OAG ran data on world airline schedules, and calculated the busiest routes in the U.S. and the world based on the number of seats scheduled (in both directions) for the first week of November 2020.
Here are the 10 busiest domestic routes in the United States:
|1||Atlanta – Orlando||215,513|
|2||Atlanta – Ft. Lauderdale||213,229|
|3||Denver – Phoenix||190,723|
|4||Denver – Las Vegas||177,145|
|5||Denver – Los Angeles||167,859|
|6||Atlanta – Tampa||167,116|
|7||Denver – Chicago O’Hare||158,455|
|8||Dallas Fort-Worth – Los Angeles||157,720|
|9||Los Angeles – Seattle||154,718|
|10||Newark – Orlando||153,995|
Three Delta hub (Atlanta) – Florida routes are represented here. The other Florida route is from Newark. Despite several restrictions on travel from the New York-New Jersey area, Tristate Area residents still go to Florida.
United’s Denver hub features prominently, and I’m actually surprised I only see Dallas Fort-Worth once and American’s Charlotte hub not at all in this list.
Meanwhile Southwest Airlines is operating around two thirds of its flights, versus percentages hovering in the fifties for rivals, yet Southwest hub flights don’t feature here. They’re running to plenty of cities, but without their usual frequency.
While overall Florida travel is coming back faster than to many other destinations (warmth, leisure, and the government isn’t restricting activities), not a single one of the top 10 U.S. domestic routes for December would make the top 10 domestic routes in the world, let alone the top 10 in China. Chengdu – Shenzhen clocks in at 324,908 seats this month to take China’s #10 spot, about 50% more scheduled seats than the busiest U.S. route.
Here are the 9 busiest international routes:
|1||Cairo – Jeddah||147,950|
|2||Dubai – London Heathrow||111,000|
|3||Seoul Incheon – Tokyo Narita||109,868|
|4||Delhi – Dubai||104,126|
|5||Cairo – Dubai||101,434|
|6||Bangkok – Hong Kong||94,376|
|7||Hong Kong – Taipei||93,922|
|8||Tehnran – Istanbul||90,120|
|9||Dubai – Karachi||89,591|
Note that I only list 9 routes here, OAG classifies ‘Orlando – San Juan’ as international and places it at number 2.
Travel is returning domestically, both in the United States and the world. The international route scheduled with the most capacity in the entire world right now wouldn’t make the top 10 list of U.S. domestic routes.
Of course other countries are bringing back their domestic flying more quickly than we’re seeing in the United States. Here are the 10 busiest domestic routes in the world:
|1||Jeju – Seoul Gimpo||1,329,397|
|2||Hanoi – Ho Chi Minh City||892,805|
|3||Beijing – Shanghai Hongqiao||768,184|
|4||Sapporo – Tokyo Haneda||624,478|
|5||Fukuoka – Tokyo Haneda||624,478|
|6||Guangzhou – Shanghai Hongqiao||617,644|
|7||Shenzhen – Shanghai Hongqiao||602,880|
|8||Osaka Itami – Tokyo Haneda||485,369|
|9||Chengdu – Beijing||475,857|
|10||Okinawa – Tokyo Haneda||465,187|
All of the busiest domestic routes are in Asia. Domestic travel has recovered substantially with Covid-19 under control in most of Asia. Jeju – Seoul is normally the world’s busiest route, and it still is at this point in the pandemic.
Four of the top 10 domestic routes in the world are in China. Four are in Japan. China’s domestic air market is largely back to pre-pandemic capacity, bolstered by subsidies and low fares. Japan has controlled the virus without significant restrictions, adhering to mask wearing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces. (There may be other elements driving their success as well.) Meanwhile both South Korea and Vietnam, which feature two routes in the top 10, have crushed the virus as well.
Oddly, about two-thirds of the top 9 international air markets are between cities that cannot be said to have done nearly so well managing the novel coronavirus.