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Emirates is now world’s third largest carrier

With 144 aircraft in its fleet, Dubai-based Emirates airline has just become the world’s third largest airline by capacity, overtaking US carrier United and behind only Delta and American Airlines, according to the latest data from schedules provider, Innovata.

Emirates will produce 16.9 billion available seat kilometres (ASKs) in March 2011, up 9.9 per cent year-on-year, while United’s capacity is easing 0.6 per cent to just under 16b ASKs, according to Innovata.

Delta Air Lines and American retain first and second rankings, with 28.4b and 21.8b ASKs, respectively, while Southwest Airlines rounds out the Top 5.

British Airways has reclaimed ninth position from rival Air France with 12.7b and 12.6b ASKs this month, respectively, growing 4.7 and 3 per cent, respectively.

Emirates’ rise up the capacity charts comes thanks to the airline’s decision to use only the world’s largest planes. Emirates already has 15 Airbus A380 superjumbos in its fleet, with a staggering 75 more to come – plus 53 stretched Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, with 49 of those still to be delivered from Seattle.

The enormous growth spurt that 75 A380s and 49 777-300ERs will bring are expected to add a further 60,000 seats to Emirates’ capacity. And that’s not even counting the 70 big Airbus A350s.

Emirates also has a capacity advantage in comparison with other airlines because of Dubai’s strategic geographic location, which acts as a hub for its flights between Australia and Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Other notable movers include Ryanair, which has risen from 20th place in March 2010 to 16th this year with 8.3b ASKs. Ryanair is the third fastest growing carrier of the global Top 25, with an 18.3 per cent increase in capacity scheduled for this month, behind Turkish Airlines (+21.9 per cent) and Qatar Airways (+20.3 per cent), which are also surging up the rankings of the world’s biggest airlines.

Japan Airlines will soon exit the top flight, falling from 16th to 25th over the past year, thanks to a 22.1 per cent year-on-year reduction in ASKs to 6.1b.

The Top 25 carriers account for 50.8 per cent of global capacity, down from 51.7 per cent in March 2010. As a group, they are increasing capacity by 6.7 per cent, slightly below the 8.6 per cent year-on-year surge in global capacity this month.

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