Top international routes in China and India. Shanghai Pudong and Delhi dominate


Shanghai Pudong Airport is China's leading international hub, reflecting its role as China's economic capital. Pudong has roughly 550,000 international seats per week, ranking it 22nd globally at present. Beijing Capital, with 470,000 international seats per week, ranks 27th globally, while Guangzhou (181,519 seats) is down in 85th place. Delhi has meanwhile become India's leading international gateway, with some 292,000 seats per week (ranking it 50th), ahead of Mumbai at just under 240,000 seats, ranking 63rd. But Dubai features heavily in the top 20 routes to/from India.

Pudong leads the way in China

Shanghai Pudong Airport features in half of China's top 20 international city pairs. The biggest route to/from China is unsurprisingly Pudong-Hong Kong (which is technically a 'regional route'), followed by Beijing-Hong Kong. Routes from Pudong to leading Asian gateways Tokyo Narita, Seoul Incheon, Singapore and Osaka make up the next four places. Beijing-Seoul Incheon is seventh, though capacity reductions over the winter will see it drop to 11th place, according to CAPA's Routes Rankings Tool.

Pudong-Taipei, Beijing-Narita and Guangzhou-Bangkok round out the top 10. Indeed, Guangzhou features only once in the top 20, as do Qingdao and Xiamen. Only three routes outside Asia feature in the top 20: Pudong-Frankfurt (14th), Pudong-Paris (19th) and Beijing-Frankfurt (20th).

See related report: In China's embryonic international aviation market, airlines jostle for slice of growing pie

China's Top 20 international routes by seats (per week): 13-Sep-2011 vs 16-Jan-2012

  Origin Destination  Rank  Seats per week
13-Sep-11 16-Jan-12 13-Sep-11 16-Jan-12
Shanghai Pudong Hong Kong 1 1 82,196 82,252
Beijing Capital Hong Kong 2 2 67,466 65,200
Shanghai Pudong Tokyo Narita 3 3 45,809 46,158
Shanghai Pudong Seoul Incheon 4 4 38,309 40,522
Shanghai Pudong Singapore Changi 5 5 31,360 29,120
Shanghai Pudong Osaka Kansai 6 6 27,356 27,580
Beijing Capital Seoul Incheon 7 11 26,834 23,074
Shanghai Pudong Taipei Taoyuan 8 8 26,340 24,886
Beijing Capital Tokyo Narita 9 10 24,686 23,572
Guangzhou Baiyun Bangkok Suvarnabhumi 10 7 22,818 24,946
Qingdao Seoul Incheon 11 12 22,602 22,806
Shanghai Pudong Bangkok Suvarnabhumi 12 13 21,462 21,462
Beijing Capital Singapore Changi 13 9 20,098 24,360
Shanghai Pudong Frankfurt 14 24 18,088 13,566
Beijing Capital Taipei Taoyuan 15 16 16,724 17,114
Shanghai Hongqiao Tokyo Haneda Airport 16 17 16,554 16,842
Xiamen Hong Kong 17 19 16,017 16,062
Shanghai Pudong Nagoya Chubu Centrair 18 27 15,820 12,824
Shanghai Pudong Paris Charles De Gaulle 19 32 15,722 11,633
Beijing Capital Frankfurt 20 21 15,386 15,386

Delhi is India's biggest hub - or is it Dubai?

Delhi had edged out Mumbai to be India's leading international gateway by seats per week. Both cities feature six times in the top 20 routes list. Interestingly, Dubai features seven times, with routes to Mumbai and Delhi heading the list, followed by Chennai and Hyderbad in 11th and 12th places, respectively. Dubai's weekly seating capacity to Bengaluru, Kozhikode, Kochi also make it into the top 20 list.

India’s Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), in a damning report on Air India (AI) tabled in parliament last week stated the liberalisation of the bilateral air traffic entitlements with other countries "did not provide a level playing field to Air India (and to a lesser extent other Indian private airlines)". CAG stated the "massive increase" in bilateral air traffic rights to Gulf nations occurred despite Air India's "strong reservations" as this was the carrier's most profitable international sector. "Clearly, the Gulf sector was AI/Indian Airlines' most profitable international segment before the liberalised policy on bilateral entitlements. AI repeatedly expressed strong reservations to the Ministry against the proposals/requests from Gulf countries for an increase in seat entitlements as well as additional points of call at interior locations in India," the report said, adding the grant of bilaterals demonstrated "the one-sided nature of benefits to Emirates/Dubai".

The report continued: "These (bilateral) agreements, besides not affording adequate time to AI/IA to set their houses in order and gear up for a highly-competitive environment, very evidently worked to the detriment of the national and Indian private carriers," the CAG said. "At this stage, Indian carriers (including AI) will have to tackle renewed and serious challenges to compete effectively with established international 'mega carriers'.”

India's Top 20 international routes by seats (per week): 13-Sep-2011 vs 16-Jan-2012

Origin Destination Rank  Seats 
13-Sep-11 16-Jan-12 13-Sep-11 16-Jan-12
Mumbai Dubai 1 1 35,058 37,578
Delhi Dubai 2 2 28,578 34,558
Delhi Bangkok 3 4 27,559 26,326
Delhi London Heathrow 4 3 25,608 28,840
Mumbai                      London Heathrow 5 5 24,472 24,472
Delhi Kathmandu 6 8 20,762 20,762
Chennai Colombo 7 9 19,370 19,325
Mumbai Bangkok Suvarnabhumi 8 6 19,156 22,556
Chennai Singapore 9 10 19,148 18,544
Mumbai Singapore 10 7 18,092 22,412
Chennai Dubai 11 12 17,290 17,290
Hyderabad Dubai 12 13 16,388 16,782
Delhi Hong Kong 13 14 15,323 14,420
Delhi Singapore 14 11 14,012 17,962
Bengaluru Dubai 15 15 12,866 13,094
Mumbai Hong Kong 16 16 11,676 11,508
Sharjah Kochi 17 17 11,368 11,368
Mumbai Riyadh 18 22 11,240 10,478
Kozhikode Dubai 19 18 11,236 11,100
Kochi Dubai 20 19 11,080 11,080

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