Robust revenues as passenger markets reopened enabled many of the world’s leading airlines to restore profitability in 2022 – but the scars of the pandemic were still evident. FlightGlobal’s analysis of  the airline industry financial performance in 2022 based on the top 100 airline groups by revenue.

Leading airline groups returned to the black at an operating level in 2022 after two years of pandemic losses, though profitability remained well down on pre-pandemic highs.

FlightGlobal analysis of financial results for the leading 100 airline groups by revenue shows that improved financial performance was driven by a jump in sales. Collective revenues for the 100 biggest airline groups stood at around $750 billion – within sight of the near $800 billion the same groups posted in 2019. Notably it is a rise of more than 50% on the same carriers’ performance in 2021.

Delta Airbus A321

Source: Delta Air Lines

Delta Air Lines was the biggest airline group by revenue in 2022

The higher revenues reflect the sharp pick-up in passenger traffic in 2022 as markets reopened. However, capacity and traffic have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels as quickly.

The bigger improvement in revenues is further driven by higher yields, in a part a product of continued capacity constraints. The revenue improvement is even higher if local currency is used, as the strong dollar in 2022 against most currencies results in lower values after currency conversion.

Ten biggest airlines/groups revenue (2022)
Airline GroupRevenue 2022 Revenue 2021 Revenue 2019 ($m)
 Source: FlightGlobal analysis of airlines results. Year ending Dec 2022 except *May 23, **Mar 23
Delta Air Lines                            $50.6bn       $29.9bn      $47.0bn
American Airlines Group                            $49.0bn      $29.9bn      $45.8bn
United Airlines Holdings                            $45.0bn     $24.6bn      $43.3bn
FedEx*                            $42.7bn      $45.8bn      $35.5bn
Lufthansa Group                            $37.0bn      $21.8bn      $43.5bn
Emirates Group**                            $32.6bn      $18.1bn      $28.3bn
Air France-KLM Group                            $27.8bn      $16.8bn      $30.4bn
IAG                           $24.3bn         $9.9bn      $28.5bn
Southwest Airlines                            $23.8bn      $15.8bn      $22.4bn
Qatar Airways Group**                            $21.0bn      $14.4bn      $14.4bn

Data available for 74 of the 100 biggest airline groups by revenue shows a collective operating profit for last year of $19 billion. That compares to a loss of a similar size in 2021 and of $117 billion in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. It is, however, less than half the $44 billion profit the same groups made in their last financial year before the crisis.

More than two-thirds – 52 of the 74 groups for which operating data was available – were profitable last year.

Top 10 airlines/groups by operating profit (2022)
Airline/GroupOperating result 2022Operating result 2021Operating result 2019 
Emirates Group*                      $3.867m -$76m                     $1,883m
Delta Air Lines                      $3,661m                       $1,886m                     $6,618m
Qatar Airways Group*                      $3,258m                      $ 2,882m                       -$310m
Turkish Airlines                      $2,716m                       $1,689m                         $585m
United Airlines Holdings                      $2,337m                      -$1,022m                     $4,301m
Korean Air                      $2,232m                       $1,280m                         $246m
Singapore Airlines Group*                      $1,958m                       -$452m                           $43m
Qantas Group**                      $1,850m                    $1,113m                   $1,544m
Ryanair*                      $1,656m                         $560m                     $1,250m
American Airlines Group                      $1,607m                      $1,059m                     $3,065m
Source: FlightGlobal analysis; year ending December 2022 except *Mar 23 ** Jun 23

Leading airline groups were still not profitable at a net level, though. Data covering 80 groups shows a small net loss of $2 billion. That, however, is a marked improvement on the $41 billion these carriers lost in 2021.

A majority, 48 of the 80 carrier groups to disclose a net result, were profitable. However, 32 were loss-making for the year, reflecting the impact of factors such as restructuring costs.

Notably, after cargo activities had done much to see operators through the crisis, it is passenger activities that have driven the improved fortunes. Revenues among leading cargo players were roughly unchanged in 2022 at $74 billion, comfortably above 2019 levels. While profitability weakened as cargo yields fell, it was still higher than 2019 levels.

Low-cost carriers lead revenue returns

Low-cost and leisure carriers in particular enjoyed a sharp bounce back. Revenues among these carriers doubled to $140 billion last year – higher than the $137 billion generated in 2019. 

Top 10 low-cost carriers by revenue (2022)
Airline/GroupRevenue 2022Change v 2021Change for 2019
 Source: FlightGlobal analysis, year ending Dec 22 except *Mar 23, *Sep22
Southwest Airlines               $23.8bn  51% 6%
Ryanair*               $11.3bn  98% 20%
JetBlue Airways                  $9.2bn  52% 13%
EasyJet**                 $7.3bn  268% -9%
IndiGo*                 $7.0bn  95% 33%
Spirit Airlines                 $5.1bn  57% 32%
Wizz Air*                  $4.1bn  107% 34%
Frontier Airlines                  $3.3bn  61% 33%
Azul                  $3.1bn  68% 7%
Gol                  $2.9bn  115% -16%

Network carrier revenues stood at $520 billion. While still up sharply on the $333 billion generated in 2021, the previous year had been supported by increased freight activities. Overall network carrier revenues for those within the top 100 remained short of the almost $600 billion generated before the pandemic in 2019.

There also remained a pronounced difference in fortunes by region, and among some countries within those regions. That is most obvious for Chinese carriers, which endured heavy losses – in fact their worst year of the crisis – as the country’s zero-Covid strategy and lockdowns were increasingly at odds with the reopening seen across other markets.

Airline revenue split by region (top 100 groups 2022)
Region2022 revenueChange v 2021Change v 2019
 Source: FlightGlobal analysis
North America $285bn 46% 10%
Europe $191bn 91% -9%
Asia-Pacific $158bn 27% -30%
Middle East $77bn  75% 17%
Latin America $33bn 83% 3%
Africa $9bn 29% 13%
Total $753bn 54% -6%


  • North American airlines/groups in top 100: 21
  • 2022 Revenues: $285bn (2021: $195bn)
  • 2022 Operating result: $9.8bn (2021: $4.1bn)
  • 2022 Net result: $900m (2021: -$4.8bn)

There also remained a pronounced difference in fortunes by region, and among some countries within those regions. That is most obvious for Chinese carriers, which endured heavy losses – in fact their worst year of the crisis – as the country’s zero-Covid strategy and lockdowns were increasingly at odds with the reopening seen across other markets.

US carriers have, as they did before the crisis, led the financial performance out of the pandemic. North American airlines had already made the most progress in recovering revenues in 2021, and figures covering 21 leading operators show revenues surpassed pre-pandemic levels last year. North American carrier revenues of $285 billion were $25 billion above 2019 levels.

Five of the 10 biggest airline groups by revenue in 2022 were US carriers, including the four largest.

Leading North American airlines/groups by revenue (2022)
Airline GroupRevenue 2022Revenue 2021Revenue 2019
 Source: FlightGlobal analysis, year ending Dec 22 except *May 23
Delta Air Lines                     $50.6bn                                      $29.9bn                        $47.0bn
American Airlines Group                     $49.0bn                                      $29.9bn                        $45.8bn
United Airlines Holdings                     $45.0bn                                      $24.6bn                        $43.3bn
FedEx*                     $42.7bn                                      $45.8bn                        $35.5bn
Southwest Airlines                     $23.8bn                                      $15.8bn                        $22.4bn
Air Canada                     $12.7bn                                        $5.1bn                        $14.5bn
Alaska Air Group                       $9.6bn                                        $6.2bn                          $8.8bn
UPS Airlines                        $9.3bn                                        $7.6bn                          $6.3bn
JetBlue Airways                       $9.2bn                                        $6.0bn                          $8.1bn
Spirit Airlines                       $5.1bn                                        $3.2bn                          $3.8bn

The region also continues to be the most profitable. North American carriers had returned to an operating profit already in 2021 – though in part helped by US government pandemic-related support. Strong demand and yields helped leading North American carriers, covering 19 airlines, post operating profits of $9.8 billion for last year. That though is less than half the $23.4 billion the same carriers enjoyed before the crisis, and several airlines remained loss-making.

The figures are even stronger when looking at US carriers alone. Canadian carriers endured a tougher 2022 financially. Air Canada, while much improved on 2021, remained in the red last year – as did Air Transat – while privately owned WestJet has not released financial results for 2022.

North American carrier profitability was far less obvious at a net level. Figures for 18 carriers, which do not include the profitable FedEx, were less than $1 billion for 2022.


  • European airlines/groups in top 100: 24
  • 2022 Revenues: $191bn (2021: $96bn)
  • 2022 Operating result: $8.8bn (2021: -$12.4bn)
  • 2022 Net result: $5.9bn (2021: -$14.9bn)

European airline revenues, covering 24 airline groups, almost doubled from just under $100 billion to $191 billion in 2022. That revenue jump is even more pronounced in local currency, before weakness against the strong dollar is factored in. That too is a factor in last year’s revenues falling short of the $209 billion the same 24 carriers generated in 2019 before the pandemic. It also should be noted that a number of carriers, including EasyJet, SAS and TUI Group, have financial years that closed in the second half of 2022 – and therefore incorporate more time operating in a market with Covid-related travel restrictions.

Leading European airlines/groups by revenue (2022)
 Revenue 2022Revenue 2021Revenue 2019
 Source: FlightGlobal analysis, year ending Dec 22 except *Mar 23, **Sep 22
Lufthansa Group                                $37.0bn                       $21.8bn                         $43.5bn
Air France-KLM Group                                $27.8bn                       $16.8bn                         $30.4bn
IAG                                $24.3bn                         $9.9bn                         $28.5bn
Turkish Airlines                                $18.4bn                       $10.7bn                         $13.6bn
TUI Group                                $15.9bn                         $4.7bn                         $18.3bn
Ryanair*                                $11.3bn                         $5.7bn                           $9.4bn
EasyJet**                                  $7.3bn                         $2.0bn                           $8.1bn*                                  $6.1bn                         $1.7bn                           $4.5bn
Cargolux                                  $5.1bn                         $4.4bn                           $2.3bn
Aeroflot Group                                 $4.8bn                         $5.1bn                         $10.8bn

Another factor is the drag on Russian carriers through isolation from many international markets as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. Aeroflot revenues, for example, are roughly half those of pre-pandemic levels.

Improved load factors and yields helped European carriers jump back into profitability for the year. Figures for 18 European carriers within the top 100 group posted collective profits of $8.8 billion compared with a loss of over $23 billion (among 23 carriers) in 2021. This is also $3 billion short of the $11.8 billion profit that European carriers posted before the pandemic – though the same caveats around direct comparison as above apply. 


  • Asia-Pacific airlines/groups in top 100: 33
  • 2022 Revenues: $158bn (2021: $125bn)
  • 2022 Operating result: -$7.6bn (2021: -$14.3bn)
  • 2022 Net result: -$14.5bn (2021: -$14.6bn)

It was a mixed year for Asia-Pacific carriers. While many carriers enjoyed a recovery of fortunes as markets began increasingly opening up from Covid travel restrictions as the year progressed, the strict lockdowns that remained in place in China were a drag on the performance of the region as a whole – and Chinese carriers in particular.

Revenues at the big three – China Southern, Air China and China Eastern – hit their lowest point since the pandemic. Demand at the country’s smaller private carriers was similarly stifled. This explains why despite the pick-up in revenues across other operators in the region, collective revenues across 33 airline groups increased by only around a quarter on 2021-22 to reach $158 billion. That is only a little over two-thirds of 2019 levels.

While currency movements against the strong US dollar affect the comparison with 2021 and 2019, the figure does include a number of carriers with financial years closing in March or June 2023 – meaning they reflect more open markets.

Leading Asia-Pacific airlines/groups by revenue (2022)
Airline/GroupRevenue 2022Revenue 2021Revenu 2019
 Source: FlightGlobal analysis, for year ending Dec 22 except *Jun 23, **Mar 23
Qantas Group*                            $13.7bn                              $6.5bn                           $13.4bn
China Southern Airlines                            $12.9bn                            $15.8bn                           $22.3bn
Singapore Airlines Group**                            $12.9bn                              $5.6bn                           $11.6bn
ANA Group**                            $12.6bn                              $9.0bn                           $18.3bn
Korean Air                            $10.6bn                              $7.7bn                           $10.6bn
Japan Airlines Group**                            $10.2bn                              $6.0bn                           $12.8bn
Air China                              $8.4bn                            $12.2bn                           $20.3bn
China Eastern Airlines                              $7.4bn                            $11.4bn                           $18.5bn
IndiGo**                              $7.0bn                              $3.6bn                             $5.2bn
Cathay Pacific Group                              $6.5bn                              $5.9bn                           $13.7bn

Some of the region’s strong performances are in Australia and New Zealand, where the financial year closed in June. Qantas and Air New Zealand were among the most profitable operators in the region. Korean Air and Singapore Airlines were also profitable, as well as the Japanese carriers. Contributing factors include strong cargo performance, even if dipping on previous highs, and high yields from constrained capacity.

However, heavy losses incurred by Chinese carriers – the big three racked up combined net losses of over $17 billion in 2022 – mean overall the region’s operators remained loss-making. Leading carriers, covering 24 operators in the region, made an operating loss of $7.6 billion and a net loss of $14.5 billion. The latter figure also includes a $3.7 billion profit from Garuda Indonesia – a one-off result of its debt-restructurings, which created the anomaly of making the Indonesian carrier the most profitable in the world last year by that metric.


  • Latin American airlines/groups in top 100: 9
  • 2022 Revenues: $33bn (2021: $18bn)
  • 2022 Operating result: $800m (2021: -$2.1bn)
  • 2022 Net result: -1bn (2021: -$7.4bn)

Revenues reached $32.5 billion for the nine leading Latin American airline groups, almost double the previous year, and around the $31.9 billion the same carriers generated in 2019.

The region’s leading carriers also returned a modest profit at an operating level – figures for eight airline groups generating a profit of $836 million. While the same carriers did likewise at a net level, the collective $1 billion profit is wiped out when excluding one-off financial gains relating to LATAM Airlines Group restructuring – putting it broadly a break even. That is roughly the same level of profitability the same carriers recorded before the crisis.


  • Middle East airlines/groups in top 100: 9
  • 2022 Revenues: $77bn (2021: $44bn)
  • 2022 Operating result: $7.6bn (2021: $2.8bn)
  • 2022 Net result: $54.8n (2021: $200m)

The big Gulf carriers were among the quickest in restoring capacity, a trend that has continued as more international markets reopened from the pandemic. Revenues among nine Middle East carriers were around $77 billion, higher than the $66 million in 2019. Emirates and Qatar Airways in particular have revenues well above pre-pandemic levels.

Emirates and Qatar Airways reported record operating profits of $3.9 billion and $3.3 billion respectively – though the latter’s net profits were down on 2021 highs. This contributed to a collective operating profit of $7.6 billion, though data was only available for Air Arabia and El Al among other leading Middle East carriers.

The relatively small number of African carriers featuring among the 100 biggest make analysis of this region difficult. Ethiopian Airlines though reported a strong increase in its revenues to $6.1 billion.  

Editor’s note: The Airline Business financial rankings cover the 100 biggest airlines, or groups where they are part of a wider airline group, in 2022. These are sourced from airline financial statements, annual reports, government and regulator sites. Estimates are used for airlines which have not disclosed financial results, but are likely to be among the 100 biggest carriers, for indicative purposes. Results are converted at average exchange rates for the period in question into US dollars for comparison purposes. Results are taken for the most recent financial where available, ie the year ending March or June 2023.

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