization and the SkyTeam airline alliance.

Saudia aircraft – By Russell Lee, CC BY 2.0

#2 — Qatar Airways

Airline Ranking
Doha-based Qatar Airways represents another fleet size level compared to the previous ranks. With more than 230 aircraft, Qatar’s flag carrier operates one of the world’s biggest fleets. Accordingly, Qatar Airways ranks as the second-biggest airline in the Middle East and the 17th biggest airline worldwide.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Qatar Airways Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Qatar Airways Details

Airline Background
Qatar Airways is the flag carrier of Qatar. Founded in 1993, the airline today operates a fleet of 235 aircraft. The fleet consists of different Airbus types (A319, A320, A321, A330, A350, A380) and Boeing aircraft (B777). The airline has more than 50,000 employees and operates flights to 170 destinations.

Find out everything about Qatar Airways on our dedicated Qatar Airways information page.

Qatar Airways aircraft – By Joshua Doubek – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

#1 — Emirates

Airline Ranking
And finally, the title of Middle East’s biggest airlines by fleet size goes to Emirates. The Dubai-based airline operates a fleet of more than 250 aircraft. Therefore, Emirates is only a few aircraft bigger than Qatar Airways. However, from a global point of view, Emirates ranks four positions higher than Qatar Airways.

Biggest Airlines in the Middle East - Emirates Details
Biggest Airlines in the Middle East – Emirates Details

Airline Background
Emirates Airlines was founded in 1985 and operated out of its base in Dubai. The airline operates a fleet of 250 aircraft, mainly Airbus A380 and Boeing B777. With more than 100 Airbus A380, Emirates is the world’s biggest operator of this aircraft. In addition, Emirates Airlines flies to more than 150 destinations around the globe. Pre-COVID, the airline had more than 60,000 employees.

Emirates aircraft

Biggest Middle East Airlines — What’s Your Opinion?

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Benjamin is a content-maniac, music-lover, aviation-enthusiast, and CEO of Information Design (in this order). His daily business revolves around pioneering solutions to change the way airlines, airports, and aviators use information. His visions are based on expertise gained in more than 15 years in the industry and working with renowned airlines + airports worldwide.

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