Forbes Global 2000: The World’s Largest Airlines & Aerospace Companies In 2023

42 airlines, aerospace and defense companies are featured on the Global 2000 list of the world’s largest public companies, up from 31 a year ago, as travelers return to airlines and the war in Ukraine boosts defense.


s the war in Russia and Ukraine raged in 2022 and 2023, the demand for defense systems and machinery skyrocketed. In December, Raytheon Technologies’ defense subsidiary won a $1.2 billion contract from the U.S. Army to supply six of its air defense systems to Ukraine. Such demand over the past year helped the Arlington, Virginia-based parent rake in almost $68.6 billion in sales and $5.5 billion in profit in 2022, helping it secure the 79th position of the Forbes Global 2000 list, a ranking of the largest public companies worldwide, and become the only aerospace business in the top 100.

In all, eight companies in the industry were added to the Global 2000.

With increased military activity, other defense contractors have wiggled onto the list for the first time including HII (No.1801), formerly known as Huntington Ingalls, which claims to have built and supplied most of the ships that make up the U.S. Navy fleet and Germany-based arms manufacturer Rheinmetall (No.1892) that has plans to set up a factory in Ukraine to build and repair tanks in the country.

With air travel returning to pre-pandemic levels, aircraft manufacturer Boeing (No. 427) remains firmly on the list. Delta Air Lines (No. 342) is the top airline company with almost $54 billion in sales and $1.8 billion in profit. The Atlanta-based company has about 95,000 employees catering to passengers’ travel demands. United Airlines (No. 397) and American Airlines (No. 536) have also moved up by more than 200 spots with robust demand from work and leisure travelers.

Of the 25 aerospace and defense companies on the Forbes Global 2000 list, 19 have moved up in rank, including four which are new to the rankings. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with almost $31 billion in sales, jumped 101 spots to No. 620. The only other Japanese company on the list, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, (No. 1637) rose more than 150 spots. Rome-based defense contractor Leonardo ($15.46 billion in sales) ascended to rank 994; it recently got an order to deliver two dozen fighter jets to the Nigerian Air Force.

Europe’s Airbus, with about $61 billion in sales and 3.6 billion in profit, (rank 127) was one of six companies in the air industry that moved down the list, slipping from No. 122. The company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of airplanes and helicopters. Airbus, which has military and commercial divisions ranks close to the top U.S. aerospace defense firms including Lockheed Martin, Honeywell and weapons and military technology provider Northrop Grumman.


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