Number of U.S. air carriers 1995-2019

The number of commercial air carriers in the United States has been steadily decreasing, with the number of major carriers falling from 22 in 2008 to 18 in 2019. For smaller air carriers the decline has been even stronger, with the 66 carriers counted in 2008 shrinking to 41 by 2018.

Major air carriers

According to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, major air carriers are commercial airlines generating over one billion U.S. dollars in operating revenue per year. The number of major air carriers can therefore change through smaller airlines growing, as well as through new carriers being created, or existing carriers exiting the market (including through mergers, notably the merger between US Airways and American Airlines in October 2015). This threshold is set such that the majority of the U.S. market is serviced by carriers designated as major, with the top 10 carriers alone accounting for over 90 percent of the domestic market.

Air travel in the United States

The decline in the number of U.S. airlines in no way is a sign of a decline in the U.S. air travel market – rather, the opposite is true. Total passenger miles flown by U.S. carriers have increased strongly over this period, with all of the leading carriers seeing year-on-year increases in their passenger numbers. However, these statistics hide a decline in regional air travel in the U.S. Since 2010, fewer passengers have been making less and less trips on regional carriers each year.

Number of air carriers in the United States from 1995 to 2019

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Release date

October 2019


United States

Survey time period

1995 to 2019

Supplementary notes

Carrier groups are categorized based on their annual operating revenues as major, national, large regional, and medium regional. The thresholds were last adjusted July 1, 1999, and the threshold for major air carriers is currently one billion U.S. dollars. The other air carrier category contains all national, large regional, and medium regional air carriers. Beginning in 2003, regional air carriers are not required to report financial data which may result in under reporting of "Other carriers" in this statistic.
Values prior to 2018 were taken from previous editions.

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Statistics on "Air transportation in the U.S."

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