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China’s ‘Big Three” carriers top of Asia-Pacific table for brand value

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August 1st 2021

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The coronavirus pandemic has decimated airline profits and spread red ink across the industry’s accounts. Read More » It also has seriously damaged the value of their brands, including those of leading carriers in the region.

In a report from Brand Finance, the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy, the value of the world’s top 50 most valuable airline brands has declined by a third, from $108.6 billion in 2020 to $72.9 billion in 2021 as the sector was battered by COVID-19.

In its Brand Finance Airlines 50 2021 airline list only three Asian carriers appear in the top ten table for brand values.

They are mainland airlines Air China (6), whose brand value is estimated to have fallen 34.1% to $2.9 billion, China Southern Airlines (7) down 35.8%, to $2.6 billion, and China Eastern Airlines (8) with a brand value decline of 32.5%, to $2.2 billion.

The top three most valuable brands are U.S. carriers. Delta Air Lines is the world’s leading airline for brand value, although still down by 37.5%, to $5.7 billion, followed by American Airlines with a fall-off of 39.9%, to $5.4 billion, and United Airlines, sitting at $5 billion or 39.2% lower than before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Emirates Airline comes in at number four, down 31.9% to $4.7 billion.

There are three new entrants into the rankings in 2021: Saudia (brand value $506 million) in 39th place, Jetstar (brand value $360 million) at 49 and Avianca at 50. “As predicted, airline brands have had a turbulent ride since the outbreak of COVID-19, with brand values plummeting across the board. With recovery closely tied to vaccination rates, we will likely witness short-haul flights and their airline carriers rebound quicker compared with long-haul,” Brand Finance’s valuation director, Savio D’Souza, said.

“Airlines that successfully fly through the economic storm of the pandemic and protect their brands are likely to be more resilient and perform better as we return to normality.”

In addition to measuring overall brand value, Brand Finance determines the relative strength of brands through a balanced scorecard of metrics that evaluate marketing investment, stakeholder equity and business performance. Across the rankings flag carriers receive higher global and domestic Brand Strength Index (BSI) scores. In Brand Finance’s latest Global Brand Equity Monitor, flag carriers outperformed non-flag carriers on two key metrics: recommendation by 16 points and reputation by 12 points.

In general, flag carriers have benefitted from greater state support than their non-flag carrier counterparts. They have received large allocations of direct financial support and indirect support from furlough schemes and tax deferral concessions. They also have kept flying on essential routes during the pandemic, an option not available to lower cost peers who had to suspend routes. The visible presence of flag carriers during COVID has boosted trust and the reputations of their brands.

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