Most countries have one or a few airlines operating in their country. The United States has 10 mainline in addition to three regional airlines that provide commercial aviation services. These include American, United, and Dela commonly called referred as legacy carriers. There are three ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCC); Spirit, Allegiant, and Frontier. Also included are JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska Airlines, as well as Hawaiian Air. Together these airlines collectively carried almost 840 million passengers in 2017. Each airline has many differences and some similarities that make them unique.
The smallest and most region specific of the 10 US airlines is Hawaiian Airlines. While its focus is Hawaii, the airline offers non-stop service to several international destinations and the US Mainland. They have a fleet of approximately 55 aircraft and have placed orders for 15 new aircraft in the coming years. Their hubs are on the islands of Honolulu and Kahului that allow them to service 28 destinations.
Founded in the mid 1990’s, Frontier is an ultra-low-cost carrier with a hub in Denver, Colorado. While the airline mainly services the continental US, they offer service to select international destinations. Their 84 aircraft fleet consist entirely of Airbus A319/A320/A321s. They have over 150 Airbus A320neo and A321neo aircraft on order as well. Currently the airline is growing with several new non-stop routes across 90 destinations.
Another ultra-low-cost US airline founded in the 1990’s is Allegiant Air. The airline doesn’t have a hub, but instead operates select leisure routes with little competition. Allegiant operates an all-Airbus fleet of A319s and A320s totaling 83 aircraft. While they don’t operate any international routes, they do fly from cities nearby the US-Canadian border. With the airline’s cost saving focus, they often fly to secondary airports and serve 121 destinations across the US.
As the youngest US airline, JetBlue Airways is also the 6th largest. The airline primarily operates out of JFK in New York, but also has several focus cities. Jetblue offers a unique service in that it aims to mix affordable fares with amenities. These include inflight entertainment and premium cabin service on transcontinental flights. Operating with an aircraft fleet comprised of 193 Airbus A320s / A321s as well as 60 Embraer E190s. The airline offers both domestic and international service with a little over 100 destinations served.
One of the most well-liked airlines, Southwest flies more passengers per year than United Airlines (as of 2017). While the airline doesn’t follow the hub and spoke model, the do operate several bases are the US in major markets. The airline is known for its no-frills offering and flexibility. Southwest operates a 750 aircraft fleet entirely of Boeing 737 variants that is intended to help reduce cost. The airline is constantly evaluating expansion and currently services 99 destinations including a few international cities.
Located primarily in the Northwest, Alaska Airlines recently completed its merger with Virgin America in 2018. The airline has hubs in Anchorage (ANC), Los Angeles (LAX), Portland (PDX), Seattle (SEA), and San Francisco (SFO). With the acquisition of Virgin America, the airline was able to instantly expand its offering including transcontinental and international service. With over 320 aircraft in their fleet, Alaska operates a mix of Boeing and Airbus planes as well as Dash-8s and Embraer E175s. Today the airline flies to over 115 destinations across the North American continent.
The ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines is known for its bright yellow livery (and probably its limited leg room). The airline doesn’t operate a hub-and-spoke model like most airlines, but instead services select routes through operating bases. These are located on the East Coast, Midwest, as well as Las Vegas (LAS) and Dallas (DFW). The airline operates a fleet of 128 Airbus A319/A320/A321 aircraft. Spirit flies both domestically and internationally including several places in the Caribbean, Central, and South America. All combined, the airline services a total of 71 destinations.
United Airlines operates approximately 4,700 flights every day. The airline has an expansive presence around the United States with seven major hubs. United operates a variety of aircraft with just over 760 in their fleet. This includes mainly narrow-body and wide-body planes from Boeing in addition to the 170 Airbus A319/A320 models. With its impressive route map, the airline is able to provide service to 342 destinations around the world.
Delta Air Lines has its largest hub in Atlanta, the busiest airport in the world. Consistently ranked as one of the leading airlines, Delta operates thousands of daily flights out of their eight hubs. With 876 aircraft in their fleet, they use a combination new and refurbished Airbus and Boeing planes. This includes recently launched models like the Airbus A350 and proven workhorses like the Boeing 717. In total, Delta Air Lines flies daily to 325 destinations across 6 continents.
American Airlines is the largest US Airline by passenger traffic. With hubs strategically placed around the US, the airline is able to serve more destinations than any other US carrier. Like the other legacy carriers, American operates both Boeing and Airbus models in its fleet totaling 956 mainline aircraft. The airline is working to have one of the youngest fleets in the industry including Boeing 787s and Airbus A321neos. With its large route map, American Airlines reaches 350 destinations across the globe.
Each airline offers a distinct offering for the various types of travelers in the United States. Depending of factors like destination and price will largely impact which airline is the right fit for your travel.
Do you have a preferred airline and what do you like most about it, let us know in the comments below.