The Busiest Airline Routes In The U.S. And The World Right Now

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:

Rank City Pair  Seats 
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:

Rank City Pair  Seats
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:

Rank City Pair  Seats 
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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. In the case of BKK to HKG, I question the OAG data. Thailand is almost entirely devoid of inbound international flights (other than repatriation, humanitarian, freight, etc), by government mandate. Indeed, a random check (in ITA Matrix) of flights from BKK to HKG this Thursday the 19th shows only 2…one on Emirates and one on Cathay.

  2. They report specific airports in some cities but not others? @Mark S can it be bkk plus dmk. Similar in istanbul. — is this ist or saw or both? Does taipei include both airports? What about orlando — does it include sanford?

  3. Sounds like life is going on in other countries. Not one US city involved in the top 9 busiest routes. Maybe we are doing something wrong here.

  4. This only reports seats and not passengers so I would not call them the busiest. So it really does not mean much. You can fly all the seats you want but if you are flying empty planes so what.

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