The Surprising 5 Busiest Airline Routes in the World

This week’s issue of Airline Weekly offers statistics on the busiest airline routes in the world.

Here are the 5 largest air routes in the world, all domestic and not a single one in the U.S. All are in Asia Pacific, four are in North Asia. And Vietnam is a notably fast growing market with potentially much more headroom.

I’m surprised that Rio – Sao Paulo and Beijing – Shanghai don’t make the list

These are the 5 international air routes with the greatest traffic. Again all are in Asia Pacific, split between North and Southeast Asia, with Hong Kong – Seoul the longest flight. Dublin-London, Seoul – Tokyo, and London – New York are notably absent.

Airline Weekly adds that least year 973 million people traveled by air from or within the EU, up 6% over 2015 and 29% higher than in 2009.

  • 17% of traffic was domestic
  • 36% was between the EU and a non-EU destination
  • 47% was intra-EU international

The largest airline market in the EU is Britain with 249 million of 973 million total passengers, followed by Germany (201 million), Spain (193 million), France (145 million), and Italy (135 million).

French air traffic is heavily concentrated around Paris, while Germany’s, Spain’s, and Italy’s is distributed across several cities.

The fastest growing air markets in the EU and Bulgaria and Romania, while Belgium and Slovenia are the only countries whose air traffic is shrinking.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This isn’t quite a true picture because it’s airport specific, so, for example, DUB-LHR doesn’t show up, with only 1.8m, but DUB-LHR/LGW/LTN/STB/LCY is closer to 5m. Similarly, LHR-JFK/EWR is, I think, closer to 4m and I’d imagine the splits between ICN/GMP and NRT/HND are what’s keeping Seoul-Tokyo from this list.

  2. The lists are explicitly Airport pairs only, which really penalize traffic split between multiple airports like LA basin – SF Bay Area etc

  3. Another reason Beijing-Shanghai didn’t make the list, besides the split between the two Shanghai airports: high speed rail between the two cities. High speed rail is almost always exactly on time, more comfortable, more convenient (stations closer to city centers), and often faster (with the notorious delays at Chinese airports).

  4. The departure timings for Jeju flights are impressive, especially at Gimpo. During certain months and peak hours they run pretty much every 10 minutes across a wide range of airlines.

  5. I suspect the USA has so many “hub” airports that it’s always going to dilute such point to point statistics.

    As a contrast, Australia arguably has just 5 with a very small percentage of flights that do not operate from/to from at least one or two of them.

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