Despite the fact that millions of people a year travel by air [[note]]including the folks that are responsible for media[[/note]], there is an extremely prevalent case of artistic license/ignorance with the way airplanes are portrayed in media. So much in fact, that we have [[JustPlaneWrong our own trope to document this very phenomenon]].

In reality, the commercial airline industry is a unique animal among big businesses that has undegone a huge amount of change over the last decade. What was once a luxury reserved for the rich is now for many people a necessity, and the changes needed for airlines to adapt have resulted in a wave of mergers and consolidation, much to the chagrin of the {{Fandom}}. Since the early 90s, many of the legendary names that pioneered the industry succumbed to the pressures and either merged or collapsed.

Speaking of the fandom, it exists and is as thriving as any other one you might might find on the internet. Many fans actively engage in photography, scoping out spots around airports for shooting. Rare aircraft types and special paint schemes are highly sought after. Several locations around the world are famous for the vantage points they offer such as the In-N-Out Burger just outside LAX and most famously, [[ Maho Beach]], adjacent to Princes Juliana Airport in St Maarten which regularly sees planes as large as 747s go right overhead on extremely low approaches.

So enjoy these UsefulNotes. They may come in handy the next time you take to the skies.

Airlines today generally fit into one of four categories (with some overlap): Legacy, Low Cost, Low Fare, and Regional.

* Legacy carriers are the large flag carriers of their respective companies and as such, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin have significant legacies going back many years]]. They are known on one hand for full service and relative comfort, and on the other hand for financial instability and delays.
** In the US, these are the airlines dating back to the dawn of regular air travel, [[TheRoaringTwenties the 1920s]] and early [[TheGreatDepression 1930s]]. Until the mid-1970s, there were 12 of them, each operating a national network but with a particular regional focus. The airline industry began a long process of deregulation in 1972, which winnowed the legacies down to the current Big Four: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and US Airways. Upon the completion of the pending merger of American and US Airways, the new big three along with Southwest will control roughly 80% of the market in the US while all others will split the remaining 20.
** Outside of the US--and this includes Canada--the legacy carriers tend to be either state-owned "[[PatrioticFervor flag carrier]]" airlines or state-owned "flag carriers" that were subsequently privatized. The major ones operating out of Europe are for the most part privatized (although some governments still hold minority stakes; for instance, France owns about 18 % of Air France-KLM); the large state-run airlines are all in Asia.
*** Some countries traditionally had secondary private legacy carriers; for instance, Canadian Airlines and British Caledonian (countries obvious). These kinds of airlines have mostly disappeared since the 1990s--often when the national airline was privatized and bought up the private competition (since Canadian became merged with Air Canada and British Caledonian was acquired by British Airways). although some newer ones have started to pop up again.
* Low Cost and Low Fare carriers are generally newer startups. The difference between the two isn't perfectly defined but generally a [=LFC=] will do anything in their power to offer the lowest fare possible, often at the expense of passenger comfort. An [=LCC=] makes a point of keeping their costs low through operational efficiency in order to offer reasonable but not rock-bottom fares while not sacrificing passenger comfort. [=LCCs=] are more common in North America while [=LFCs=] are more common in Europe and Asia. A comparison might be illuminating:
** European [=LFCs=] in particular have a reputation for treating passengers more like packages, eliminating certain basic comforts, and charging for everything you could possibly imagine (''water?''). The Irish Ryanair, arguably the purest LFC of the lot, wanted to get rid of the shades on the plane windows (only to find out that the Irish regulators required them) and once (only half-seriously) considered charging a Euro for using the lavatory (when news broke on this story, "spending a penny" [[{{Pun}} puns]] were all over the place).
** On the other hand, American [=LCCs=] are noted for quirky, friendly service, and truth be told they now charge for fewer things than the legacies; the classic American LCC, Southwest, has famously-cheery flight staff that sings on occasion (a practice initially intended to hide the fact that there wasn't any other in-flight entertainment), and in 2012 ran an ad campaign emphasizing that they didn't charge for your second bag (unlike legacy carriers).
** Both tend to use similar tactics for keeping costs down on the operational side, however, such as using a highly limited fleet of planes (both Ryanair and Southwest are famous for running fleets consisting almost entirely of Boeing 737s) and using smaller, more distant airports where they can negotiate for lower fees. The latter tactic is particularly common in Europe, where the airport in question is often very, very far away from the actual city (Ryanair flies to ''Luton'' and pretends like that's London, even though it's over 20 miles away from the city); while some North American carriers use it, the greater distances between American cities means that there are fewer airports capable of handling large jets, and thus fewer opportunities to ditch the big airport. Nevertheless, North American [=LCCs=] do use the tactic whenever possible: witness Southwest's origins from [[UsefulNotes/DFWMetroplex Dallas]]' Love Field rather than DFW International, and Chicago-Midway is their largest base of operations. Ironically, compared to Ryanair, the alternate airports Southwest uses are center-of-city airports that were replaced by larger suburban airports due to noise and expansion concerns.
** The primary reason for the difference is that North American "low-cost" carriers are often not the rock-bottom lowest fare for any given flight; regional airlines are subsidized by mainline carriers to operate money-losing flights (in order for the large carrier to operate profitable hub-to-hub or hub-to-focus city flights) and will generally beat out Southwest and such on absolute price. On the other hand, this involves a Byzantine fare structure, multiple connections (by comparison, 80 percent of Southwest bookings are nonstop flights) and traveling on ridiculously small and uncomfortable regional jets and turboprops.
* Regional airlines operate smaller (<100 seats) aircraft on behalf of a larger (usually a legacy) airline under an "Express" or "Connection" brand (or some such) as flying them on their own are generally not as economical.


!!North America:
[[folder:Legacy Carriers]]
* '''Air Canada''': Founded by the Canadian National Railway (CN) as Trans-Canada Air Lines, it was established in 1937, and was (as a subsidiary of CN) a state-run enterprise; it was renamed Air Canada in 1965 on the initiative of a young and unheralded Liberal MP from Quebec named [[CanadianPolitics Jean Chrétien]] (on the theory that the name makes sense in English and in French). Over time, Air Canada developed an extensive network across North America and internationally. It was privatized in 1989 and was a founding member of the Star Alliance in 1999. It isn't typically included in discussions of the American legacy carriers because, being Canadian, it's subject to a different regulatory scheme. However, the business model and network structure are broadly similar. Their current fleet includes a domestic fleet of Airbus A320 family aircraft and some Embraer 175s, and an international fleet composed of Airbus A330s as well as Boeing 767-300s, 777-200LR/300ERs, and 787s.
* '''American Airlines''': Based in Dallas with hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago-O'Hare, Miami, New York-JFK, and Los Angeles. Before Delta, the largest airline for most of the last decade, mostly through organic growth though they did acquire what remained of TWA in 2001. Current fleet includes the Airbus A319/321, Boeing 737-800, 757-200, 767-200/300, 777-200/300, and [=McDonnell=] Douglas MD-82/83. Future plans for the fleet include the Airbus [=A320NEO=], Boeing 737MAX, and 787-9. Following a lengthy bankruptcy, completed a merger with US Airways in December 2013[[hottip:*:delayed by several months due to a lawsuit by the US Department of Justice which was settled in late November]].
** '''US Airways''': Previously headquartered in Phoenix prior to merging with American with hubs in Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and Washington-Reagan. Long the RedHeadedStepchild of the legacy carriers, they formed as the result of several mergers of smaller carriers over the course of their history. In 2005 they were acquired by America West Airlines in a first of its kind merger between a legacy and low cost carrier. The US Airways name was retained to reflect the nationwide network of the combined airline[[note]]their network traditionally heavy along the east coast while AW was of course, in the west[[/note]]. Current fleet includes the Airbus A319/320/321, A330-200/300, Boeing 737-300/400, 757-200, 767-200 and Embraer E190. After the merger, they continued operating independently until Spring 2014 due to contractual obligations to Star Alliance; as of 1 April, they have moved to oneworld and begun integrating into American.
* '''Delta Air Lines''': Headquartered in Atlanta with hubs there as well as in Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York-JFK, New York-Laguardia, Salt Lake City, Memphis, Cincinnati, Amsterdam, Paris, and Tokyo. Was the world's largest prior to United, having merged with Northwest in 2008. Current fleet includes the Airbus A319/320, A330-200/300, Boeing 737-700/800, 747-400, 757-200/300, 767-300/400, 777-200, [=McDonnell=] Douglas [=DC9=]-50, MD-88, and [=MD90=]. Northwest was originally set to be the first American carrier to fly the 787 however following the merger, Delta chose to defer their orders until 2020 as it did not fit with their fleet plans. They currently have an order for 100 737-900ERs, primarily to replace their aging 757 fleet. Unlike some other airlines, they have recently trended towards purchasing used aircraft still in good condition over newly built ones. They were originally the only major operator of the [=MD90=] before Boeing and [=McDonnell=]-Douglas merged shutting production down in favor of the 737 and have in recent years purchased nearly every [=MD90=] still in service around the world[[note]]about 50 total in service among a handful of airlines[[/note]] as they are cheaper to acquire than new 737s while being just as fuel efficient, though lacking the same range[[note]]a non-issue due to basing them in Northwest's former mid-continent hubs in Minneapolis and Detroit[[/note]]. They have also entered an agreement with Southwest to purchase all 88 of their 717s that were inherited from their merger with [=AirTran=] that will replace the remaining Northwest [=DC9s=] as well as bring some flights currently operated by regional jets back to mainline. During the transition period, they will be the only airline to fly at least one variant of every [=DC9=] generation at one time.
** The old joke about Delta is that the name stands for "Don't Expect your Luggage To Arrive," referencing the airline's frequent problems with baggage handling. The airline has gotten better about this over time, but the joke still stands.
* '''United Airlines''': Headquartered in Chicago with hubs at O'Hare, Houston-Intercontinental, Newark, Denver, Washington-Dulles, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Tokyo-Narita, and Guam. Became the world's largest airline following their merger with Continental in 2010. Current fleet includes the Airbus A319/320, Boeing 737-500/700/800/900, 747-400, 757-200/300, 767-200/300/400, 777-200, and 787-8 of which they became the first operator in North America .They will eventually be the largest operator of the 787 with the initial 25 ordered by Continental and another 25 ordered by pre-merger United to be delivered in 2016. Their future fleet plans also include orders for the Airbus A350 and 737MAX in the future and continuing deliveries of new 737-800 and 900s[[note]]originally ordered by Continental[[/note]] that are replacing the last of their Classic series 737-500s and the bulk of their aging 757s.
** The old joke about United was "flying the unfriendly skies," riffing on an old United ad campaign and a perception that the flight attendants were rude and otherwise personally unpleasant. The joke has lost popularity since the campaign was dropped ages ago, but still pops up now and then.

[[folder:Low Cost & Low Fare Carriers]]
* '''Alaska Airlines''': Based in Seattle with hubs in Sea/Tac, Anchorage, Portland, and Los Angeles. Actually one of the older airlines in existence today but their business model is much more that of an LCC than a legacy, with a route network concentrated heavily on the west coast. Current fleet include the Boeing 737-400/700/800/900. Being Seattle based, they are very proud of their all-Boeing fleet. In recent years have engaged in codeshare arrangements with just about everyone, but especially Delta and American. Due to their relationship with those two, there is constant talk of merger with one of them but currently they seem content to remain independent.
* '''Allegiant Air''': Headquarted in Las Vegas with hubs there and in Orlando-Sanford, Phoenix-Mesa, and an assortment of other vacation destinations. One of the more consistently profitable airlines in recent years, having found a niche providing low-cost service to vacation markets from smaller, underserved cities that would otherwise only have regional flights from the legacies to their nearest hub. Current fleet includes the [=McDonnell=] Douglas [=MD82=]/83/87/88 and Boeing 757-200. Over the past few years they started to get more competition from [=AirTran=] starting similar routes from their Orlando hub, but with the merger with Southwest they are now looking at backing away from most of them ceding the niche to Allegiant.
* '''Frontier Airlines''': Based in Denver. Bought out of bankruptcy by Republic who also purchased the failing Milwaukee-based Midwest Airlines and merged the two in 2010, however recent cutbacks have seen the Milwaukee hub completely dismantled and the airline has pretty much shrunk back to its pre-merger state. Current fleet includes the Airbus A318/319/320 and Embraer E170/190 with orders for the [=A320NEO=] and Bombardier [=CSeries=]. While well liked by passengers for their high service standards[[note]]very similar to those of [=JetBlue=][[/note]] and fun animal-theme tails, stiff competition from both Southwest and United in Denver (and previously [=AirTran=] in MKE) have made it difficult to stay afloat. Spun back off into their own company in 2013 during which they have begun moving towards more of a ULCC model, albeit one that simply unbundles amenities from the fare and doesn't go out of its way to treat customers like dirt in the way Spirit or Ryanair do. Also followed Allegiant's lead in cherrypicking routes from Florida as well as small focus city operations in Trenton, Wilmington, and Harrisburg, cities that are small markets on their own but close enough to New York and Philadelphia to draw traffic.
* '''Hawaiian Airlines''': The largest airline in, [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin you guessed it,]] Hawaii. Like Alaska, could be considered a legacy if not for their singular hub in Honolulu although really they're sort of a category unto themselves. Operates both shorthaul flights within the islands and longhaul flights to and from the mainland as well as points in Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific. Their fleet consists of Boeing 717s for intra-island flights along with Boeing 767s and Airbus [=A330s=] for long-haul. [=A350s=] will be added in the future to allow longer range routes as will [=A321NEOs=] to offer nonstop service to more cities on the west coast.
* '''[=JetBlue=] Airways''': Based in New York with hubs at JFK, Boston, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando, and Long Beach. One of the more recent successful startups. Well known for pioneering the trend of inflight satellite television. Current fleet includes the Airbus A320 and Embraer E190 with orders for the [=A320NEO=] coming in a few years. Originally founded by a former Southwest executive and many former employees of TWA, they enjoyed much initial success. A few unfotunate PR nightmares have caused them to loose a bit of their luster, but are still consistently rated at the top of customer satisfaction surveys.
* '''Porter''': Despite operating a fleet of 76 seat aircraft, they are not a regional carrier per se. Based out of Billy Bishop Airport in the Toronto islands, Porter uses the Bombardier Q400 turboprop to serve eastern Canada and a few cities in the US. Billed as a "premium short haul" airline their claim to fame is attracting business customers with service from the more conveniently located downtown airport[[note]]Pearson being 32 km from downtown[[/note]] and being a general thorn in Air Canada's side[[note]]to the point they went to the courts to demand Porter let them in the terminal that they owned and operated then established a new subsidiary, Sky Regional, to fly [=Q400s=] 12 times a day from the island to Montreal[[/note]]. Recently announced an order for the Bombardier [=CSeries=] will be the first jet service seen at the island airport pending legislation to remove the prop-only restriction. If all goes through will allow higher capacity to existing destinations while a small extension of the main runway will permit new routes in the west such as Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
* '''Southwest Airlines''': Based in Dallas with focus cities[[note]]not hubs due to their point-to-point style network[[/note]] at Love Field, Chicago-Midway, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Denver, Houston-Hobby, Phoenix, Orlando, and a bunch of other cities. The airline you think of when you think of a low cost carrier. Carries more passengers domestically than any other airline. In 2011 they acquired [=AirTran=] Airways and are currently in the process of integrating operations. Current fleet includes the Boeing 717-200, and 737-300/500/700/800. The 800 is a recent addition, entering service in March 2012 while the 717 was inherited from [=AirTran=] and is the first non-737 the airline have ever operated in significant numbers[[note]]they breifly flew a couple leased 727s in their early days, but they didn't last long[[/note]] although none will ever wear Southwest colors as they have decided to sell the fleet to Delta (as the 717 is actually the last variant of the MD90 and as noted above, Delta ''loves'' the MD-90 and for that matter all variants of the DC-9). Since the launch of the current generation 737NG in 1996, Southwest has maintained an almost constant stream of new aircraft deliveries with over 350 -700 series models in service. During periods of growth they will add new planes while periods of non-growth will see the older classic series models[[note]]of which about 150 remain[[/note]] replaced as new ones come in. The addition of [=AirTran=]'s fleet and consolidation of their network will allow the retirements of the classic series to be expedited over the next few years. Meanwhile they have already placed an order for the new 737MAX which will enter service in 2017. Southwest is notable for their crews who make up for their lack of in-flight entertainment by being FunPersonified and their policy of not assigning seats. The latter practice has drawn [[BrokenBase differing opinions]] amongst flyers, however most agree that their current method of assigning passengers a specific spot in line to board is much better than their old "cattle call" boarding.
* '''Spirit Airlines''': Headquartered in Ft Lauderdale with hubs there and Detroit. Originally an LCC like any other, in more recent years have reimagined themselves as an "Ultra Low Cost Carrier", the closest thing passengers in the US to the European LFC model, and as such have made them pretty much the most hated airline in the US. Current fleet includs the Airbus A319/320/321 with orders for the [=A320NEO=] upcoming. They specialize in Caribbean destinations from the Ft Lauderdale hub but also pick and choose select high business markets from places like Chicago and Dallas, seeking to steal passengers from the legacies like Virgin America does, but instead of competing on product, they compete on rock bottom fares. As you might expect, you get what you pay for.
* '''Sun Country Airlines''': Based in Minneapolis/St. Paul with a fleet of 737-800s, they only fly to a handful of major cities in key business markets year-round while running an extensive network of vacation destinations seasonally. During the low season, they keep their planes utilized by operating charters. Sort of the last of a dying breed of early LCCs with limited networks that focused on a single hub city primarily fed through local traffic as opposed to connections. They have hit periods of financial instability over the years (including shutting down completely at one point and being revived) but for the most part sustain themselves by way of a small but loyal following in the Twin Cities.
* '''Virgin America''': Based in San Francisco with hubs in SFO and Los Angeles. Originally planned as an American expansion of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, it ran into legal troubles as US laws prohbit US-based airlines from having majority control by a foreign entity. By the time operations commenced, Branson and co. only retained a minority share and licensed the Virgin brand to the American investment firm that maintains majority control. Current fleet includes the Airbus A319/320 with orders for the [=A320NEO=] in the future. Competes mainly by offering more full-service flights at LCC prices, offering a similar coach experience as [=JetBlue=] or Frontier, but also adding first class to lure away higher-paying business passengers from legacies, particularly United.
* '''[=WestJet=]''': Canada's second largest airline and referred to by many as the Canadian version of Southwest. Their name comes from their roots in western Canada and their main base in Calgary. They have since expanded east and have a coast-to-coast network with additional hubs in Vancouver, Toronto, and Edmonton. Maintains a fleet exclusively composed of 737s but has indicated a desire to purchase a smaller type to serve more rural cities.

[[folder:Notable Defunct Airlines]]
* '''[=AirTran=] Airways''', founded in 1992, is arguably the most infamous airline in recent American history. It acquired a very small regional airline by the name of [=AirTran=] in 1997 to shed its much more notorious one: ''[[NeverLiveItDown Valujet]]''. Operating as an ultra-low cost carrier mostly in the Southeast, with the majority of its fleet comprising of DC-9's retired by mainline and international carriers, the start-up quickly managed to set a pace for safety incidents not seen since the days of the open-canopy biplane. The Department of Defense scathingly rejected a bid to fly military personnel, and the FAA, normally exercising its regulatory authority over aviation in a "head cheerleader" type of role, took the unprecedented step of requiring approval before the company added any new aircraft or routes. Then, on May 11, 1996, a DC-9, illegally carrying chemical oxygen generators in the cargo hold, burst into flames 5 minutes after takeoff. 110 passengers and crew lost their lives. The full scope of the company's cost-cutting practices came into public scrutiny afterwards, and all Valujet aircraft were grounded for three months afterwards. After some time to heal, a change in management, and replacing their aging fleet with new 717s and 737s they would find themselves one of the best-regarded airlines in the country--albeit one with a reputation for occasional brusqueness and chronic delays.[[note]]The latter was only partly their fault, since airports wouldn't give them priority.[[/note]] Their efforts for expansion to the west coast were hindered by lack of a midcontinent hub which resulted in failed merger attempts with both ATA in Chicago and Midwest in Milwaukee. In 2011, they were bought by Southwest who ironically had been the one to block their attempt to buy out ATA's hub in Chicago. Unlike most mergers that consolidate their brands as quickly as possible, Southwest has chosen to keep [=AirTran=] flying under its own name while gradually bringing planes and crews over. The [=AirTran=] name is expected to be fully retired in 2014.
* '''ATA Airlines''': Originally American Trans Air, they were started in the late 70s as a charter airline to serve the Indianapolis-based Ambassidair Travel Club with a single Boeing 707. Broke into the scheduled service market in 1992 by establishing a hub at Chicago Midway looking to fill the gap left by the collapse of Midway Airlines the previous year. They additionally established a hub in their hometown of Indianapolis. Spent the next decade steadily growing and became well-liked by locals in the two cities. Unfortunately their efforts in Chicago were going head to head against Southwest. In 2000 they launched a major expansion, refreshing their aging 727 fleet with new 737-800s and funding a large part of the redevelopment of Midway airport. The expansion was poorly timed as the drop in traffic following 9/11 forced them into bankruptcy by 2004. After nearly being bought out by [=AirTran=], they were saved by their local rival Southwest who they would end up establishing a codeshare with. Upon leaving bankruptcy under new ownership they closed their Indy hub and shrank their operations in Chicago to focus mainly on markets not served by Southwest who themselves would expand into those left behind. In early 2008 following numerous blunders by management and the loss of a lucrative charter contract with the US military, they would go bankrupt again, this time suspending all operations. Some of their assets would later be bought out by Southwest, including slots at New York [=LaGuardia=] that would kick off a round of expansion into markets that would previously have been unthinkable for them previously.
* '''Midway Airlines''': One of the original establishers of the LCC model. They were the first new airline founded following airline deregulation in the late 70s. They established their hub at Chicago's Midway Airport which at the time was nearly deserted following a mass exodus of airlines consolidating at O'Hare. Became well-loved by Chicagoans as they gradually expanded over the next decade and established an additional hub in Philadelphia with aspirations of adding overseas flights. The expansion however got the better of them, forcing them into bankruptcy in 1991.
** Two years later, a small regional carrier called Jet Express revived the Midway name and after failing to gain traction in Chicago which had already been filled in by Southwest and ATA, moved to Raleigh and established a hub that thrive for a number of years on the back of the booming tech market from the Research Triangle, as well as connections from cities in the northeast to Florida. The bursting of the tech bubble forced them into bankruptcy in early 2001 and they shut down operations in September. Ironically enough, their final flight was on the morning of 9/11. After a failed attempt to restart a few months later, they were contracted to begin flying as a US Airways Express carrier before finally shutting down completely in 2003.
* '''Midwest Airlines''': Originally Midwest Express Airlines[[note]]the "Express" was dropped in 2002 to avoid association with regional airlines flying under an Express brand for a major carrier[[/note]], they were the hometown airline of Milwaukee. Started as a corporate shuttle for the Kimberly-Clark corporation, later branching into passenger service, and ultimately spun-off. Proved very popular among locals for their "signature service" with larger seats in a 2 by 2 arrangement instead of the usual 2 by 3 found on the [=DC9s=], [=MD80s=] in their fleet, as well as the fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies served on board. In the 2000s, they would replace their [=DC9s=] with more efficient 717s and convert their [=MD80s=] to standard coach "saver service" while setting up a second hub in Kansas City. After fighting off a hostile takeover attempt by [=AirTran=] in 2006, they were sold to a private firm with a minority stake from Northwest. [=AirTran=] entered the Milwaukee market aggressively anyway and finding themselves unable to compete, Midwest would downsize and begin contracting flights out from Republic Airlines with Embraer 170s. Eventually they ended all of their own flying and simply existed as a brand before being acquired by Republic entirely and merged into Frontier whom Republic had bought around the same time. The Milwaukee hub continued to be unprofitable due to the competition and was shut down completely not long after the merger, ceding the market to Southwest/[=AirTran=].
* '''Pan American World Airways''', shortened to "Pan Am," was, until its demise in 1991, America's largest airline and its unofficial flag carrier. Starting as a seaplane company, they were unique as focusing almost entirely on international routes (for most of their history, they were forbidden from operating domestic routes). Headquartered in New York City at the famous Pan Am Building (now owned by Met Life), with hubs in New York-JFK (home of the Pan Am Worldport, now Terminal 3 and not long for this Earth), Miami, Los Angeles, London-Heathrow, Frankfurt, and Tokyo, they handled the vast majority of international air traffic and introduced innovations such as economy class, airport lounges, wide-body aircraft, computerized reservation and weight management systems, and provided a standard of inflight service that is largely unmatched to this day. Unfortunately, the airline was done in by a number of factors, including bad management, a poor handling of deregulation (rather than build their own domestic route network, they overbid for a carrier with incompatible aircraft and route structure), and changing foreign policy (the US government found it better to subsidize foreign flag carriers and get them to buy Boeing and Douglas aircraft). The beginning of the end came in 1985 with the sale of its trans-pacific routes to United, opening the door for previously domestic-only airlines to expand internationally. Not long before its eventual demise in 1991 it sold its trans-atlantic routes to Delta. Its status as a powerful American institution also made it a prime target for terrorists, as the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland showed. Operated the "Space Clipper" in ''Film/TwoThousandOneASpaceOdyssey'', one of many companies believed to be a victim of a so-called "''Film/BladeRunner'' Curse," and a short-lived 2011 TV show with the name ''Pan Am'' was a drama focused on employees of the airline.
* '''Trans World Airways''', better known as TWA, was alongside Pan Am one of the United States' flag carriers during the early days of aviation and was at one point owned by legendary aviator Howard Hughes. It maintained it's main overseas hub in New York and domestic hub in Kansas City, then later moved to St Louis. The mid-continent base allowed them to pioneer the hub and spoke model now in use by most airlines. Bad management (of the corporate raider/"activist shareholder" type) and concerns over an aging fleet brought to light following the infamous crash of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 would cause irreparable damage and before efforts could be made to turn it around[[note]]including a refreshed fleet of Boeing 717s, 767s, and Airbus A318s[[/note]] the airline declared bankruptcy entered into a merger with American. While the employees that were kept would eventually be given the short end of the stick with American's unions, many of those who were immediately laid off would go on to work at [=JetBlue=].
* '''Canadian Airlines''', originally known as Canadian Pacific Airlines and later CP Air before reverting again to Canadian Pacific Airlines. As the name suggests, they started off as a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and remained part of the Canadian Pacific Empire until they were sold. They swallowed most of the regional airlines in Canada (Eastern Provincial Airways, Quebecair, Nordair, and Transair) in the mid-eighties before themselves being swallowed by the one remaining Canadian regional airline, Pacific Western Airlines. After the merger, Canadian Airlines subsequently purchased Wardair. Hobbled by debt from the Wardair acquisition and unable to purchase many new aircraft to replace its older fleet, Canadian Airlines struggled through the nineties before finally being purchased by Air Canada in 2000.

!!Latin America:
[[folder:Legacy Carriers]]
* '''Aerolineas Argentinas'''
* '''Aeromexico'''
* '''Avianca'''

[[folder:Low Cost & Low Fare Carriers]]

!!Europe & Russia:
[[folder:Legacy Carriers]]
* '''Aer Lingus''': Republic of UsefulNotes/{{Ireland}}. The name means "Air Fleet".
* '''Aeroflot''': Originally founded to be the Soviet Union's flag carrier, it still remains in that role for Russia. Currently it primarily flies Boeing and Airbus aircraft, but it still uses a few Ilyushin Il-96s (mainly for flights from Moscow to the Russian Far East) and has been looking to buy some of the new Sukhoi Superjet 100 airliners. Famously incorporated its Soviet-era logo into its new one, because it looks [[ fucking cool.]]
* '''Air France''': The flag carrier of France. Was once a user of the Concorde supersonic passenger jet, along with British Airways.
* '''Alitalia''': The flag carrier of Italy - its name is a portmanteau of "ali" (wings) and "Italia" (Italy). The old airline (Alitalia - Linee Aeree Italiane) has gone bankrupt, having had financial problems for many years, and is currently in the process of being liquidated. The current Alitalia (Alitalia - Compagnia Aerea Italiana S.p.A) is the result of the merging of some parts of the old Alitalia with another airline (Air One).
* '''British Airways''': The flag carrier of the United Kingdom, formed in the 1970s from a merger of several different airlines, most notably '''BOAC''' (British Overseas) and '''BEA''' (British European). Was once a user of the Concorde, along with Air France. Their current fleet includes Airbus [=A318/19/20/21=] and Boeing 737/747-400/757/767/777 aircraft. Is the largest operator of the Boeing 747-400 and has both Airbus [=A380=] and Boeing 787 on delivery.
* '''Iberia''': The flag carrier of Spain. Its full name is [[OverlyLongName Iberia, Líneas Aéreas de España, S.A. Operadora, Sociedad Unipersonal]]. Recently agreed to merge with British Airways, though they continue to operate their own brands. Currently undergoing major cuts trying to stay afloat, to the chagrin of its employees.
* '''KLM''': The flag carrier of the Netherlands. Its full name is Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V.[[note]]"Royal Aviation Company"[[/note]] The world's oldest airline still operating with its original name. Merged with Air France in May 2004, but continues to operate separately. Currently, it's the only remaining airline that uses the [=McDonnell=]-Douglas MD-11 in passenger service.
* '''LOT''': Polish Airlines (Polskie Linie Lotnicze).
* '''Lufthansa''': The flag carrier of Germany and the largest airline in Europe. Its primary hub is in Frankfurt. Originally founded in the 1920s, it was disestablished at the end of UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and re-established in the early 1950s. In mid-2012 it became the launch customer for the Boeing 747-8I, the latest version of the 747.
* '''SAS''': Scandinavian Airlines, the national carrier of [[NorseByNorsewest Denmark, Sweden and Norway]]. Not to be confused with the British Army's [[BritsWithBattleships Special Air Service]].
* '''SWISS''': short for Swiss International Airlines. Formed in 2002 in the wake of the demise of Swissair (see below) and is the current flag carrier of Switzerland, down to the white cross on a red field in the tail.
* '''TAP''': Portugal, (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses).

[[folder:Low Cost & Low Fare Carriers]]
* '''[[AllLowerCaseLetters easyjet]]''': The UK's largest airline, based in Luton airport north of London. The go-to airline for budget flights to the warmer southern parts of Europe. Essentially a much safer and more successful [[TransAtlanticEquivalent European version]] of ''Valujet'' (see above) the company's distinctive brand identity and early adoption of internet booking proving very successful.
* '''Ryanair''': Based in Dublin but carries a huge number of British passengers to continental Europe. Has repeatedly tried to take over Aer Lingus (the Irish flag carrier) but has been blocked several times by European Union and Irish politicians claiming the idea would be anti-competitive. As noted above the company is frequently the butt of jokes about it's "no frills" approach and habit of making passengers pay extra for ''everything''.

[[folder:Notable Defunct Airlines]]
* '''Swissair''': The flag carrier of {{Switzerland}}. Went bankrupt in late 2001 after the double setbacks of the Swissair Flight 111 disaster and the economic downturn after 9/11. The failure badly dented the Swiss reputation for [[SwissBankAccount slick financial practices]].
* '''Imperial Airways''': A short-lived airline that nevertheless was a huge trailblazer and pioneer, IA was set up in 1924 to provide an air service to the far-flung colonies of the BritishEmpire, in order to make trans-Imperial communication, trade, and government easier. Imperial Airlines was perhaps the last great British Imperial project; during its lifetime it surveyed air routes in Africa, Asia, and Oceania which are still in use today, and for the first time linked Asia and London by air; eventually operating services to Basra, Karachi, Calcutta, Bombay, Singapore, Hong Kong, Rangoon, and Brisbane. In Africa, it operated services to Alexandria, Khartoum, Port Bell, Kisumu, Nairobi, Mbeya, Cape Town, Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria, Mwanza, Lagos, Khartoum, Bloemfontein, Bulawayo, Pretoria, and Kano. Famous for its Short Empire Flying Boats, Imperial was in many ways the first true international airline, and its mark on the aviation industry can still be seen today. The staff were expected to be ambassadors for Britain and her Empire, the passengers were to be shown the vast works of the Empire throughout the world. It was rolled into BOAC in 1939.

!!Asia & the Middle East:
[[folder:Legacy Carriers]]
* '''Air Astana''': Kazakhstan's national airline.
* '''Air China''': Flag carrier of the People's Republic of China. Formed as the result of the Chinese government's decision to split the Civil Air Administration of China into six separate companies - Air China got the international routes, while the other five were named China (''insert direction here'') based on where in China they primarily served (the two largest of these are China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines). Do not confuse with China Airlines (see below).
* '''Air Koryo''': Flag carrier of North Korea. Has the dubious distinction of being the only airline rated a 1-star by Skytrax. [[BannedInChina Banned for the most part in the European Union]][[note]]It should be noted that they are only one of several - the EU keeps a list[[/note]] due to major safety violations and subsequent lack of oversight - they have since allowed two Tupolev Tu-204s owned by the airline to operate in the EU.
* '''All Nippon Airways''', aka ANA: Japan's major private airline and main local competitor of Japan Airlines. They have a total of ''15'' aircraft with special livery on them, including three with ''Franchise/{{Pokemon}}'', another with ''Franchise/{{Gundam}}'', and yet another with WoodyWoodpecker. Most of these are big planes like Boeing 747s or 777s.
* '''Asiana Airlines''': Korean Air's main competitor in South Korea.
* '''Cathay Pacific''': Flag carrier of Hong Kong. Serves far flung destinations while its subsidiary '''Dragonair''' serves airports closer to Hong Kong in East and Southeast Asia. Had the last flight out of the old Hong Kong International Airport at Kai Tak (Flight 251 to London-Heathrow) and the first flight into the new airport at Chek Lap Kok (Flight 889 from New York-JFK) in July 1998 - the latter was also the world's first nonstop flight over the North Pole.
* '''China Airlines''': Flag carrier of the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan. Indirectly owned by the government (as in the airline is owned by a group, which is owned by another group, which is owned by the government). Do not confuse with Air China (see above).
* '''El Al''': Flag carrier for Israel. Due to the ArabIsraeliConflict, the airline has been the target of numerous terrorist attempts, so the airline has had to develop a number of security procedures to prevent them from taking place. It's thus generally considered the world's most secure airline. It's also the only airline where (in theory at least) all meals are kosher and where there are no flights on the Sabbath (although sometimes concessions to reality have to be made on that front).
* '''Emirates''': One of UAE's two flag carriers. Currently one of the largest and swankiest international carriers, operating an entirely wide-body based fleet, and incorporating features such as cocktail lounges and showers into their longer flights. Even their "economy" class would qualify as "economy plus" on any other airline. Based in Dubai, which is a key part of their success; besides Dubai's wealth, its location between Europe and East Asia makes it perfectly situated to be a hub for long-range flights between them (which is why Etihad and the other Gulf countries are desperately trying to catch up with Emirates, since the same factor applies to them, too).
* '''Etihad''': The UAE's other flag carrier; the name means "Union" in Arabic. Based in Abu Dhabi. Tries to emulate Emirates to some degree, but doesn't quite live up, and is known for occasionally seriously messing basic things up (like getting you your luggage).
* '''EVA Air''': Main competitor of China Airlines in Taiwan. Formed as a subsidiary of shipping conglomerate Evergreen Group. Known for having a very good safety record - no planes or lives have been lost by the airline since its inception in 1989. Has a couple of planes with HelloKitty livery. Known for using the Taiwanese language and cultural aspects such as folk songs in its cabins along with Mandarin Chinese compared with China Airlines, which sticks with Mandarin.
* '''Garuda Indonesia''': Asia's oldest airline. Operated in 1927 as KNILM (not to be confused with KLM, nor related). When Indonesia gained independence, it was renamed as such.
* '''Japan Airlines''', aka JAL: Flag carrier of Japan. Recently underwent bankruptcy reorganization due to steep passenger volume loss in 2009.
* '''Korean Air''': Flag carrier of South Korea. The Soviets shot down one of its airliners (KAL Flight 007, from New York via Anchorage) in 1983 after it had accidentally strayed into Soviet airspace, and North Korea bombed another flight (KAL 858, from Baghdad via Bahrain) in 1987 for its own unfathomable reasons.
* '''Philippine Airlines''': You guessed it, the national flag carrier of the Philippines. It is the first and oldest Asian airline retaining its original name. For a while declared bankruptcy and was banned from flying to the EuropeanUnion countries. The aircraft's livery is noted to use the word Philippines instead of the company's full name to emphasize its flag carrier status.
* '''Qatar Airways''': The first Middle Eastern airline to receive the five-star ranking by Skytrax. On par with Emirates for swankiness; also known to actively try to enforce the SexyStewardess trope (women applying for flight attendant positions are pretty much openly chosen on looks as well as qualifications).
* '''Singapore Airlines''': Flag carrier of Singapore. Founded and partially owned by the government since independence. Noted to have flight attendants with the intricate designs that they are called the Singapore Girls and is deemed by some the de-facto national costume of Singapore.
* '''Saudia''': The flag carrier for Saudi Arabia. Predictably serves halal food and is alcohol-free.

[[folder:Low Cost & Low Fare Carriers]]
* '''[=AirAsia=]'''
* '''Jetstar'''

!!Australia & Oceania:
[[folder:Legacy Carriers]]
* '''Air New Zealand''': New Zealand's flag carrier. Founded in 1940 as TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited), it changed its name to Air New Zealand in 1965. Operated flights to Antarctica in the late 1970s, until [[ one flight crashed into Mount Erebus]] resulting in New Zealand's deadliest peacetime disaster (257 killed). Noted internationally for [[AirNewZealandSafetyVideos its imaginative safety videos]] and its "Economy Skycouch", which is a row of economy seats that can be converted into a couch (which promises to give increased comfort on long-distance flights).
* '''Qantas''': Originally [[FunWithAcronyms Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services]]. Australia's flag carrier and the oldest continually operating airline in the world. Famous for its "flying boat" services in the early days of aviation, most notably the WWII-era Catalina PBY "[[ Double Sunrise]]" flights -- 30-hour, nonstop trips from western Australia to Sri Lanka, timed so they passed over Japanese-occupied territory at night and named because passengers and crew saw two sunrises during the course of the flight. This service provided a vital air link from the rest of the British Empire to isolated Australia. Notable also for one of the best safety records in the industry, as [[RainMan Raymond Babbitt knows very well]].[[note]]Their last fatal accident was in 1951.[[/note]]

[[folder:Low Cost & Low Fare Carriers]]

[[folder:Legacy Carriers]]
* '''[=EgyptAir=]''': One of the oldest African airlines (founded in 1932 and began flying in 1933), formerly a bit crap but now reasonably modern and high-quality (Skytrax 3 stars). Had a famously unfortunate [[ accident]] in 2000 with its flight from New York City; this was probably a disguised suicide by the co-pilot, but the Egyptian government denies it, probably to spare his family's feelings. Like many Muslim-world airlines, reads out the Muslim travel prayer during takeoff.
* '''Ethiopian Airlines''': Currently one of the biggest African airlines.
* '''South African Airways''': The first African airline to be given a 4-star ranking by Skytrax. Once had been the target of boycotts during the apartheid era.

[[folder:Low Cost & Low Fare Carriers]]

!!Regional Airlines:
Regional airlines are ones who operate smaller[[hottip:*:generally less than 100 seat]] aircraft, usually on behalf of a larger carrier. The regional market began in the 1980s following deregulation when the legacy carriers could no longer profitably operate flights to smaller cities and began code-sharing with smaller carriers to do so on their behalf. The setup eventually evolved to the point where the regional carriers' entire operations would be contracted out and the legacy airlines developed unified brands using an "Express" or "Connection" moniker. Many of these smaller carriers would get bought up by the larger ones and begin operating exclusively for that parent carrier. In the 2000s, with changing economics, that trend has reversed and many regionals owned by legacies have been sold off and industry consolidation has seen most merge under a handful of holding companies who will operate several airlines but keep them separate for various reasons related to their contracts. The largest of these companies are [=SkyWest=] Inc. who owns [=SkyWest=] Airlines and [=ExpressJet=][[hottip:*:which itself was formed by the merger of formerly Continental-owned [=ExpressJet=] and Delta-pwnsed Atlantic Southeast Airliness]], and Republic Airways who owns Republic Airlines, Shuttle America, Chautauqua Airlines, and until recently owned low-cost Frontier Airlines. The practice of contracting to regional carriers is an almost exclusively done by legacy carriers. Low-cost airlines have attempted it at varying points in history but have generally been unsuccessful. Generally, if a low-cost carrier can't fly to a particular destination profitably using its own planes, they decided it's not worth serving that destination.

[[folder:Regional Airline Brands in North America]]
* Air Canada Express: Until 2011, used "Air Canada Jazz" to distinguish regional jet flights operated by Jazz Aviation and no special branding for other regional flights at all. Established Express after beginning to contract more flying to outside carriers
** Air Georgian - Beechcraft 1900
** Exploits Valley Air Service - Beechcraft 1900
** Jazz Aviation - Dash8-Q100, Dash 8-Q300, Q400, CRJ-200, CRJ-705
** Sky Regional Airlines - Q400, E-175
* American Eagle: The most unique and [[IncrediblyLamePun punny]] of all, the American Eagle brand was originally used by American Airlines for a handful of airlines operating on its behalf. In the early 90s, American's parent company, AMR Corp. bought most of these carriers and merged them together to form "American Eagle Airlines". Eagle would go on being the exclusive provider of regional flights for American and unique as it was no longer just a brand. Following the merger with TWA, former Trans World Express flights where rebranded as [=AmericanConnection=] to differentiate from Eagle. In 2012, American announced it would begin new contract flying from Republic and [=SkyWest=] under a unified American Eagle and that they would also phase out [=AmericanConnection=]. This meant American Eagle flights became "American Eagle operated by American Eagle]]. Following the merger with US Airways which itself owned PSA and Piedmont airlines, it was announced American Eagle (the airline) would be rebranded as Envoy[[hottip:*:the name borrowed from US Airways' international business class]] in order to distinguish itself. Once the merger is settled the following airlines will operate as American Eagle
** American Airlines Group
*** Envoy - ERJ-140, ERJ-145, CRJ-700, CRJ-900
*** Piedmont Airlines - Dash8-Q100, Dash8-Q300
*** PSA Airlines - CRJ-700, CRJ-900
** Air Wisconsin - CRJ-200
** Mesa Airlines - CRJ-900
** Republic Airways
*** Chautauqua Airlines - ERJ-140
*** Republic Airlines - E-170, E-175
** [=SkyWest=] Airlines - CRJ-200, CRJ-900
** Trans States Airlines - ERJ-145
* Delta Connection: Originally centered on three core operations, Atlantic Southeast from Atlanta, Comair from Cincinnati, and [=SkyWest=] from Salt Lake City, they diversified following a notorious strike by Comair pilots that shut down their Cincinnati hub for days. Comair and ASA were bought out in the 90s and ASA later sold to [=SkyWest=]. Sold Northwest-owned Mesaba and Compass not long after their merger, and eventually shut Comair down. Recently bought Pinnacle Airlines (previously the largest Northwest Airlink carrier) out of bankruptcy, renaming it Endeavor and have contracted more smaller carriers as well. Delta has been the most progressive airline in retiring the universally hated 50 seat CRJ-200 and ERJ-145[[hottip:*:hated by airlines for being expensive to operate and hated by passengers for being as uncomfortable as possible]] replacing them with larger the larger CRJ-700/900 and E-170/175 as well as replacing some existing larger regional jets with more mainline flights, particularly the Boeing 717s purchased from Southwest/[=AirTran=].
** Delta Air Lines Owned.
*** Endeavor Air - CRJ-200, CRJ-900
** Republic Airways
*** Chautauqua Airlines - ERJ-145
*** Shuttle America - E-170, E-175
** [=SkyWest Inc.=]
*** [=ExpressJet=] - CRJ-200, CRJ-700, CRJ-900
*** [=SkyWest=] Airlines - EMB-120, CRJ-200, CRJ-900
** Trans States Holdings
*** Compass Airlines - E-170, E-175
*** [=GoJet=] Airlines - CRJ-700
* United Express: Prior to merging with Continental, United Express was a fairly varied mix of carriers, though [=SkyWest=] had the largest piece of the pie. Continental Express on the other hand, was almost entirely served by [=ExpressJet=] whom was originally owned by, then later spun-off from Continental, with only a small percentage flown by Chautauqua. Continental also used "Express" only for jet service, while using "Connection" for it's small amount of contracted turboprops. Today, [=SkyWest=] provides the bulk of United Express flying, both under its own name and through [=ExpressJet=] which it bought and merged with ASA around the same time and United and Continental merged.
** Cape Air - ATR-42 (operated exclusively for inter-island flights from Guam)
** [=CommutAir=] - Dash8-Q200, Q300
** Mesa Airlines - CRJ-700
** Republic Airways
*** Chautauqua Airlines - ERJ-145
*** Republic Airlines - Q400
*** Shuttle America - E-170
** Silver Airways - Beechcraft 1900, Saab 340
** [=SkyWest=] Inc.
*** [=ExpressJet=] - CRJ-200, ERJ-135, ERJ-145
*** [=SkyWest=] Airlines - EMB-120, CRJ-200, CRJ-700
** Trans States Holdings
*** [=GoJet=] Airlines - CRJ-700
*** Trans States Airlines - ERJ-145
* [=WestJet Encore=]: Both a brand and operating carrier wholly-owned by [=WestJet=]. Formed in 2012 in order to serve smaller markets in western Canada with the Bombardier Q400.