Types of Air Carriers


Air carriers are aircraft that carry passengers, mail, packages, goods, military personnel, high ticket items like jewelry or human organs for rapid transport. Air carriers include large and small airplanes and helicopters.

Regional Air Carriers

  • Regional air carriers are smaller airlines that transport passengers and sometimes cargo within a certain geographic area or on fixed routes from one hub to another. These are sometimes referred to as commuter airlines. These airlines often use smaller planes because their passenger loads seldom require a large aircraft. These planes also fly at lower altitudes than the large commercial airlines do and may service smaller airports.

Major Air Carriers

  • Major air carriers are the large, commercial passenger airlines that transport people all over the world. These planes can fly at high speeds and altitudes and form the bulk of the aircraft activity and revenues among all the commercial aircraft. Some of the airlines are low cost, while others provide air travel at market based prices. Sometimes these commercial aircraft carry cargo, documents or human organs for transplant patients.

Cargo Carriers

  • These aircraft provide services to the public, private industry, and public agencies. They offer overnight shipping services and second-day shipping and delivery from envelopes to large packages. The U.S. Postal Service operates a fleet of planes to move mail and a number of private companies provide quick delivery services all over the world through air transport.

Charter Airlines

  • Charter airlines are aircraft for hire. Large groups or organizations will sometimes charter an aircraft to transport people to a distant destination for meetings or vacations. Charter companies may also combine air travel with vacation packages. Because airlines need to operate with full capacity, charter airlines will also sell seats to the public.


  • Helicopters add significant power to law enforcement, emergency medical transport and military agencies, as well as being used by television stations to report breaking news. Helicopters can also be hired by the hour. Some tourist attractions offer helicopter rides to provide a bird's eye view of the scenery. Helicopters can be leased or chartered and some companies use helicopters to transport executives.

Military Aircraft

  • Military aircraft range from unmanned drones that collect aerial data to transport jets that carry soldiers all over the world. All branches of the military use helicopters for transport, and the military also provides air transport services for members of congress, and, of course, the president of the United States.

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  • Photo Credit airplane image by Tammy Mobley from Fotolia.com
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