These 10 Routes Offer More Airline Seats Than Any Others

The top 10 airline routes in the world by how much capacity is scheduled are all generally in the Asia Pacific region. That includes the Mideast (Saudi Arabia’s domestic Riyadh – Jeddah) and it includes Australia (Sydney – Melbourne).

There’s not a single route in the top 10 in the U.S., Canada, or anywhere in Europe. A decade ago South America featured once – Sao Paulo to Rio – but that’s no longer in the top 10.

Sydney Kingsford Smith Terminal 1 Departures

OAG crunched the data and found the top 10 routes by seats scheduled in 2019. Like a decade ago the airport appearing most often on this list is Tokyo Haneda. Many of the routes traded places over the past decade but most of the city pairs remained the same. Perhaps the most surprising addition is Ho Chi Minh City – Hanoi, which jumped 465 places in 10 years.

Here are the top 10 city pairs by airline seats scheduled between them in 2019:

Seoul-Gimpo Jeju        17,424,046
Tokyo Haneda Sapporo        12,498,468
Tokyo Haneda Fukuoka        11,400,018
Ho Chi Minh City Hanoi        10,245,598
Melbourne Sydney          9,960,696
Mumbai Delhi          8,231,789
Beijing Capital Shanghai Hongqiao          8,123,735
Jeddah Riyadh          8,017,359
Hong Kong Taipei          7,965,150
Tokyo Haneda Okinawa          7,704,098

Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok International Airport

Hong Kong – Taipei was fourth a decade ago with nearly the exact same number of scheduled seats. They’ve seen a reduction in capacity following recent protests there.

The prominence in Asia is certainly a function of limited travel alternatives (in Europe there are trains between the major cities) as well as economic growth. Japan has held its prominent place without significant growth, China’s growth has been focused on myriad cities rather than just a couple of routes so there’s no new Chinese entrants. India’s aviation sector has lagged. It’s interesting that Bangkok is nowhere on this list (and wasn’t on it a decade ago, either).

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. Limited alternative? Like in the US?

    More likely due to the fact is Asia simply has more people per square km, claiming they don’t have trains and have to fly is just weird.

  2. Thailand has one real city. Everywhere else that might be considered a city by some measures is just a big town. Therefore, no domestic traffic between Bangkok and these towns large enough to be anywhere near the list.

  3. “The prominence in Asia is certainly a function of limited travel alternatives (in Europe there are trains between the major cities) as well as economic growth.”

    Well Gary, your use of parentheses definitely makes it sound as if there were no Shinkansen in Japan nor high-speed railway in China, and as if DB were always reliable and SNCF never went on strike. Instead, you should have considered the high airport taxes as well as the anti-flying rhetorics in some European countries.

  4. @Gary: Bangkok to Singapore is certainly a do-able (and very fun!) train route. Bangkok to Hong Kong will be coming as China’s belt-and-roading their way in Laos to Vientiane and you can already travel from Bangkok to Nong Khai, across the river.

    The distances are large, however, and the existing SE Asia train routes are not modern, high speed rails or rolling stock. Bangkok to Singapore is not a route for anyone whose primary interest is to travel between the two cities efficiently.

  5. I am shocked that HKG-BKK isn’t on the list. With 9 airlines serving this route, it should be on the top ten list. One major reason that I can think of is that several of these carriers are LCCs and therefore not accounted for.

  6. ‘Should’ is not relevant. A route either qualifies, or it does not. What relevance is the fact that 9 carriers serve a route (many with a single daily flight), when comparing with routes on which multiple airlines operate flights every 15 or 30 minutes?

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