OAG recently published their list of the world’s busiest international air routes for a period of 12 months ending in February 2018. These statistics are based on the number of flights operated between a particular city pair, so this list is different than the routes with the most seats. This just accounts for the number of takeoffs and landings between a given city pair.
So, what routes make the list, and just how frequent is service? Here’s the top 10 list:
- Kuala Lumpur to Singapore — 30,537 flights
- Hong Kong to Taipei — 28,887 flights
- Jakarta to Singapore — 27,304 flights
- Hong Kong to Shanghai — 21,888 flights
- Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur — 19,849 flights
- Incheon to Osaka — 17,488 flights
- Hong Kong to Incheon — 17,075 flights
- New York LaGuardia to Toronto — 16,956 flights
- Dubai to Kuwait — 15,332 flights
- Hong Kong to Singapore — 15,029 flights
As you can see, Asia dominates the list. The only non-Asian route on the list is New York to Toronto. Frankly I’m surprised that’s the highest frequency route outside of the region.
While I knew there were a lot of flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, I wouldn’t have guessed that this short 184 mile flight is the highest frequency city pair, and for that matter would have never guessed the number. 30,537 flights per year comes out to an average of about 84 flights per day. That’s over three flights per hour around the clock (though a majority of those flights are during the day, so sometimes you’ll see over a handful of flights per hour).
There are a couple of other interesting things to note here.
First of all, the international route with the most number of flights is different than the international route that carries the most passengers. The international route that carries the most passengers is actually Hong Kong to Taipei, and the difference is huge:
- Between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, 4,004,448 passengers were carried across 30,537 flights (an average of 131 passengers per flight)
- Between Hong Kong and Taipei, 6,543,995 passengers were carried across 28,887 flights (an average of 227 passengers per flight)
That’s not surprising when you consider that most flights between Hong Kong and Taipei are operated by widebody aircraft, while most flights between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are operated by narrowbody aircraft.
Now, are you ready for the most surprising statistic of all? The world’s five busiest routes aren’t any of the above. Rather they’re all domestic routes. In 2017, the world’s five busiest routes in terms of number of flights were as follows:
- Seoul Gimpo to Jeju
- Melbourne to Sydney
- Mumbai to Delhi
- Tokyo Haneda to Fukuoka
- Rio de Janeiro to Sao Paulo
What’s even crazier is the number of flights operated in some of those markets. In 2017 there were 64,991 flights between Seoul Gimpo and Jeju, which is 178(!!!!) flights per day. Just to give an example of how many flights are operated in an hour, Korean Air alone operates flights at 1:10PM, 1:20PM, 1:30PM, 1:45PM, and 1:55PM.
I think the moral of the story here is that I need to visit Jeju.
Which of these route rankings surprises you most?
(Tip of the hat to TravelinWilly)