Being the air nerd that I am, I have been absorbed with the 2019 OAG listing of the busiest international air routes in the world. I cannot help myself, I am afraid.
On the top 20 routes, airlines offer a combined 332,000 flights annually. This is about one percent of all the flights in the world!
Fifteen of the top 20 air routes in the world are in Asia with four connecting Singapore and five connecting Hong Kong (including the route between them!). This shows the major shift in air traffic over the last 20 years. The USA is the source of just three of the top 20 routes: NY JFK to London Heathrow, Chicago to Toronto, Canada as well as New York to Toronto, Canada.
Continental Europe have none of the top 20 busiest international air routes which is not surprising considering the sheer dominance of trains. For example, the number of people flying between London and Paris is under half the number that flew in 1994, the year before Eurostar trains began their service. Today’s Eurostar carries almost six times the number of passengers that fly between London and Paris.
Africa, the Pacific and South America are also absent from the top twenty international routes.
The busiest international route in the world is between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, a distance of 184 miles. Eight airlines operate a combined staggering 30,187 flights in the course of a year- an average of 82 flights per day or almost four per hour!
Air Asia, Firefly, Malindo, Jetstar Asia, Malaysia, Silk Air, Singapore Airlines and Thai Lion Air offer multiple daily services between these two cities.
Air Mauritius and Ethiopian Airlines operate less regular (but very cheap flights) under the fifth freedom convention which allows an airline to start and end a flight between two countries of neither of which is the operating airline’s home nation.
There has been discussion of a high speed train between the two cities which would also connect Malacca and Johor. The project has been postponed multiple times with the current plan of a service start date of January, 2031. This would shift most traffic from the air.
This is not the busiest air route in the world. That distinction goes to the 79,460 flights annually between Seoul’s Gimpo Airport to Jeju, an island off the southern coast of the Korean Peninsula. 54,000 flights connect Sydney and Melbourne, Australia and 45,188 connect Bombay and Delhi. Just 35,365 flights a year connect SFO and LAX, the busiest domestic US routing and ninth in the world.
The full list of the top twenty international air routes:
- Kuala Lumpur and Singapore (30,187 flights)*,
- Hong Kong and Taipei (28,447 flights)*,
- Jakarta and Singapore ( 27,046),
- Hong Kong and Shanghai ( 20,678),
- Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur (19,741)
- Seoul to Osaka (19,711)
- La Guardia (NY) and Toronto (17,038)
- Hong Kong and Seoul (15,770)*
- Bangkok and Singapore (14,698)*
- Dubai and Kuwait (14,581 )
- Bangkok and Hong Kong (14,556)*
- Hong Kong and Beijing (14,537)*
- JFK (NY) and London Heathrow (14,195)*
- Tokyo Narita and Taipei (13,902)
- Dublin and London Heathrow (13,855)*
- Osaka and Shanghai (13,708)
- Hong Kong and Singapore (13,654)*
- Chicago O Hare and Toronto (13,503)*
- Seoul and Tokyo Narita (13,503)
- Osaka and Taipei (13,325)
The ten routes marked with a * are ones that I have actually flown on. How many have you traveled on?