Passenger airlines in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

The United States has the largest air travel market of any single country, with nearly 889 million passengers being transported in 2018. U.S. passenger airlines are some of the largest in the world, with Delta and American Airlines being the world’s largest. Several factors explain the leading position of the U.S. market. First is the country’s size, in terms of geography, population and the economy. Combined with the lack of a high-sped passenger rail network, these three factors create a huge demand for domestic flights, with this often being the only feasible option for long-distance trips. Second is the country’s status as a hub for intercontinental travel. Not only do tourism and business create a high demand for intercontinental flights, but the U.S. is often a stopover destination for flights to other countries in the region.

In 2018, there were 58 airlines in the United States, of which 17 are classified as major carriers with over one billion U.S. dollars in revenue. Broadly, the airlines in the U.S. can be divided into three main categories: full-service legacy carriers, low-cost carriers and regional carriers. Legacy carriers are those airlines with established interstate routes at the time of the airline industry deregulation in 1978. In the decades since, the three giant legacy carriers - Delta, American and United – have collectively merged with or acquired the majority of carriers existing prior to deregulation. Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines are the only other legacy carriers still in operation. The legacy carriers presently account for just over half of the domestic market and the majority of intercontinental flights.

Low-cost carriers emerged since deregulation and have fundamentally changed the airline industry by offering significantly cheaper fares than full-service carriers. This is achieved largely through charging extra for services like checked baggage, food and beverages, and in some cases inflight entertainment. U.S. low-cost carrier Southwest is the world’s largest, while JetBlue is in the top ten. Other U.S. low-cost carriers include Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier. Interestingly, several low-cost carriers consistently outscore the full-service carriers in for customer satisfaction.

Finally, regional carriers are those with operating revenue of below 100 million U.S. dollars and provide services to communities too small to justify the presence of a mainline carrier. The regional segment differs in that while overall U.S. air travel industry has been growing, the number of regional carriers and passengers transported has been declining. High operating costs, low demand and the effects of the pilot shortage are the factors generally provided to explain this decline.

Interesting statistics

In the following 4 chapters, you will quickly find the 26 most important statistics relating to "Passenger airlines in the U.S".

Passenger airlines in the U.S.

Dossier on the topic

All important statistics are prepared by our experts – available for direct download as PPT & PDF!

Important key figures

The most important key figures provide you with a compact summary of the topic of "Passenger airlines in the U.S" and take you straight to the corresponding statistics.



Passenger experience


Get in touch with us. We are happy to help.

Statista Locations
ContactEsther Shaulova
Esther Shaulova
Operations Manager– Contact (United States)

Mon - Fri, 9am - 6pm (EST)

ContactZiyan Zhang
Ziyan Zhang
Customer Relations– Contact (Asia)

Mon - Fri, 11:30am - 10pm (IST)

ContactLodovica Biagi
Lodovica Biagi
Director of Operations– Contact (Europe)

Mon - Fri, 9:30am - 5pm (GMT)

ContactCatalina Rodriguez
Catalina Rodriguez
Key Account Manager - LATAM– Contact (Latin America)

Mon - Fri, 9am - 6pm (EST)