By John McDermott
An Overview of Passenger Airlines
Since the dawn of aviation, airlines have become the most effective mode of transport for people around the world. They help us reach far-away places, friends and family with relative ease and at relatively low prices.
Airlines are among the most visible brands in today’s world, but the scale with which the largest operate is staggering. American Airlines, as of 2019, is the biggest airline in the world in terms of passengers carried (215.18 million) and fleet size (957 planes). For comparison, if each of American’s passengers in 2019 represented one person, American’s passengers alone would be equivalent to the sixth largest country in the world. Turkish Airways serves the most countries in the world: 121, which accounts for over 60% of the world’s sovereign states.
The speed with which passenger airlines can fly their customers is incredible. Before the rise of affordable air travel, it might have taken days – if not weeks – to traverse countries, let alone travel across oceans. Airplanes, though, can get passengers to the other side of the world in mere hours, not days.
Not only do passenger airlines offer their services to huge numbers of passengers around the entire world, but they also do so in spectacular comfort. With the rise of exceptional first, business and premium products, travelers now have access to beds, full multi-course meals, work spaces and — in some cases — full-service bathrooms with showers on their flights. And if international services are timed properly, a traveler could take off on a trans-oceanic flight, fall asleep soon after takeoff and wake up in their destination as if no time had passed at all.
While some airlines focus on scheduled operations with big planes, there is another type of passenger airline: charter airlines. These carriers offer on-demand services so passengers can get from one place to another at a specific time without needing to wait for the next flight or stopover in a hub airport. Charter airlines often have the capacity for a range of parties: everywhere from just a few people in small jets to hundreds of people in larger commercial aircraft. This flexibility gives people quicker, easier access to travel than ever before.
As an added bonus, passenger airlines can also offer travelers worldwide cargo services as well. While most passenger carriers do not have dedicated cargo planes – one exception is Qatar Airways – many do run cargo businesses that use the same passenger planes to fly smaller freight around the world. There are stricter rules on carrying certain things in passenger planes than on dedicated cargo aircraft, but many passenger airlines do fly things like live animals, caskets, medical equipment and more alongside customer baggage in their cargo holds.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, passenger airlines have been instrumental in facilitating cargo transportation; as cargo capacity has dropped off with the drop in passenger flights, passenger airlines have repurposed planes to keep cargo capacity high and keep the global economy and health systems running smoothly.
Airlines are among the most versatile business in the world. They operate vast networks, carry thousands – if not millions – of passengers each year and play a key role in the global cargo industry. While they do not always have the best image, they do great things for people, businesses and governments around the world.
This article is sponsored by Flightworx, one of the industry’s leaders in flight planning, operations and management, deliveries and maintenance, ground handling, and numerous other facets of the flight support field. Visit their website to learn more.