The fastest growing airlines in the world aren’t the ones you’d necessarily expect. Indeed one or two may seriously surprise you.
10. Frontier Airlines
2018 seat capacity: 23,412,340
Year on year growth over 2017: 18.1%
Frontier is owned by Indigo Partners, the same people behind a 49% buyout of WOW. They’ve linked with another of their airlines, Volaris, to integrate frontier with Mexican destinations.
2018 seat capacity: 36,732,238
Year on year growth over 2017: 18.5%
Lufthansa’s massive strength and organisational capabilities as a group are prodigious. It integrated 77 ex-AirBerlin aircraft, 3,000 plus employees and increased its market share by 17%. It isn’t making any money, in fact its been loosing it hand over fist – a $210 million downturn over the previous year, but Lufthansa group don’t care, because they know it’s just a temporary glitch – by 2020-21 it will be back in the black. In the meantime it’s now third largest airline at key German airports, 5th at others and its giving easyJet and RyanAir a run for their money, as well as Norwegian which seems to have especially suffered at Düsseldorf.
2018 seat capacity 18,255,600
Year on year growth over 2017: 20.3%
2001 saw Garuda establish it as its low-cost regional carrier. Indonesia, made up of thousands of islands, is the worlds largest muslim state in geographical and population size. Air travel is a fast growing way of getting around this huge and diverse country.
The airline is starting more and more new routes inside the country and demand keeps increasing.
2018 seat capacity: 54,574,295
Year on year growth over 2017: 20.9%
The airline now has fleet of 162 Boeing 737 family aircraft, 71 Airbus A320 series aircraft, 39 Bombardier Q400’s, and 26 Embraer 175’s. Virgin America’s liveries are being quickly expunged from existence. In fairness, Alaska’s overall expansion is almost entirely due to the Virgin America additions, it’s not done so well if you take a more holistic view.
2018 seat capacity: 22,518,540
Year on year growth over 2017: 21.5%
This is the only Chinese airline in the top ten which is, to my mind something of a surprise. Based in Shanghai, its servicing international SE Asia routes and Chinese domestic. It owns, but figures aren’t included here, Spring Airlines Japan, which operates totally independently.
2018 seat capacity 74,570,054
Year on year growth over 2017: 24.3%
Vicious competition and spiralling fuel costs saw the airline make a loss for the first time in three years at the end of 2018.
Its making sharp inroads to international travel, has made an alliance with Turkish Airlines and has a massive 150 A321neoLR’s on order to increase its long haul expansion rate, seen as a prime growth area. With domestic airlines reaching capacity limits, mostly due to India’s lack of investment in ATC and airport construction and capacity, overseas is one way to keep up the drive.
It also has the worlds largest A320neo fleet – which hasn’t always been easy on it, suffering several serious engine issues that came close to seeing the Indian Government ground them all.
2018 seat capacity: 14,720,400
Year on year growth over 2017: 24.7%
This was the worlds fastest growing airline for the first half of 2018. Based in Mumbai, its staggering growth rate shows the seemingly insatiable demand for cheap air travel in the worlds second most populous country and one of its biggest cities.
It has a modern A320neo driven fleet with 114 on order. It’s considering swapping many to A321’s.
2018 seat capacity: 13,573,868
Year on year growth over 2017: 26.7%
Yes a British airline is in third place! Jet2 was pretty much a Leeds-Bradford based ‘bucket and spade’ airline, taking northerners to the sunny beaches of Spain. That’s still a big part of its business, but it’s morphed into a truly national airline, especially at Birmingham (BHX), Manchester (MAN) and London Stansted, along with Edinburgh, Belfast, Nottingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and a base in Alicante, Spain.
Key to its growth is its link to its group owned holiday company and new routes to other European destinations away from the tourist beaches, for example the recent BHX-Budapest introduction.
It now operates 74 737’s (11 733’s and 63 738’s many of which are new), and 11 757-200’s.
2018 seat capacity: 20,641,372
Year on year growth over 2017: 27.1%
Back in SE Asia again, the growth of low-cost travel continues to be frenetic.
VietJet is just 7 years old, it drove up its domestic capacity by just short of 20% and its international capacity by a staggering 62% in just one year. It’s driving a sharp hole into Vietnam Airlines dominance and – a not unfamiliar theme with almost all of these fast expanding airlines, Airbus is their choice with 120 A321neo’s on order.
Its often old-fashioned by western standards, and rather misogynistic marketing, seems to make no difference to passengers who can’t get enough of it.
2018 seat capacity: 13,577,267
Year on year growth over 2017: 40.7%
Thai Lion Air, one of Indonesian super-carrier Lion Air’s subsidiaries, based in Bangkok, has grown at a staggering rate in 2018. Domestic Thai and international routes as far away as Tokyo and Bali have driven demand. It’s just 5 years old, with 34 aircraft (3 A330-300, 11 738’s, 17 739’s and 3 Max 9’s) and shows no sign of slowing down, presenting major competition to Thaliand’s traditional airlines.
The takeaways: Airbus seems to be driving the engine of the fastest airlines to a staggering degree, it’s the A320neo and its derivatives that are pushing most of them ahead.
Lion Air’s falling out with Boeing has the potential to see a vast 737 Max order cancelled, but I doubt it. Boeing will find a way to make it better and persuade them to stay. yet there’s no doubt the aircraft carrying the vast momentum of the low-cost drive is the Airbus single aisle series.