My Account Menu

CAPA Login

Username:
Password:
Forgotten password? Create Account
CAPA Profiles

The world's top ten routes are in Asia Pacific

2nd September, 2011

The world's busiest air route is...Tokyo Haneda-Sapporo Chitose. Indeed the top ten are all in the Asia Pacific region, which reflects its rise as the world's pre-eminent aviation market. Many of Asia's leading route pairs are in the established markets of Japan and Australia. But it is also interesting that among the airports represented as end points in the top 10 routes, ten of the airports fail to rank in the world's Top 30 airports. Though Sapporo has an enormous seat offer to Haneda, it has far less impact elsewhere.

Though the US has the most airports in the global top 30, no American airport appears in the busiest routes list until position 18; Los Angeles-San Francisco. And then US airports again disappear until route pair number 27.

But for the singular mention of Heathrow in position 32, there is not a European on the page until number 50, Madrid-Barcelona.

Finally, of the top 50, 41 are domestic and of the remaining nine, only New York-London (position 32) qualifies as a bona fide long-haul service. And the other eight are generally rather short hops that connect nearby neighbours such as Singapore-Jakarta, Singapore-Kuala Lumpur and Singapore-Bangkok.

The outstanding winner of dense, short-haul, international coverage goes to Doha-Dubai, a distance of only 237 miles. It is highly unlikely that 1 million Qataris and 1.8 million residents of Dubai are demanding that kind of schedule intensity, so those flights are a part of the growing incumbent’s (QR and EK) battle for connecting passengers.

Top 50 Routes (29-Aug-2011 to 04-Sep-2011, System traffic), ranked by Seats

Rank Origin Destination Total Seats
1 HND Tokyo Haneda
CTS Sapporo Chitose
269,500
2 CJU Jeju Airport GMP Seoul Gimpo
258,305
3 FUK Fukuoka
HND Tokyo Haneda
200,787
4 SYD Sydney Kingsford Smith
MEL Melbourne Tullamarine
172,629
5 HKG Hong Kong
TPE Taipei Taoyuan
146,014
6 HND Tokyo Haneda
OKA Okinawa Naha
144,158
7 PEK Beijing Capital
SHA Shanghai Hongqiao
142,520
8 DEL Delhi Indira Gandhi
BOM Mumbai
140,956
9 ITM Osaka Itami
HND Tokyo Haneda
123,780
10 SIN Singapore Changi
CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
112,640
11 JNB Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo
CPT Cape Town
104,288
12 CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
DPS Denpasar Bali Ngurah Rai
100,739
13 SYD Sydney Kingsford Smith
BNE Brisbane
96,648
14 SGN Ho Chi Minh City Tan Son Nhat
HAN Hanoi Noibai
90,890
15 HKG Hong Kong
SIN Singapore Changi
87,275
16 HKG Hong Kong
PVG Shanghai PuDong
86,616
17 SIN Singapore Changi
KUL Kuala Lumpur
86,140
18 LAX Los Angeles
SFO San Francisco
84,263
19 CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
SUB Surabaya Juanda
83,738
20 HKG Hong Kong BKK Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
79,923
21 CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
MES Medan Polonia
78,758
22 CTU Chengdu
PEK Beijing Capital
75,383
23 PEK Beijing Capital
CAN Guangzhou Baiyun
74,953
24 BKK Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
HKT Phuket
74,836
25 CAI Cairo International
JED Jeddah King Abdulaziz
74,414
26 JNB Johannesburg Oliver R Tambo
DUR Durban King Shaka
74,380
27 JFK New York John F Kennedy
LAX Los Angeles
73,970
28 PEK Beijing Capital International
SZX Shenzhen
73,816
29 SDU Rio De Janeiro Santos Dumont
CGH Sao Paulo Congonhas
71,656
30 JED Jeddah King Abdulaziz
RUH Riyadh King Khaled
71,529
31 SZX Shenzhen
SHA Shanghai Hongqiao
70,556
32 JFK New York John F Kennedy
LHR London Heathrow
70,306
33 SIN Singapore Changi
BKK Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
69,790
34 MNL Manila Ninoy Aquino
CEB Cebu Mactan
69,670
35 ORD Chicago O'Hare
LGA New York La Guardia
68,852
36 BNE Brisbane
MEL Melbourne
68,804
37 KOJ Kagoshima
HND Tokyo Haneda
68,787
38 DEL Delhi Indira Gandhi
BLR Bengaluru
68,700
39 CAN Guangzhou Baiyun
SHA Shanghai Hongqiao
67,976
40 DXB Dubai International
DOH Doha
67,588
41 PUS Busan Gimhae
GMP Seoul Gimpo
67,255
42 HKG Hong Kong
PEK Beijing Capital
66,718
43 CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta JOG Yogyakarta Adisutjipto
66,626
44 IST Istanbul Ataturk
ADB Izmir Adnan Menderes
66,576
45 BKI Kota Kinabalu
KUL Kuala Lumpur
66,426
46 MTY Monterrey Gen Mariano Escobedo
MEX Mexico City Juarez
65,705
47 YVR Vancouver
YYZ Toronto Pearson
63,887
48 KUL Kuala Lumpur
KCH Kuching
63,845
49 CGK Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
UPG Ujung Pandang Hasanudin
63,547
50 MAD Madrid Barajas
BCN Barcelona El Prat
63,305

Interesting rankings by counhtry

If the domestic routes (numbers indicate chart ranking) are broken down by country, there are some additional surprises as, once again, the long dominant North American and European markets are a tiny fraction of the whole. The US, Canada and Mexico together take five positions and the EU has but one.

Domestic top routes by nation

China

7, 15, 22, 23, 28, 31, 39, 42

Japan

1, 3, 6, 9, 37

Indonesia

12, 19, 21, 43, 49

Australia

4, 13, 36

USA

18, 27, 35

Korea

2, 41

India

8, 38

South Africa

11, 26

Malaysia

45, 48

Vietnam

14

Thailand

24

Brazil

29

Saudi Arabia

30

Philippines

34

Turkey

44

Mexico

46

Canada

47

EU

50

Route growth in Asia boosts the entire region

But even more striking is the industry growth that has been generated between many domestic city pairs in a relatively short time. The following table displays the number of weekly non-stop between various cities in 1995 and 2011.

The combination of less regulation, more competition and increased affluence have all combined to create some stunning percentage increases is less than two decades.

Weekly Frequencies

% change

 

1995

2011

 

Jakarta-Bali

123

241

196%

Manila-Cebu

61

187

307%

Mumbai-Delhi

124

475

383%

Shenzhen-Beijing

30

168

560%

Shenzhen-Shanghai

25

266

1064%

Johannesburg-Cape Town

148

411

278%

Often with good reason

And, of course, there are additional reasons for so many of the most heavily traveled routes to be outside the US and EU.

  • Both the US and Europe have extraordinarily dense air coverage which diffuses large regional numbers across many routes.
  • Many of the countries represented, especially those in development, have few options to air travel. Manila-Cebu and Jakarta-Bali have only long sea journeys as alternatives. The drive from Rio to Sao Paulo can take 6-7 hours as opposed to roughly an hour by air, while the larger, albeit ageing, US infrastructure provides much quicker ground travel between New York and Washington—roughly the same distance as the Brazilian cities.
  • In some cases air journeys are competitively priced. The airfare between Seoul and Busan is USD65 and takes one hour. The high-speed rail trip takes 3 hours and costs USD52. And the cheapest travel, by bus, is described on-line as being complex and taking “forever”.

New pattern is likely permanent, less US and EU…

There will be no going back. The US carriers continue to cut capacity and substitute RJs for mainline equipment. It is also a mature market with future expansion unlikely to outpace population growth.

The same is true in Europe, where Ryanair, as the growth pacesetter, flies primarily to secondary airports, increasing traffic but not between traditional city pairs. And the European rail system offers far more options than can be found between US cities.

In the same time period (1995-2011) and due to schedule coordination by Air France/KLM, weekly frequencies between Amsterdam and Paris have dropped from 111 to 83—or 25%.

Aviation in China will continue to grow but the pace may be moderated by the push towards developing high-speed rail as well, and India’s comprehensive but ageing rail system will continue to provide an alternative to air travel.

See related article: China's aviation industry to suffer billions in losses from high-speed rail 

But for island nations like the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, there will be few other options for an increasingly mobile population, and it will be a long time until roads replace aircraft in Brazil.

Against almost every measure, the balance of traffic is shifting from long-established Western nations to the developing world—with no end in sight.

CAPA employs a leading team of writers and analysts positioned around the world. Find out more about CAPA's regional and global analysts.
Feedback or comments? Please email us your comment or feedback on this article.