The Busiest Airline Routes This Month

According to statistics from OAG, Asia has made a clean sweep in the domestic rankings, while Dubai to London Heathrow is the international winner.

Winter hikers on Hallasan, Jeju Island’s dormant volcano. (Photo: newphotographer2520/Pixabay)

The Covid-19 pandemic may have put a stop to our vacation plans for the past 10 months, but some people are still on the move. If you’re curious about the state of commercial aviation right now, global travel data provider OAG has released its latest statistics on the busiest routes, which are defined not by passenger traffic numbers but the largest volume of scheduled seats in the current calendar month.

When it comes to the busiest domestic routes in January 2021, Asia dominates the rankings. South Korea leads the pack with just under 1.07 million return seats between Jeju International and Seoul Gimpo, while Vietnam is in second place with a passenger capacity of 1.02 million for all flights between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Japan ranks third: those flying from Sapporo New Chitose to Tokyo Haneda or vice versa have more than 716,000 seats to fill.

Japan and China each possess three of the busiest routes; in the latter’s case, all are connected to Shanghai Hongqiao airport. Indonesia makes an appearance thanks to the popularity of flights between Jakarta and Bali; more than 560,000 seats have been scheduled this month. The only domestic route outside the Asia-Pacific region to crack the top 10 is in Saudi Arabia, which ranks ninth.

The 10 busiest domestic routes worldwide for January 2021 are as follows:

Route Name Country Total No. of Seats
Jeju International–Seoul Gimpo South Korea 1,069,677
Hanoi–Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam 1,020,790
Sapporo New Chitose–Tokyo Haneda Japan 716,292
Beijing Capital–Shanghai Hongqiao China 695,156
Fukuoka–Tokyo Haneda Japan 670,234
Guangzhou–Shanghai Hongqiao China 643,431
Shanghai Hongqiao–Shenzhen China 630,500
Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta–Denpasar Indonesia 566,375
Jeddah–Riyadh Saudi Arabia 548,226
Tokyo Haneda–Osaka Itami Japan 520,689

An Emirates Airbus A380 on the tarmac at Dubai International Airport. (Photo: Emirates)

As for non-domestic flights, just over 190,000 seats are being offered this month for those traveling between Dubai and London Heathrow, the busiest international route by passenger capacity for both January 2021 and December last year. This is partly down to Emirates’ five daily services to Heathrow, four of which are operated aboard the airline’s flagship Airbus A380 aircraft (including the latest model, which features a brand-new premium economy class). Second in the rankings is Cairo to Jeddah with more than 154,000 seats, and rounding out the top three is Orlando, Florida to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in Puerto Rico (with just under 152,000 seats available). Intriguingly, two of the most highly trafficked routes connect Paris Orly with French overseas departments in the Caribbean.


Top 10 Busiest International Routes: Global

Route Name Country/Territory Pairs Total No. of Seats
Dubai–London Heathrow UAE–United Kingdom 190,365
Cairo–Jeddah Egypt–Saudi Arabia 154,337
Orlando–San Juan Luis Muñoz Marín U.S.–Puerto Rico 151,916
Paris Orly–Pointe-à-Pitre France–Guadeloupe 138,475
Seoul Incheon–Tokyo Narita South Korea–Japan 127,170
New York JFK–Santiago Cibao U.S.–Dominican Republic 120,876
Moscow Domodedovo–Simferopol Russia–Ukraine 116,956
Shanghai Pudong–Taipei Taoyuan China–Taiwan 115,969
Cairo–Riyadh Egypt–Saudi Arabia 115,124
Fort-de-France–Paris Orly Martinique–France 113,363

Terminal 1 at Seoul Incheon International Airport. (Photo: Incheon International Airport Corporation)

Looking specifically at the Asia-Pacific region, the route between Seoul Incheon and Tokyo Narita comes out on top with 127,000 seats, while almost 116,000 seats have been scheduled this month between Shanghai Pudong and Taipei Taoyuan. In third place is Bangkok to Hong Kong, with 102,000 seats available. Four of the 10 busiest routes feature Taipei Taoyuan Airport, while Seoul Incheon and Hong Kong are tied with three routes each. The most represented country pairing is South Korea and Japan.


Top 10 Busiest International Routes: Asia-Pacific

Route Name Country/Territory Pairs Total No. of Seats
Seoul Incheon–Tokyo Narita South Korea–Japan 127,170
Shanghai Pudong–Taipei Taoyuan China–Taiwan 115,969
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi–Hong Kong Thailand–Hong Kong 102,036
Seoul Incheon–Osaka Kansai South Korea–Japan 97,008
Hong Kong–Taipei Taoyuan Hong Kong–Taiwan 84,880
Seoul Incheon–Taipei Taoyuan South Korea–Taiwan 76,980
Macau–Taipei Taoyuan Macau–Taiwan 76,747
Hong Kong–Manila Ninoy Aquino Hong Kong–Philippines 71,836
Fukuoka–Seoul Incheon Japan–South Korea 71,212
Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta–Singapore Changi Indonesia–Singapore 68,464

More information here.

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