On Top of the World

Extensive connectivity, high-class entertainment and profitability make top airlines and here is a list of Top 10 based on these parameters

Issue: 6 / 2015By R. ChandrakanthPhoto(s): By Emirates, American Airlines, British Airways, Singapore Airlines, Airbus

Airline business is no ordinary business. It is highly volatile depending on so many factors, some inherent, some unseen, some to do with luck. Many an airline has bitten the dust, not able to weather the volatility of the industry. Only those which dare to go beyond limits seemingly are having a good run, but that is not again guaranteed. Amidst this uncertainty, competition gets hotter and hotter. The ones who outdo the competition give hope to those in the periphery and those who want to enter the airline business. These airlines are kind of role models. In this article, we are looking at three parameters – profitability; global connectivity; and inflight entertainment, aspects which reflect the health of the airline.


American Airlines: In terms of profitability, American Airlines Group announced net profit of $2.9 billion in 2014. Only the previous year, American Airlines had merged with US Airways to form the American Airlines Group and this has catapulted it to the number one slot. American Airlines Group is the holding company for American Airlines.

Emirates: The Middle Eastern airline which continues to expand the world markets has considerable presence on and off the airspace. Emirates in 2014 raked in profits of $1.5 billion. In 2014-15, it had an operating profit of $1.87 billion on revenues of over $26 billion with a 14 per cent change from the previous year. The Emirates Group operates across six continents with a 75,000 strong multinational team comprised of over 160 nationalities. The financial year ending 2015 saw the Group achieve its 27th consecutive year of profit in a financial year marked by record increases in capacity and significant business investments across the Group. It is a Dubai government-owned entity.

Japan Airlines: Japan Airlines Limited (JAL) registered operating revenues of over $11.11 billion and operating profits of $1.48 billion in 2014. It is not just profitability that JAL’s President Yoshiharu Ueki is eyeing. He has made his intent clear: “We want to become the most loved, and number one airline of choice in the world.” The airline is working on three differentiators—enhancement of JAL brand; expanding route network, products and services; and improving cost competitiveness.

IAG (International Airlines Group): International Airlines Group is one of the world’s largest airline groups with the following entities under its fold—British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia and Vueling. Net income in the fourth quarter of 2014 surged to $346 million from a little over $100 million in 2013 fourth quarter. Full-year operating profit was $1.5 billion beating its own forecast and what analysts had projected. IAG said it would deliver an operating profit of $3.3 billion for 2015. The Group with 525 aircraft connects to 255 destinations.

Southwest Airlines: For Southwest Airlines, 2014 was its 42nd consecutive year of profitability, an unprecedented feat for the airline industry. The net income of $1.1 billion easily surpassed the previous annual record in 2013. Total operating revenues were a record $18.6 billion, an increase of 5.1 per cent compared with 2013. “Beyond 2015, our objectives are to sustain the strong earnings momentum, grow the airline at a sensible rate, and continue to enhance our customer service and experience,” said Gary C. Kelly, Chairman, President and CEO.

United Continental Holdings: United Airlines (UAL) reported full-year 2014 net income of $1.97 billion, an increase of 89 per cent year-over-year, excluding $834 million of special items. Including special items, UAL reported full-year net income of $1.13 billion. “Thanks to the good work of the United team, we reported a $2 billion profit for 2014, excluding special items,” said Jeff Smisek, UAL’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We’re starting 2015 as a better airline, and we expect to generate far better results. I’m excited about what we will do this year to improve our operations, our product, and our customer service, focusing on growing our core earnings and margins.”

Ryanair: Europe’s biggest low fares airline had net profit of $800 million in 2014 slightly ahead of previous guidance. The profits fell 8 per cent to less than $800 million due mainly to a 4 per cent decline in fares, weaker sterling, and higher fuel costs.

Turkish Airlines: Turkish Airlines sales revenue increased by 13 per cent in 2014, reaching a total of $11 billion. While operating profit stood at $638 million, more than doubling compared to previous year $845 million net profit was recorded. In 2014 Turkish Airlines recorded a capacity (ASK) growth of 16.3 per cent, significantly above the industry growth rate of 5.6 per cent for the same period, resulting in an increase in global market share from 1.6 per cent to 1.8 per cent.

easyJet: The total revenue for 2014 was $6.8 million, a change of 6.3 per cent over the previous. The profit before tax was $880 million, up from $740 million, an increase of 21.5 per cent. It was easyJet’s fourth consecutive year of profits.

Air China: Chinese flag carrier Air China Ltd. kicked off earnings with 14 per cent rise in 2014 profit, as strong growth in outbound travel demand and lower fuel prices more than offset foreign exchange losses during the year. The Beijing-based carrier said net profit for the 12 months ended December 31 was $608 million, according to Chinese accounting standards, up from a net profit of $500 million. The carrier’s revenue rose 7.4 per cent to $16 billion, up from $15 billion on higher air-traffic volume during the year.

Most profitable airlines

  • American Airlines
  • Emirates
  • Japan Airlines
  • IAG
  • Southwest Airlines
  • United Continental Holdings
  • Ryan Air
  • Turkish Airways
  • easyJet
  • Air China

Connecting the World

Southwest Airlines: The US airline is headquartered in Dallas, Texas, and operates more than 3,400 departures per day. It is the largest operator of the 737 worldwide with over 550 in service, each averaging six flights per day.

Delta Air Lines: Atlanta-based Delta Airlines and Delta Connection carriers connect over 325 destinations in over 60 countries on six continents. Delta is one of the four founding members of the SkyTeam airline alliance.

American Airlines: Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, American Airlines operates an extensive international and US domestic network. The airline is a member airline of the Oneworld airline alliance and its route network is centred on five hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth, JFK International, Los Angeles, Miami and O’Hare International in Chicago. Together with regional partners operating as American Eagle, it offers an average of nearly 6,700 flights per day to nearly 350 destinations in over 50 countries.

China Southern Airlines: China Southern Airlines’ global route network spans 1,024 destinations to 187 countries and regions, and nearly every major world metropolis.

United Airlines: The US airline serves 374 destinations in 58 countries and has on average 5,166 daily departures. United Airlines and United Express operate an average of 5,055 flights a day to 373 airports across six continents. In 2014, United and United Express operated nearly two million flights carrying 138 million passengers.

China Eastern Airlines: Headquarted in Shanghai, it flies over 430 long-haul and short-haul aircraft with an average age of seven years. The SkyTeam member serves nearly 80 million passengers per year. It has strong presence in Asia, North America and Australia.

Ryanair: The airline, which brands itself as ‘Europe’s only ultra low-cost carrier’ operates more than 1,600 daily flights from 70 bases, connecting 183 destinations in 30 countries, with a fleet of over 300 Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Air China: The airline operates 298 passenger routes, including 71 international routes, 15 regional routes, and 212 domestic.

US Airways: US Airways, owned by the American Airlines Group, operates a network of 193 destinations in 24 countries in North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East. It operates 3,028 daily flights including the US Airways Shuttle which provides an hourly service between Boston, New York City and Washington D.C.

Emirates: The Dubai-based airline operates nearly 3,400 flights per week from its hub at Dubai International Airport. It is currently the largest airline in the Middle East in terms of revenue, fleet size and passengers.

Airlines giving maximum connectivity

  • Southwest Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • China Southern Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Ryanair
  • Air China
  • US Airways
  • Emirates

Top of the line services in air

Emirates has been bagging awards left, right and centre for many of its services and it has been voted by passengers as the airline with the Best Inflight Entertainment for 11 years running, given by Skytrax. The award recognises airlines delivering the best choice and quality of inflight entertainment and with due regard to the global nature of air travel.

Emirates: It has over 2,000 channels of movies, TV shows, music and games, on demand and in multiple languages. On ice Digital Widescreen, it has movies with audio description and closed captions for hearing or visually impaired. It has onboard Wi-Fi, enabling passengers make a call on one’s mobile or use the in-seat phone. It’s free to blog, post or tweet from one’s seat on nearly all its A380 aircraft. It offers 10 MB of data free (that’s enough to search, send e-mails and update Facebook). By paying $1 the offer goes up to 500 MB.

Qatar Airways: It provies Oryx one inflight entertainment with audiovideo on-demand service allowing passengers to choose from over 2,000 entertainment options — movies, TV box sets, audio, games and much more. It has the OnAir mobile service, besides onboard Wi-Fi, giving uninterrupted access to friends, family, colleagues and clients. Once the aircraft is above 10,000 feet, passengers can use your portable electronic devices (PEDs) and send SMS and MMS or access e-mail and browse the Internet.

Singapore Airlines: From comedy to the classics, the airline offers over 80 on demand movies. There are more regional offerings from Europe, Australia, China, Japan, Korea and the subcontinent (Hindi and Tamil) as well. As the launch customer of the new eX2 system, Singapore Airlines is the first airline to offer 3D games.

Qantas: Qantas flyers now get even more variety, with complete package of news, entertainment and lifestyle programmes including premium content from HBO, Sky News and Foxtel (on board selected flights). With over 1,500 entertainment options one can enjoy over 100 movies, 500 TV programmes, 800 music options, 18 radio channels and stay up-to-date with the latest news with Sky News coverage.

Etihad Airways: Its inflight entertainment is superb giving a wide range of offerings. It has over 110 movies, 300 TV shows, 7 Live TV channels, live sporting action on Sport 24 Channel, 16 radio channels and up to 60 interactive games.

Turkish Airlines: The airline provides a range of music, games, audio books, movies, TV programmes, Live TV, etc.

Cathay Pacific: Similarly Cathay Pacific provides good entertainment on flight and is known for excellent service.

Virgin Atlantic: It has unveiled an all new gate to gate in-flight entertainment system on board its planes, with passengers now being able to watch the service prior to take-off and leave it on during landing. The new service, which is available on the airlines video on demand in-flight entertainment system, will offer passengers an additional two hours of entertainment per flight.

Thai Airways: It offers in-flight Wi-Fi Internet service on Airbus A380-800 and A330-330 (33H) flights, enabling passengers to use their laptop, tablet or smart phone. This service is prohibited when Thai overflies some countries such as Vietnam and India.

Air France: The airline provides uninterrupted entertainment onboard. Passengers can download content at no extra charge on one’s USB key, including audio guides, subway maps, games and playlists.

Inflight Entertainment

  • Emirates
  • Qatar Airways
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Etihad
  • Turkish Air
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Thai Airways
  • Air France