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The 20 Biggest Airlines in Europe 2024

Top 20 Biggest European Airlines 2024

Joanna Teljeur
Written By Joanna Teljeur
11 minutes read
Last Updated: May 14, 2024

Europe has some big airlines on a world scale, but have you ever wondered which ones are the biggest in Europe alone? As we move further away from the pandemic, the skies are beginning to refill with activity, so in this guide, we’re going to give you the 20 biggest European airlines bassed solely on passenger number.

The 20 Biggest Airlines in Europe 2024

1. Ryanair

Ryanair

Airline Name  

Ryanair

Country

Ireland

Fleet size

584 

Destinations

40 countries in Europe, N. Africa, Middle East

Passengers traffic

181.74 million in 2023

Revenue

€13.523 billion

With its number of passengers soaring to almost 182 million in 2023, Ryanair is the hands-down biggest airline in Europe. The airline has seen a steady growth in recent years, expanding 13% since 2022, and this trend will likely continue thanks to the carrier’s investments in 300 new Boeing aircraft. This $40 billion deal will surely boost Ryanair’s future capacity as well as its ability to stay competitive in Europe.

2. Lufthansa

Lufthansa

Airline Name  

Lufthansa Group

Country

Germany 

Fleet size

734 

Destinations

300 in 100 countries

Passengers traffic

123 million in 2023

Revenue

€35.4 billion 

Lufthansa trailed behind Ryanair even before the Pandemic, and while it still hasn’t reached the 145 million passengers it had in 2019, they are still growing at a pace to surpass their passenger load from previous years. Since 2022, the airline has seen a 20% increase in passengers, and with their 4.5 billion euro investment in new planes, better lounges, and other customer-centric services, Lufthansa should continue to grow and pose greater challenges to its competition.

3. International Airlines Group

International Airlines Group

Airline Name  

International Airlines Group (IAG)

Country

Spain

Fleet size

734

Destinations

300 

Passengers traffic

115 million

Revenue

€29.43 billion 

With British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling, and LEVEL, IAG was able to grow its passenger load by 22% compared to 2022, ranking it as the 3rd largest airline in Europe . This year, the group has plans to bolster its passenger numbers by 7% through its continued efforts of acquiring other airlines as well as placing a greater focus on their loyalty program. In fact last year, 4.9 million passengers were included in the IAG Loyalty program which also led to a profit increase of 17%.

4. Air France-KLM

Air France plane

Airline Name  

Air France- KLM

Country

France, Netherlands

Fleet size

522 

Destinations

Over 300

Passengers traffic

93.6 million

Revenue

30 billion

Still trailing other European airlines in terms of passenger numbers, Air France-KLM still managed to increase passenger numbers by 12% from its 2022 total of 83.3 million. This year, the airline group is committed to adding destinations and renewing their Airbus fleet. By taking these actions, they should maintain their planned growth trend and also maintain their position as the world’s biggest user of sustainable aviation fuel.

5. Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines

Airline Name  

Turkish Airlines

Country

Turkey

Fleet size

365

Destinations

340

Passengers traffic

83.4 million

Revenue

€18.22 billion

While Turkey’s flag carrier, Turkish Airlines comes in 5th based on passenger numbers, the carrier is actually the largest mainline carrier on the globe serving 340 destinations. Compared to its 2022 passenger numbers, the airline grew by 23.5% in 2023 with a 16% increase on international flights. To maintain their upward trend, Turkish Airlines is planning to add 800 new planes by their 100th Anniversary in 2033, according to Airport Technology, which should help them reach their goal of 170 million passengers over the same time period.

6. EasyJet

EasyJet plane

Airline Name  

EasyJet

Country

United Kingdom

Fleet size

336

Destinations

1,024 routes, 36 countries, 155 airports

Passengers traffic

83 million

Revenue

€9.3 billion

With a concerted move to larger planes, easyJet has already seen a substantial increase in its number of passengers. In 2023, easyJet flew 19% more passengers than it did in 2022. Going forward, they have plans to add new routes including Egypt, Iceland, and Finland as well as to build their fleet by adding 250 new Airbus A320neo aircraft. So, while the low cost carrier might not be the largest airline in terms of passenger numbers, it is still enormous and should continue to grow thanks to its position at some of Europe’s biggest and most important airports.

7. Wizz Air

Wizz Air passengers boarding

Airline Name  

Wizz Air

Country

Hungary

Fleet size

91

Destinations

194 airports

Passengers traffic

60 million

Revenue

€1.1 billion

In 2023, Wizz Air hired more than 1,400 new employees, with a large portion of this being crew members and they also were able to capitalise on 32 new Airbus planes flying to  almost 100 new routes. Additionally, in 2022 the Hungarian carrier added a base in Romania and earned the title of Global and EMEA Environmental Airline Group of the year by CAPA.

No matter how you look at it, the airline is doing all it can to expand as quickly as possible which might explain why it saw a 32% increase in passenger numbers compared to 2022.

8. Pegasus Airlines

Pegasus Airlines plane in the air

Airline Name  

Pegasus Airlines

Country

Turkey

Fleet size

105

Destinations

130

Passengers traffic

32 million

Revenue

€2.67 billion

As the second Turkish airline in our ranking, Pegasus saw its passenger numbers grow by 19% over 2023 compared to the previous year. While this can be connected to the increasing number of people travelling, the carrier also achieved high numbers because of their intense efforts to get bigger and better. As with the other airlines we’ve mentioned, Pegasus was able to see this expansion thanks to its ever-growing fleet and network of routes with a firm concentration on international destinations. 

9. SAS

SAS plane

Airline Name  

SAS Scandinavian Airlines

Country

Sweden

Fleet size

67

Destinations

191

Passengers traffic

23.7 million

Revenue

€3.4 billion

SAS Airlines has been working hard to support its competitiveness in its SAS FORWARD plan, and because of this, they realised a huge 48% increase in passenger number in the first quarter of 2023 compared with the same period in 2022. The carrier’s growth plans of adding to their fleet and improving efficiency was partly due to their Chapter 11 restructuring process, but over the last year they added new destinations and more flights to accommodate the growing number of travellers ready to take to the skies again.

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10. Norwegian Air Shuttle

Norwegian Air Shuttle

Airline Name  

Norwegian Air Shuttle

Country

Norway

Fleet size

129

Destinations

105

Passengers traffic

20.6 million

Revenue

€2.25 billion

Because of their enormous efforts in improving their efficiency as well as their overall passenger experience, Norwegian was able to increase their passenger numbers by 16% in 2023 compared to the previous year. With their new acquisition of Wideroe, Norwegian is in a position to see a big surge in their passenger volume through 2024.

11. TUI 

TUI plane

Airline Name  

TUI 

Country

Germany

Fleet size

129

Destinations

85+

Passengers traffic

19 million

Revenue

€20.7 billion

As part of German TUI Group, TUI Airways grew its passenger volume from 16.7 million in 2022 to 19 million in 2023. The carrier saw an even bigger surge during the holiday season with 7.8 million passengers for the quarter alone and a 92% average load factor. Not surprisingly, TUI has also put a lot of time, energy, and money into improving its operations, and so far, it certainly seems to be paying off.

12. Jet2

Jet2

Airline Name  

Jet2.com

Country

United Kingdom

Fleet size

115

Destinations

65+

Passengers traffic

16.57 million

Revenue

€5.77 billion

In 2022, Jet2 had a mere 4.85 million passengers which helps put their 2023 number into better perspective. Since 2021, the airline’s passenger numbers have grown by an astounding 234% which could be partly due to Jet2’s growing seat capacity that climbed to 156% between 2022 and 2023. Another factor that added to the increase in passengers was Jet2’s fleet expansion and new focus on package holidays. During the last year, package travellers became a much bigger percentage of the total, so it seems their expectations were spot on.

13. TAP Air Portugal

TAP Air Portugal plane taking off

Airline Name  

TAP Air Portugal

Country

Portugal

Fleet size

84

Destinations

87

Passengers traffic

15.9 million

Revenue

€4.2 billion

TAP decided to enhance their long-haul routes to the Americas, and the effort paid off as seen in the 15.9 million passengers they flew during 2023. The airline also made some strategic moves to accommodate the growing demand for seats with relatively few aircraft. So not only did they grow in passenger number, but their level of efficiency improved quite a bit as well.

14. Aegean Airlines

Aegean Airlines

Airline Name  

Aegean Airlines

Country

Greece

Fleet size

61

Destinations

180

Passengers traffic

15.7 million

Revenue

€1.69 billion

Greek airline Aegean managed to add 18 new international flight routes while also adding more flights to their established routes. They also added to passenger numbers in 2023 by adding 3 million seats compared to 2022 as a result of their 3 brand new Airbus planes. All this has ultimately led to a 27% increase in Aegean passengers from the 3.2 million they had in 2022.

15. ITA Airways

ITA Airways

Airline Name  

ITA Airways

Country

Italy

Fleet size

96

Destinations

64

Passengers traffic

15 million

Revenue

€2.4 billion

Of course, the more large planes you have in your fleet, the more passengers you can carry. This simple logic hasn’t been lost on ITA because in 2023, they acquired 39 new planes, 9 of which were wide body with the rest being narrow-body aircraft. This single move allowed ITA to grow its passenger capacity by 73% based on seats offered by kilometre. And like some other airlines in this ranking, ITA also added international routes in order to better serve their growing customer base.

16. SunExpress

SunExpress

Airline Name  

SunExpress

Country

Turkey - Germany

Fleet size

53

Destinations

92

Passengers traffic

12.6 million 

Revenue

€1.8 billion

For SunExpress, 2023 was truly a banner year. Not only did they reach 12.6 million passengers (a 17.8% jump from 2022), but they added more routes to their network than ever before.  In fact, the airline included 26 new routes during the summer last year and improved its service to new markets in Europe and the Turkish Riviera. Plus, it looks like the airline will continue to expand with their commitment to buy 90 Boeing 727 MAX jets.

17. Finnair

Finnair

Airline Name  

Finnair

Country

Finland

Fleet size

79

Destinations

100

Passengers traffic

11 million

Revenue

€2.95 billion

Between 2021 and 2022, Finnair’s passenger number tripled to 9.1 million and during 2023, they managed to fly an impressive 11 million. During December 2023 alone, they flew 878,000 travellers, and over the course of the year, the carrier improved seat capacity (Available Seat Kilometres) by 30.6%.

18. Air Europa

Air Europa

Airline Name  

Air Europa

Country

Spain

Fleet size

50

Destinations

130

Passengers traffic

10.7 million

Revenue

€5.8 billion (* based on IAG)

While only growing slightly from 10.3 million passengers in 2022, Air Europa was recognized and awarded in several areas during 2023. They were given a 4 Star rating from APEX, recognized by SkyTeam for their success in reducing emissions, and earned the “Caring Company” seal from Manos Unidas. At the same time, the Spanish airline began flights to Greece and added 3 million seats to America.

19. Volotea

Volotea

Airline Name  

Volotea

Country

Spain

Fleet size

41

Destinations

79

Passengers traffic

10.4 million

Revenue

€694 million

After increasing their number of seats by 15% and boosting their number of flights by 7%, Volotea enjoyed a 12% growth in their passenger numbers from the 9.4 million they served in 2022. The airline also added new routes last year to have more than 410 total plus, their performance improved during 2023 with 99.3% of flights completed during the year. Based on this, it’s no wonder why Volotea was named as the 2023 Best Low-Cost Airline in Europe by SkyTrax.

20. LOT Polish Airlines

LOT Polish Airlines

Airline Name  

LOT Polish Airlines

Country

Poland

Fleet size

75

Destinations

120

Passengers traffic

10.03 million

Revenue

€210 estimated

In 2022, LOT had only 8 million passengers which is why the 26% increase over 2023 is so impressive. In fact their passenger numbers for 2023 are only 3.8% lower than what they had in 2019. Looking ahead, the Polish airline hopes to reach 16.9 million passengers by 2028 by adding additional long-haul routes and adding to and modernising their fleet to accommodate growing travel demands.

You might also like these articles about airlines in Europe:

Summary

Airlines around the world are still working to recover their pre-pandemic passenger numbers. Because of this, it’s interesting to imagine how big these airlines would be if the pandemic had never happened. Still, we can always look ahead to the next couple of years when most airlines will have recovered sufficiently, revealing their true size and potential in the European airlines playing field.

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Mark Fields 06.08.2022

Would like the names, of the Food, and Beverage Buyers of each of the Airlines mentioned. Thanks.

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