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There were lots of flights on these routes in 2021

While 2021 was a better year for the aviation industry, it was hardly an overall good one. Some regions of the world saw a return of traffic and for some airlines even profitability. However, for many more it was another year of hardship and battle to stay alive. As per October last year, based on Q3 results, IATA predicted that net losses would be 51.8 billion USD in 2021 and that this would narrow to $11.6 billion in 2022.

To get some idea of what was going on in 2021 and use that to predict what will happen in 2022, looking at which routes that were most flown mean be useful. Thus has done by the excellent website routesonline.com (link to article below). As expected, domestic routes dominated the top positions, with all but one of the top 50 being domestic (the only international one being the fifteen minute flight between St Barthelemy and St Maarten in the Caribbean). Only eight out of the 400 routes with most traffic were international ones.

This was to be expected, as shorter routes normally will have more traffic and because COVID favoured domestic travel. At the top of the list we find China with eleven domestic routes among the top 50. A further five countries in Asia – India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea – had four domestic routes each on the list. In addition, the US also had four domestic routes on the list. Again, it is no surprise that the four countries with most people are represented on the list. China and India with around 1.4 billion people, followed by the US which needs aviation to overcome its great distances and the archipelago nation of Indonesia which needs it to cross waters.

South Korea, with a population of 51 million and without vast distances to overcome, was a bit of a surprise though. However, it was a Korean route that came out on top of the list – 450 km route between the capital Seoul (Gimpo-GMP) and the resort island Jeju (CJU). This route was trafficked by an astounding 235 flights a day, which offered a total of 17.1 million seats. The number of seats was down with less than 2% compared to 2019. Drivers for this is a well developed economy and aviation industry, a working culture offering limited time for leisure (if it was easier to take longer time off from work there would longer stays and less travel). Even more surprising was however that also the second busiest was in South Korea, the one from Seoul (Gimpo-GMP) to the southern port city of Busan (PUS).

The domestic routes on the list following the two top ones were Jeddah (JED)-Riyadh King Khalid (RUH), Fukuoka (FUK)-Tokyo Haneda (HND) and Sapporo New Chitose (CTS)-Tokyo Haneda. The other seven international routes that made the top 400 list, behind St Barthelemy and St Maarten, was Orlando (MCO)-San Juan (SJU-Puerto Rico), Bonaire (BON)-Curacao (CUR), Houston (IAH)-Mexico City (MEX) and Cairo (CAI)-Jeddah. Among the routes that drastically dropped on the list were Melbourne (MEL)-Sydney (SYD), Hanoi (HAN)-Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) and Mumbai (BOM)-Delhi (DEL). Still, no one dropped more drastically than Kuala Lumpur (KUL)-Singapore (SIN), which went from 31,000 to 3800 flights and from being the busiest international route in 2019 to number 1407 on the list in 2021. Also, Hong Kong (HKG)-Taipei (TPE) and Jakarta (CGK)- Singapore (SIN), the second and third busiest international routes in 2019, were down by more than 80% in 2021.

As can be seen in these somewhat dry numbers, they reflect geography, demographics, economy, politics and so much more. There is a lot to reflect on when looking at the numbers and trends. Knowing this, we can now look forward to how the situation will evolve in 2022!

Link to article:
What Were The Busiest Routes In 2021?

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