United States

No doubt about it the United States are the country that first mastered mass air travel and also are the largest single market for the industry. The size of the country and the lack of alternatives such as high speed rail impose that users must travel by air to move from point A to point B. So let’s take a closer look at what the landscape of aviation and airlines looks like in the United States.

The Current Airline Types Active

The US airline market is quite a varied one as you’d expect. There are at least 3 types of commercial airlines operating in the country at the moment:

These 3 airline types cater to very different traveller needs.

The Full Service Legacy Airlines in The United States

Since the introduction of the airline deregulation act of 1978 the legacy or full service airline landscape in the US has varied massively. The market first fragmented with many airlines competing for market share, only to then go through a consolidation phase that has brought us to the current state of affairs.

Currently the US has 3 major full service legacy airlines:

  • Delta Air Lines
  • United Airlines
  • American Airlines

These 3 carriers control approximately half of the United States’ domestic market share. They are massive entities with aircraft fleets counting planes by the hundreds.

All three airlines serve both domestic and international routes, with American Airlines though having the strongest internal focus of the bunch.

Outside of these 3 big airlines stands the smaller Hawaiian Airlines. However that carrier primarily focuses on incoming travellers to the islands and doesn’t compete as much with the big 3.

American Airlines Envoy Air orders 4 new Embraer E175

The Low Cost Airlines in The United States

Another effect of the airline deregulation act of 1978 was the birth of low cost carriers. Airlines that cut all non necessary cost in order to offer low prices and make air travel more accessible to everyone. Post 2020 although air travel demand has risen dramatically, some of these low cost carriers have been facing some issues in maintaining profitability.

Currently the main players of US low cost air travel are:

  • Southwest
  • Spirit
  • Frontier
  • Allegiant

Southwest is the largest of the group and also the most stable. Spirit and Frontier on the other hand are the two carriers that have faced some more issues post 2020 in maintaining profitability. They are also 2 ultra low cost carriers, selling bare minimum fares and charging for any accessory service.

The Hybrid Carriers in The US

Then there is the hybrid airline category. Currently there is one carrier in this category and that is JetBlue. The airline took parts of the low cost business model and combined them with others of legacy airlines to create a customisable full service experience so to say.

The Carriers That No Longer Exist

Lastly we must touch on the airlines that were and that are no more. Up to the early 2010s there used to be 6 major airlines in the US not just the current 3. During the 2010s a major consolidation process saw the 6 airlines merge forming 3 very large carriers.

The 3 major airlines that used to exist and that are no longer active are:

  • Continental Airlines – which merged with United
  • US Airways – which merged with American Airlines
  • Northwest Airlines – which merged with Delta Air Lines