Guangzhou-based China Southern has claimed the title of world’s largest airline by seat capacity. While the pandemic continue to hammer much of the world, the Chinese domestic aviation market is again flourishing.
China Southern Now World’s Largest Airline
After being hit hard early in the year, the Chinese economy has recovered from COVID-19 and is again booming. With that, Chinese airlines are experiencing boom times in the domestic market. China Southern has nearly returned to pre-pandemic traffic levels.
With 2,580,529 seats offered on October 26th, it edged out Delta Air Lines (which itself briefly edged out American Airlines last week to become world’s largest airline by that metric, but is now back in third place). That number represents only a 10% drop in its pre-COVID-19 January capacity of 2,877,703, despite ongoing international flights restrictions.
Don’t expect this title to last, though. American Airlines offered more than 4,800,000 daily seats in January and its capacity remains down 50%. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines also offered significantly more seats than China Southern prior to the pandemic.
Nevertheless, China Southern harbors grand aspirations to be world’s largest airline. As Simple Flying noted, China Southern’s Senior Vice-President for International and Corporate Relations, Wu Guoxiang, told Danny Lee of the South China Morning Post:
“In three to five years we will be the largest in the world. We need the flexibility to cooperate the way we want.”
China Southern can celebrate its position as world’s largest airline, at least by one metric. How long that position lasts will depend upon how bad the impending third wave hits the United States and Europe in the weeks to come.
By the way, I had a wonderful flight in first class on the China Southern A380. In terms of Chinese airlines, it is one of my favorites.