The outbreak of COVID-19 has touched every airline in the industry, no matter large or small. While the impact could be judged on a case-by-case basis, most carriers around the world were forced to make huge changes to their flight network.

With passenger demand on a free fall and governments around the world imposing strict travel restrictions to contain the outbreak, airlines had no other choice but to keep their aircraft on the ground to save on operating costs: if no passengers are present onboard and no belly cargo is flown, flying aircraft empty is quite pointless.

But how has the coronavirus impacted the fleets of the Top 5 biggest airlines in the world by fleet size?

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Measuring the size of the airline can be done in various ways. However, a good indication of the size of the carrier can be its fleet and how many aircraft it operates. But who were the biggest players in aviation in 2019?
 

5. China Southern Airlines

The largest out of the top three Chinese national carriers and the only airline in the country to operate the illustrious Airbus A380, was arguably at the center of the outbreak when COVID-19 started in December 2019. However, the total fleet has already shrunk since the end of 2019, with China Southern possessing five aircraft fewer than compared to the end of the year.

Furthermore, China Southern Airlines (ZNH) had faced a shortage of aircraft due to the Boeing 737 MAX groundings. Prior to the ban on commercial flights with the type, Boeing delivered 16 MAX aircraft to the Chinese carrier, with 18 more that were manufactured and parked all around the United States, as the planemaker was not able to deliver these before the groundings.

Coronavirus forced another 99 aircraft to be parked, as demand for travel within China and out of the country has plunged.

However, the good news is that at least the domestic network within the country is recovering, according to the latest data presented by the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

Currently, China Southern Airlines (ZNH) has 133 parked aircraft as of March 25, 2020, planespotters.net data indicates.

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The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released another grim prediction for the developments in the aviation industry in 2020. The newly-issued downfall of passenger revenues is almost ten times more than the one issued in late-February 2020.
 

4. Southwest Airlines

The largest low-cost carrier in the world and the largest operator of the Boeing 737, Southwest Airlines (LUV) had a fair share of difficulties in 2019. The significantly reduced capacity due to the 737 MAX groundings forced the airline to prolong operations of its older 737s. Despite the difficulties and shrinking capacity (-1.6% in 2019 year-on-year), the airline managed to achieve a profitable 2019, with a net income of $2.3 billion.

Like for many airlines, Southwest’s 2020 started out with a fair share of difficulties. In an update to its investors, the carrier indicated that its month-to-date load factor was 67% through March 15, 2020, with the number going downwards in recent days to about 50%. From April 14 to June 5, 2020, Southwest Airlines (LUV) is planning to reduce capacity by at least 20%. In a separate filing to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), dated March 5, 2020, the company estimated a drop of $200-300 million in revenues in Q1 2020.