Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 15 October 2019

The world’s 20 busiest air routes

The most crowded flight path on earth is a route that's only 813 kilometres long

The busiest route in the world is a domestic one: there were 64,991 trips taken between Seoul and the beautiful South Korean island of Jeju in 2017. Getty Images
The busiest route in the world is a domestic one: there were 64,991 trips taken between Seoul and the beautiful South Korean island of Jeju in 2017. Getty Images

What was the world’s most travelled air route in 2017? Heathrow to JFK? Mumbai to DXB? No.

The busiest international route last year was between Hong Kong and Taipei according to new data released by travel analysts OAG. A total of 29,494 trips were taken on this path in 2017. Interestingly, the journey is only 813 kilometres long.

The skyline, islands and food of Hong Kong made Katy want to set up camp there. But then, she has that whenever she visits a new country. Courtesy HKTB
Hong Kong to Taipei is the world's busiest international travel route with 29,494 trips a year. Courtesy HKTB

The five top routes were all in East or Southeast Asia, but two Middle East flights do feature in the top 20. The route between Dubai and Kuwait sits at 15 on the list with 13,297 trips a year (with airlines including Emirates, Flydubai and Kuwait Airways), and the path between Cairo and Jeddah is at number 19 with 12,896 trips.

The list is based on the largest global routes by total number of flights (both arriving and departing), counting jet operations only.


The top three domestic flights in the world are between Jeju and Seoul Gimpo in South Korea (64,691), Melbourne and Sydney in Australia (54,519) and Mumbai and Delhi in India (47,462).

The fact there are 64,691 annual flights between Seoul and Jeju means there are on average 177 flights on that route a day. Why is the path between South Korea’s capital and the island of Jeju so popular?

Well, its temperate climate, mountains, waterfalls and beaches mean Jeju island is a popular tourist destination for South Korea’s 51.4 million people. In fact, it’s so beautiful that it was dubbed one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature (a 2011 campaign that involved hundreds of millions of votes).

An interesting side note: Jeju province has a visa policy that is independent of the Republic of Korea’s mainland – this means that there are only 11 nations that require a visa to fly into Jeju (those that aren’t granted visa-free entry are Afghanistan, Cuba, Ghana, Iraq, Kosovo, Libya, Macedonia, Nigeria, Palestine, Sudan and Syria).


Here is the full list of the 20 busiest routes, both international and domestic (the figure in brackets represents the number of trips taken in 2017) …


1. Between Hong Kong and Taipei (29,494)

2. Between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore (29,383)

3. Between Jakarta and Singapore (26,872)

4. Between Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur (20,890)

5. Between Hong Kong and Shanghai (20,818)

6. Between New York La Guardia and Toronto (17,116)

7. Between Hong Kong and Seoul Incheon (16,366)

8. Between Beijing and Hong Kong (14,592)

9. Between Dublin and London Heathrow (14,556)

10. Between Bangkok and Singapore (14,455)

11. Between Bangkok and Hong Kong (14,406)

12. Between London Heathrow and New York JFK (14,218)

13. Between Hong Kong and Singapore (14,162)

14. Between Chicago O’Hare and Toronto (13,595)

15. Between Dubai and Kuwait (13,297)

16. Between Hong Kong and Manila (13,270)

17. Between Amsterdam and London Heathrow (13,220)

18. Between Frankfurt and London Heathrow (13,208)

19. Between Cairo and Jeddah (12,896)

20. Between Stockholm Arlanda and Oslo (12,804)


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1. Between Jeju and Seoul Gimpo (64,991)

2. Between Melbourne and Sydney (54,519)

3. Between Mumbai and Delhi (47,462)

4. Between Fukuoka and Tokyo Haneda (42,835)

5. Between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo Congonhas (39,325)

6. Between Sapporo and Tokyo Haneda (38,389)

7. Between Los Angeles and San Francisco (34,897)

8. Between Brisbane and Sydney (33,765)

9. Between Cape Town and Johannesburg (31,914)

10. Between Beijing and Shanghai (30,029)

11. Between Bengaluru and Delhi (29,427)

12. Between New York La Guardia and Chicago (29,163)

13. Between Bogota and Medellin (27,092)

14. Between Brisbane and Melbourne (25,709)

15. Between New York JFK and Los Angeles (25,258)

16. Between Bengaluru and Mumbai (23,857)

17. Between Tokyo Haneda and Osaka (21,900)

18. Between Bogota and Cali (21,792)

19. Between Beijing and Shenzen (21,675)

20. Between Shanghai and Shenzen (21,644)

Think 64,991 flights between one single route sounds impossible? Just take a look at Flight Radar at any time of the day to see how busy the globe’s skies are at any given time.

Here’s a screengrab from 4pm Abu Dhabi local time on January 9 just as an example of how many planes are in the air at one time:

Courtesy FlightRadar
Courtesy FlightRadar

Updated: January 10, 2018 10:52 AM