> Flying with frills – global airlines ranked by first class and premium seat numbers

Flying with frills – global airlines ranked by first class and premium seat numbers

British Airways CEO Sean Doyle has recently reiterated his airline’s commitment to first class. He told The Telegraph last month that the UK airline would be “one of the few carriers to retain first [class] on the scale that we do”.

New analysis from CAPA – Centre for Aviation of its Fleet Database reveals that British Airways ranks second globally by the number of first class seats installed on its fleet.

Far ahead is Emirates Airline – partly a reflection of its larger size overall. Emirates is also the biggest operator of widebodies, where premium cabins are typically more important.

Emirates has the highest number of First class seats, but Singapore Airlines has a higher proportion of its seats in premium cabins, and SWISS has a higher proportion of widebody seats in first class.

The report from CAPA – Centre for Aviation analyses data from the CAPA Fleet Database on the installed seat numbers of the world’s 50 leading airlines. It includes rankings by total seats, premium seats and first class seats across their total fleets and on their widebody fleets.

First class accounts for 0.3% of installed seats of the world’s 50 leading FSCs…

First class cabins represent only 0.3% of the installed seats of the world’s 50 largest full service airlines.

Note that this is based on analysis of the number of seats installed in the current fleets of the leading 50 FSC airlines ranked by total ASKs in the week of 17-Jul-2023. It uses data from the CAPA Fleet Database, rather than scheduled seat capacity flown for the week.

…and business class is 9.2%

Although first class cabins are small, premium passengers are an important segment, with business class seats making up 9.2% of the total.

Premium economy is not counted as a premium cabin (which is first and business), but it is a profitable segment for many airlines. It accounts for 2.2% of the top 50 FSCs’ seats.

Economy class, with 88.4%, represents the vast majority of their fleets’ seats.

American, United and Delta are the largest airlines by total installed seat numbers…

Based on the total number of seats installed on their aircraft, the US big three airlines of American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines (in that order) are comfortably bigger than their main global competitors.

Each of the three fleets has more than 170,000 seats, whereas only three others have 100,000 or more.

Fourth-ranked China Southern Airlines has just under 115,000, Emirates Airline has 109,000, and China Eastern Airlines has 100,000.

Also in the top 10 are Air China (96,000 seats), Turkish Airlines (71,000), Lufthansa (69,000), and Qatar Airways (56,000).

…and by premium seat numbers

Ranking the fleets of the leading full service airlines by the number of premium seats installed i.e. first class and business class) – the US big three remain out in front.

However, United Airlines is ranked first on this measure and American Airlines slips to third.

Emirates is close behind the US big three on premium seat numbers

On premium seats, Emirates Airline is fourth and is much closer in size to the US big three. The Dubai-based operator has almost 16,500 premium seats, while third ranked American Airlines has a little more than 18,000.

There is then a big gap to a group of four airlines with more than 7,000 premium seats (China Eastern Airlines, Air China, Qatar Airways and British Airways) and six with more than 5,000 (Turkish Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific Airways, Singapore Airlines and All Nippon Airways).

To read the full analysis and view charts associated with the analysis, visit: Flying with frills – global airlines ranked by first class and premium seat numbers

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