The Airlines With the Oldest and Newest Planes

FinanceBuzz collected data on every single plane in the fleets of major U.S.-based airlines to see which companies have the oldest and newest planes.

airplanes waiting to taxi
Updated May 13, 2024
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Airplane mishaps have been a recurring theme in the news lately. High-profile incidents have created controversy for both United Airlines and the plane manufacturer Boeing. These issues have been so prominent that it’s understandable for potential passengers to feel concerned about their safety in the skies.

The age of a particular plane is one factor concerned passengers can consider. Older planes require more maintenance care and work to operate safely. With that in mind, FinanceBuzz looked at data on every single plane in the current fleet of 12 of the biggest airlines in America to find out which ones have the oldest (and newest) planes.

In this article

Key findings

  • United has the oldest planes, with a median age of 19.4 years old.
  • Sun Country (18.1 years), Allegiant (17.6 years), and Delta (17.2 years) are the other airlines with fleets where the median plane is more than 15 years old.
  • Breeze has the youngest fleet, with a median plane age of 2.1 years old.
  • Three additional airlines have fleets with a median age of less than 10 years: Frontier (4.7 years), Spirit (6 years), and Alaska (7.2 years).

Airlines with the oldest and newest planes

Across all major U.S.-based airlines, we found that the median airplane is a little over 11 years old (11.1), with some airlines operating fleets that are a good deal older or newer than that.

graphic breaking down the age of airline's planes

United Airlines' more than 950 planes have the highest median age of any airline fleet, 19.4 years. That includes more than 200 planes that have been in operation for at least 25 years.

In second place is Sun Country Airlines, a low-cost carrier that flies to nearly 175 destinations. The 56 planes operated by Sun Country have a median age of 18.1 years old, about half a year older than the third-oldest fleet, which belongs to Allegiant (median age of 17.6 years old).

Three additional airlines have fleets with median ages in excess of the all-airline median of 11.1 years old:

  • Delta planes have a median age of 17.2 years old.
  • JetBlue planes have a median age of 13.2 years old.
  • Southwest planes have a median age of 11.5 years old.

The median age of American Airlines’ fleet exactly matches the median across all airlines: 11.1 years.

Fleets with the newest planes

Breeze Airways is the airline with the youngest median fleet age, at just 2.1 years old. More than half of the 39 aircraft in the Breeze fleet are planes that are less than three years old, including 11 planes that have been in operation for one year or less.

Frontier is the airline with the second-newest fleet — its planes have a median age of just 4.7 years old. Notably, Frontier’s oldest planes are a pair of Airbus models that are 11.1 years old, while every other plane in its fleet was built within the last decade.

More than one-third of Frontier’s planes are less than three years old, including 22 planes that are one year old or less.

A detailed breakdown of fleet ages

The average age of each airline’s fleet doesn’t tell the entire story. Small sample sizes or significant outliers can have an outsized impact on an overall age range.

With that in mind, we also found the percentage of aircraft in operation at each airline that fall into different age ranges.

graphic breaking down the age of airline's planes

Delta and United have significantly more airplanes in service that are more than two decades old compared to other major airlines.

Nearly half of the current fleet for United (49%) and Delta (46%) have spent more than 20 years in the sky. By contrast, there’s not a single plane operated by Breeze, Spirit, or Frontier that is more than 20 years old. In fact, 99% of Frontier’s fleet is less than half that age, as just 1% of its planes are more than 10 years old.

Bottom line

No matter what plane you board next, here are some tips for improving your travel experience:

  • Fly more comfortably with TSA PreCheck reimbursement. Using TSA PreCheck can help you breeze through security at the airport. A number of popular issuers have a credit card that covers TSA PreCheck, so you can enroll essentially for free.
  • Get a fresh start on travel rewards. If you aren’t an expert, a top travel credit card for beginners is the perfect place to start earning points and learning the ropes of financing travel through rewards.
  • Kick back and relax at the airport. Regardless of which airline you book through, lengthy delays and layovers are still possible. But if you have a free lounge access credit card, you’ll be able to enjoy kill time in a luxurious airport lounge.

Methodology

Fleet data for each airline was collected via https://www.planespotters.net/ in April 2024.

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Josh Koebert

Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.