Busiest passenger air routes in the world revealed

The busiest passenger air routes on earth have been revealed in a new study published by Routesonline, with the Asia-Pacific region dominating the top 100. The research has been released ahead of World Routes 2018, taking place from 15-18 September in Guangzhou, China.

With more than 13.4 million people travelling on the short-haul domestic service, the 450 km journey from Seoul's Gimpo Airport to the island of Jeju off the coast of the Korean Peninsula has once again claimed the title as the most in-demand air route in the world.

The route has an average of 180 scheduled flights per day - that’s one every eight minutes - transporting mainly leisure travellers from South Korea’s dense capital city to the island, famed for its white sandy beach resorts and volcanic landscape.

A total of 13,460,305 passengers flew between Seoul and Jeju in 2017, an increase of 9.4 percent on the previous 12 months when the route was also ranked as the busiest in the world. It carried a staggering 4,369,364 more people than the second busiest, Melbourne - Sydney Kingsford Smith.

Although the US remains the world’s largest aviation market, the analysis by Routesonline found that air services in the Asia-Pacific region dominate the top 100 busiest routes by passenger numbers, accounting for more than 70 percent of the total.

Hong Kong - Taiwan Taoyuan is the busiest international route and features as the 8th most popular overall, with 6,719,029 passengers flying the 802 km in 2017. Hong Kong, the home hub for Cathay Pacific, features in six of the top ten international routes.

The study also found that the Thai domestic route of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi - Chiang Mai is the fastest-growing route in the top 100. Two-way passenger numbers grew by 36 percent year-on-year to almost 2.4 million. 

The research has been released as 3,000 aviation professionals prepare to gather at World Routes 2018, taking place from 15-18 September in Guangzhou, China. The event is a global meeting place for airlines, airports and tourism organisations to discuss new market opportunities and the evolution of existing services. 

Steven Small, brand director of Routes, said: “This research backs up forecasts that the Asia-Pacific region will be the biggest driver of passenger demand over the next 20 years. Such staggering aviation growth means it is the perfect time for World Routes to return to China.

“The event will bring together senior decision makers from across the world to plan new air services and discuss increasing the frequency and capacity of the existing routes that are popular with passengers. The negotiations in taking place in Guangzhou could pave the way to the busiest routes of the future.”

The busiest routes in the world were calculated by using OAG Schedules Analyser to find the top 500 routes by overall seat capacity in 2017. The routes were then ranked by passenger numbers using data provided by Sabre Market Intelligence.

The top ten busiest scheduled air routes in the world

  • The busiest route in the world is the South Korean domestic route of Jeju - Seoul Gimpo (CJU-GMP) with 13,460,305 passengers in 2017, a 9.4 percent rise on the previous 12 months.
  • That equates to 36,877 passengers travelling the 449km every day. On average there are 180 flights per day and the average base fare is $94.39.
  • The route carried a staggering 4,369,364 more passengers than the second busiest in the world, Melbourne - Sydney Kingsford Smith (MEL-SYD)
  • Nine of the top ten busiest routes in the world are domestic, with Hong Kong - Taiwan Taoyuan (HKG-TPE) the busiest international route in eighth position
  • Of the top 100 busiest routes, only 18 are international
  • Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, but no routes from the airport appeared in the top 50. The busiest from the airport is Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson - Orlando (ATL-MCO) in 58th, with 2,836,474 passengers in 2017
  • The average cost of a ticket in the top 100 routes is $170.76 and the average distance is 1,163 km
  • The most expensive route in the top 100 is New York JFK - London Heathrow (JFK-LHR) with the average base fare of $642.41. The cheapest is the Turkish domestic route Izmir - Sabiha Gokcen (ADB-SAW) at just $55.04 per seat

Top 10 routes 2017.png

Top ten domestic routes

  • All of the top ten routes are in the Asia-Pacific region, with four involving Tokyo Haneda (HND)
  • The fastest-growing route in the top ten is Jeju - Seoul Gimpo (CJU-GMP), while Jakarta - Juanda Surabaya (CGK-SUB) is the only one to suffer a decline
  • There were 65,967 flights between Jeju and Seoul Gimpo in 2017

 Top ten international routes

  • Hong Kong - Taiwan Taoyuan (HKG-TPE) is the busiest international route in the world, with 6,719,029 passengers flying the 802 km in 2017. However, the total figure was a slight 0.1 percent decline on 2016
  • Hong Kong International Airport features in six of the top ten busiest routes, while eight of the top ten are in Asia
  • London Heathrow is the only airport in Europe to feature and New York JFK the only one in the Americas
  • The fastest-growing route in the top ten is Hong Kong - Shanghai Pudong (HKG-PVG) after year-on-year passenger numbers rose by 15.5 percent to 4,162,347
  • The longest route in the top ten is New York JFK - London Heathrow (JFK-LHR) at 5,562 km. It is also the most expensive, with the average cost of a ticket $642.41

Top ten fastest-growing routes

  • The fastest-growing route in the top 100 busiest is the Thai domestic route of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi - Chiang Mai (BKK-CNX), with passenger numbers rising 36 percent year-on-year
  • Seoul Incheon - Kansai International (ICN-KIX) is the second fastest-growing international route and the second fastest-growing overall
  • Nine of the top ten are in Asia-Pacific, with one in the Middle East
  • Conversely, the Peruvian domestic route of Cuzco - Lima Jorge Chavez (CUZ-LIM) suffered the largest percentage drop, with passenger numbers declining 13.1 percent

Busiest routes by region

  • Jeju - Seoul Gimpo (CJU-GMP) is the busiest within Asia-Pacific (1st overall)
  • Jeddah - Riyadh King Kalid (JED-RUH) is the busiest within the Middle East (12th overall)
  • Cape Town - O.R. Tambo Johannesburg (CPT-JNB) is the busiest within Africa (18th overall)
  • Cancun - Mexico City (CUN-MEX) is the busiest within South/Central America (19th overall)
  • New York JFK - Los Angeles (JFK-LAX) is the busiest within North America (30th overall)
  • Izmir - Istanbul Ataturk (ADB-IST) is the busiest within Europe (32nd overall)

The data:

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