The most profitable low cost carriers worldwide 2018

U.S. airline Southwest is by far the most profitable low-cost carrier in the world, with a net profit of 2.47 billion U.S. dollars in 2018. Irish carrier Ryanair was the second most profitable with 1.02 billion for the same year. These two airlines were the most profitable low-cost carriers by a significant margin.

Low-cost carriers

Low-cost carriers are an increasingly important component of the global air travel industry, almost doubling their market share since 2006 to just over 30 percent. They differ from traditional full-service carriers through charging additional fees for services such as checked baggage, food and beverages, and entertainment, allowing for cheaper base ticket prices. This business model means that a significant portion of low cost carriers’ revenue is derived from ancillary services – comprising well over one third of total revenue for some airlines.

Global low-cost carrier market

Southwest and Ryanair are also the largest low-cost carriers in terms of total revenue and seats offered. On these metrics though, the distance between these two and other low cost-carriers is narrower. This gap is likely to close further in future, with Asian low-cost carriers growing at a much faster rate in 2019 than established carriers in the more developed low-cost markets of North America and Europe.

Leading low cost airlines worldwide in 2018, based on net profit (in million U.S. dollars)*

Net profit in million U.S. dollars
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Release date

July 2019



Survey time period


Supplementary notes

* The source is limited to the 70 largest air carrier groups worldwide in 2018 by revenue. Values are for the fiscal year ending December 2018, excluding Ryanair ((fiscal year ends March 2018), EasyJet (fiscal year ends September 2018), IndiGo (fiscal year ends March 2018) and Wizz Air (fiscal year ends March 2018).

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